To: Editor Rockland Voice – June 14, 2014
Tis the season!
The season for nominations, petitions and the backstabbing deals and innuendo that accompanies it. All just good natured fun in the name of politics, producing that love-hate relationship many cannot live without. Center stage is the jockeying for the number of lines on the ballot a candidate can obtain, as incumbents and challengers seek every advantage they can grab. Can’t say I blame them, everyone just playing by the rules; one’s moral compass compromised over the lure of elected office.
This past November, while campaigning for Mayor of Suffern on the Preserve Rockland line, a gentleman, who was eager to vote for me, began peppering me with a series of questions about which line I would be on, what row, what column, etc., etc.
You would have thought that he never voted before, which was not the case. I finally became weary of the questions, and said: “Mr. Jones (not his real name), just find my damn name on the ballot and fill in the circle.” The gentleman, an educated man, gave a sheepish grin and nodded in agreement.
In fairness to him he just wanted to make sure he voted for me, but he knew exactly what I was talking about; someone who is a CEO of a Fortune 500 company intimidated at the specter of finding the correct line. It is exactly what political parties are counting on, and try to take advantage of; electoral fusion by confusion. You can lead a voter to the polling station and you can certainly induce him or her to vote a certain way. It is the blind line pull, mostly promulgated by the two real major parties for their own lines. You have to wonder why someone would go their entire life pulling a lever for one political party in every election, especially on the local level, but that’s an article for another day.
What is most offensive are how these second tier major lines; Independence, Conservative and Working Families, just morph into a con job on the public.
How often have you seen a ballot where five or six different lines, not true independent lines such as Preserve Rockland, all have different candidates? To be fair, the voter bears as much responsibility as anyone. It should be obvious to most that the name on these alternate major lines almost always mirrors the name of a candidate on either the Democratic or Republican line. So why vote on the minor line (yes, I know they are officially major lines) for the same candidate as opposed to the two real major ones?
There are a variety of reasons. It has become part of our culture that these lines have devolved into a weigh station for Democratic and Republican candidates simply because these lesser parties acknowledge they have no chance of winning; not that they try. In the case of local and state level politics, a quid pro quo exists between a handful of party leaders, patronage the only order of the day. Quite frankly, if an individual registered to one of those parties came forward seeking their party’s nomination, the maneuvering to dissuade them would just leave another qualified individual exacerbated and reticent about the entire process.
Most of these minor party registered voters believe their party has blessed the candidate on the line and fully vetted him or her out, unaware of the behind the scene shenanigans that take place. Most voters are surprised to find out that only a couple of people generally decide a local party standard bearer. Other voters just pull the line, not even giving a thought to what I mentioned above; which is exactly the crux of the issue. In a local village election a second line can make the difference between winning and losing. Still others lean a certain way, but to validate themselves as independent and ease the guilt in their own conscience they vote the minor line.
In Rockland County it is generally perceived that the Independence Party is controlled by the Republicans Frank Sparaco and Vinnie Reda. Think about that; the quintessential oxymoron – the Independence Party being controlled. I have no hard evidence of that fact such as a written contract, but it seems that the circumstantial evidence would be enough to lead any reasonable person to conclude that you have the Rockland GOP acting as the CIA with certain individuals in the role of a shell company handler.
As part of the 2013 Mayoral campaign in Suffern, I sought the Independence line when it became clear to me that the Suffern and Ramapo Republican Committees were up to something regarding manipulating due process for the nomination. So I went to the interview on, “Republican Night”. You see I have this Pollyanna view that in a local village election if you have the right ideas and message you can win on one line with your own good name. The interview was very cordial. My opponent was not there; nor were his running mates, and they were not on any sign-in sheet.
Several days later my opponent received the nomination. Part of the reason may have been my refusal to run with any other candidate. Maybe the people making the decision felt the other candidate was more qualified. But what cannot be discounted is the possibility of the behind scenes maneuvering of a group of people who feed off each other for their own self preservation.
Now let’s fast forward six months for the final plot twist.
Several weeks ago I reluctantly called the Chairman of the Ramapo Republican Committee, Mike Dolan, as a favor to a friend whom he had been pestering to induce me to call him. I almost became speechless when Dolan asked me if I was interested in running for the New York State Assembly against Ellen Jaffee.
Now call me a conspiracy theorist but I suspect Dolan was a driving force behind the movement to keep me off the ballot for the 2013 Suffern Mayoral contest. So in his eyes I was not qualified to be Mayor of Suffern, but I am qualified to be in the New York State Assembly. His last line to me was, and I will paraphrase, “We can get you the Independence and Conservative lines.”
Nothing irritates me more when people try to manipulate you intellectually. Defeating Ellen Jaffee with her Democratic conga-line vote is a monumental task. Dolan and Vinnie Reda have never seriously funded or helped Ramapo candidates and are just looking to put a name on the line. In the interim they have someone to carry a petition for other candidates, donate money and man a phone bank.
If a party does not have a candidate registered to their party, or in the case of the Independence Party, Independent or no party registrants, then leave the line blank. I doubt the original architects of the Independence Party had what goes on locally in mind when they founded the party. I was glad to see several candidates (Republican Lon Hofstein and Democrat Ken Zebrowski) recently rebuke the overtures of the Independence line and begin to reject the status quo.
Let’s hope it continues. We’ll see.
Former Candidate – Mayor of Suffern
Editorial Note: The Independence Party has been called a “legal racket” by columnist Phil Reisman writing in the Journal News. Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, called the Independence Party corrupt and demanded that candidates reject it. “You cannot be for ethics and good government and then turn a blind eye to the corrupt practices of [that] party. Those two things just do not go together,” Jacobs told the Daily News earlier this month.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Cuomo’s Republican challenger in November, rejected the Independence line, also calling the party “corrupt,” and urged Cuomo to reject it as well. Cuomo, however, did not heed the call and will run on that line thus ensuring that it will probably continue as a “corrupt” and “legal racket” for another four years.
The nominal ‘Chairman’ of the “legal racket” is Sparaco’s school friend, John Perrotta.
Sparaco resigned from the Republican Committee in order to avoid facing charges which included actively supporting candidates running against members of his own party, sending anonymous emails attacking members of his own party, using Facebook anonymously to undermine GOP elected officials, and giving support to candidates running against members of his own party. The Republican Committee also reportedly developed conclusive evidence that Sparaco engaged in an organized absentee ballot campaign in support of Democrat David Fried in last year’s County Executive race which Republican Ed Day won.