BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
There was a fair amount of action and controversy this past week in Rockland County on Primary Day, September 13.
For starters, turnout was low and the question must be asked, did holding Election Day on a Thursday impact the vote? Elections are usually held on Tuesdays, but due to Tuesday falling on September 11 this year, the date was moved back two days. Since September 11 is not a national holiday, delaying Election Day has been questioned by some.
Also hampering the voter turnout, as reported last week, polling stations in Rockland were reduced from 80 to 17. Though letters were sent to all addresses in primary districts by the Board of Elections, complaints about the change and notification of the change, were rampant.
In spite of the turnout issues, several of the most contested races turned out to be as dramatic as advertised. The battle between party-endorsed Goshen Mayor Kyle Roddey and political reformer Colin J. Schmitt was neck and neck. As of print time, Roddey holds a lead of 1,370 to 1,289 votes in the race to replace Nancy Calhoun, but a hand recount will be requested by Schmitt at a September 24 hearing and at least 160 or so absentee ballots still remain to be counted.
The winner of the race will face Democrat James Skoufis, a Woodbury Town Council member. All three men are in their 20s and reside in Orange County. The 99th district contains the Town of Stony Point and several towns in Orange. Roddey defeated Schmitt’s write-in campaign for the Conservative Party line.
Incumbent Democrats Emily Dominguez and Francisco Batista fended off a challenge for the village trustee position from perennial candidate and former deputy mayor Ricky Sanchez. The unofficial count was 365 for Batista, 360 for Dominguez and 191 for Sanchez.
In another primary race in Rockland County, Democratic incumbent Clarkstown Town Justice Rolf Thorsen thumped GOP challenger Danial Weisburg by a final count of 33 to 4, as Weisburg attempted to snatch the liberal Working Families Party line. In the past, several conservative Republicans have succeeded in winning the liberal line by enrolling friends and family in the party. There are scant registered Working Families voters in the county, but the line still attracts some voters on Election Day and can help swing close elections.
Much of the drama in Rockland was reserved for the committee races, which are not followed closely by the general public, but are very important to the inside political game. In the race between Nick Longo and Ed Lettre for control of the influential Conservative Party, things are tight, with Longo claiming he has the lead.
Nothing is final, however, until all the votes for leadership are counted at the Conservative Party convention (date as yet unannounced). There is still much maneuvering to be done between now and the final bell, such as collecting of proxy votes for committeemen not attending the convention in person.
Longo has a considerable lead in the Jewish community, despite the best efforts of Mona Montal, the Ramapo chair of the Democratic Party and an underling of Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence. Montal made efforts to help Lettre fill committee vacancies in the area of the Ramapo religious community. In a twist of irony, Montal was unseated from her own committee seat in the Democratic Party on primary day, and it appears she will no longer be the Ramapo Democratic chair.
Lettre has enjoyed the help of most of the Clarkstown political establishment in keeping his grip on power, as reported in the Rockland County Times controversial August 9 story “House of Horrors.”
In the GOP, Republican rebels led by Lawrence Stone and Anthony Mele, took 22 of 24 challenged committee seats. Mele also announced he will be challenging longtime GOP boss Vinny Reda for the chairmanship of the county party.
The “marriage equality” movement suffered a defeat in New York as two longtime, incumbent upstate GOP senators who voted to replace the male-female definition of marriage with an A – B definition of marriage, face 50-50 primary votes that have yet to be settled. A third, James Alesi of Monroe County, retired rather than face his conservative voting base’s wrath, while pro-marriage GOPer Mark Grisanti of Buffalo passed his primary test 60 to 40 percent.
In the two close primaries, Sen. Steve Saland of Poughkeepsie is up 42 votes on challenger Neil DiCarlo, pending absentee ballots and a possible hand recount, and Sen. Roy McDonald of Saratoga is trailing former County Clerk Kathy Marchione by 124 votes, pending the absentees and a possible hand recount.
Social conservatives rallied to unseat the senators following their deciding votes on “marriage equality,” which changes the legal definition of marriage from a union between husband and wife to a contract between Spouse A and Spouse B. The state GOP is concerned they cannot win the seats – particularly Saland’s – in the general election, with social conservatives on the ticket.
However, the swing vote Conservative Party has refused to endorse any GOP candidate that voted for gay marriage, so DiCarlo and Marchione would also have an advantage over Saland and McDonald, due to the additional line on the November ballot.
With the close contests, conservatives in New York have warned the entire nation there will be a political price to pay for betraying the GOP base on the issue of marriage. If GOP lawmakers in socially liberal New York cannot pass new marriage laws without political repercussions, common sense says the GOP in other states will be wary to touch the issue.
So far, in every state where the issue has been put up to voter referendum, the electorate has refused to alter the sacred definition of marriage. Public opinion polls, however, show opinions tilting toward the liberal side on the issue, in recent years.