This was posted at our blog, www.onthewilderside.com. I realized that while the article is specific to Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, some of the themes and strategies might be interesting as a snapshot of independent and third party action in local elections. -Kimberly Wilder
Ian and Kimberly’s Somewhat Random Comments on the Upcoming 2009 Suffolk County Elections
Kimberly went to the Suffolk County Board of Elections and filled out some Freedom of Information (FOIL) requests. One excellent set of papers she was able to get was a draft list of candidates.*
One of the most interesting items is that several candidates are listed under The Tea Party. Tea Parties have been demonstrations, portrayed as being grassroots, railing for reform, against taxes and against Obama. Though, with Tea Parties, there have seemed to be many connections to national right wing groups, and to Republicans. And, as a matter of fact, in Suffolk County, most of The Tea Party candidates are regular old Republican candidates. In fact, Thomas Barraga has filed for The Tea Party line, even though he is the incumbent, in the Suffolk County Legislator in District 11 race. (And a a former Assemblyman, and a legislator again before that. Hardly a bastion of change. -ISW)
People are filed under The Tea Party line for the Town of Islip races, and the following Suffolk County Legislative races in the Islip area: Districts 8, 10, [and Barraga in 11th see above]. (It seems like a desperate move by a failing Islip Republican Party to get some support. -ISW)
The prize for most exotic ballot line goes to Prudence Carabine, running on the “Bonac Beach” line for Town of East Hampton Councilperson. (Wow! The list gives the office as “Councilman”: Wonder if it is election law, the Town, or the BOE that are in the dark ages? -KW)
For the 14th Suffolk County Legislative District, the candidates who filed are: Cesar Malaga on the Green Party line; Mark Gallo on the Republican line; and Wayne Horsley, who is on the Democratic and several other lines.
Ben Zwirn was registered in the Green Party last time we looked. Though, he has also worked inside Democratic administrations. This election, Ben Zwirn is running on the Democratic and other party lines for Town of East Hampton Supervisor. Zwirn and his colleages used an interesting strategy, creating a slate with the independent ballot line “Common Ground.” Ben Zwirn is running on the following lines: Democratic, Working Families and Common Ground.
The Libertarians are running a slate of countywide candidates: Chris Garvey for District Attorney; Audrey Capozzi for Suffolk County Treasurer; and Richard Peter Fiorio for Sheriff.
The Integrity Party—which has sometimes endorsed lots of candidates during election seasons past—seems to have only filed for one candidate: incumbent Supervisor of the Town of Southampton, Linda Kabot.
In the Town of Babylon, the Republican Party has truly been absorbed, co-opted and washed out by the force of some powerful, monolithic Democratic officials. (Whom we have found to be ineffective and conservative, and who have a “God Bless Our Troops” sign hanging at Town Hall–which has been up since when the war still belonged to George Bush. In fact, the Democratic candidates are also running on the Conservative Party line.) The Town of Babylon Supervisor is Steve Bellone. And, the Democrats have invented a line called “The Bellone Team” to show who is on their side. Lindsay Henry—who used to be independent and run on the Republican line–is running again for council person, including on the “The Bellone Team” line.
There is lots of action happening in the Town of Shelter Island. We don’t know what it is about. Though, in addition to major party lines, various candidates are running on the “Shelter Island Taxpayer Protection”, and “Island Action” lines, as well as with the Independence Party, Working Families Party and Conservative Party lines.
For primaries of established parties with automatic ballot status, someone can file an “Opportunity to Ballot” [OTB] in that race. It opens up a write-in window. And, it also allows that a candidate not registered in that party can win the nomination of the party in a primary, without approval of the party leaders. It gives a great element of chaos and potential surprise to a primary. There are “Opportunity to Ballots” in the following races:
Suffolk County Legislature, District 11:
An OTB in the Working Families Primary.
Suffolk County Legislature, District 15:
An OTB in the Independence Party Primary.
Town of Brookhaven, Town Clerk:
An OTB in the Working Families Primary.
There are several races in Suffolk County where only one candidate has filed to run for that office. We think that situation is a horrible symptom of stringent petitioning requirements which intimidate citizen candidates from trying, and of public apathy about elections. And, also, it is very undemocratic of the two, allegedly “major parties” to not find candidates to put up. Wherever you find a one candidate race, we suggest writing someone in. There should be a pencil available at the polls, and you can ask a poll worker for help.
*About the list this is based on: The top of the list says “unofficial.” These are candidates listed at the BOE who are either in the general or the primary (ie: so some may lose the primary and not appear on a ballot) as of Thursday, August 20, 2009. This line-up does not take into account situations such as challenges which could knock people off the ballot.