Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Reinventing the Democrats

Some candidates are more clearly Democratic than others.

We had the pleasure of meeting Treewolf West recently and what was most impressive about him was his commitment to reform. He is expected to shortly announce his candidacy for State Assembly for a run against incumbent Fred Thiele in the 2nd A.D. this Fall. There is no question that this will be a tough uphill battle for West because of the support that Thiele enjoys not only from Republicans, but from the entrenched Democrats who have the bad habit of cross-endorsing candidates.
Rich Schaeffer, the County Democratic Chairman who wants to be State Chairman is not only related to Thiele (he is godfather to one of Thiele's children), but has led Democrats down the garden path of cross-endorsement several times in the past. While this may have been a survival tactic in a completely Republican past environment, few seats now seem out of reach for Democrats. Both Nassau and Suffolk have Democratic County Executives, the Sheriff is a Democrat and arguably so is the District Attorney. West is a bona fide Democratic candidate who will also be running with the support of the newly-formed Integrity Party and this presents a problem. Does Thiele (a Republican) again receive a cross-endorsement with Democratic support when a credible young activist politician (who garnered 37% of the vote in the last election) is running against him? Or, does Schaeffer do the right thing for the party and start supporting Democratic candidates and stop the bullshit? While many rank and file members have already made that decision, the vote is still out.

Realizing that the winds of change are starting to gather some force, the Democratic Party in Southampton is erupting. And, over the same issue. There has not been a credible candidate to move the Republicans out of the Supervisor's office for almost 10 years. The Republicans have had a free ride and have had no serious opposition for the last 3 or 4 elections. Now, there is the possibility that this could change. The hornets nest is the Southampton Town Democratic Party -- a fairly dysfunctional organization for nearly a decade.

Interestingly, Fred Thiele has had a lot to do with this Party problem -- directly and indirectly through his ties with Heaney & Company. As the expert in cross-endorsement tactics Thiele managed to convince the Democratic Party to endorse him not once but twice -- first as Southampton Town Supervisor, then again as State Assemblyman. The ploy, which worked well, was that he would return as a Democrat once he was elected as a Republican through the miracle of cross-endorsement. Of course, he never changed parties once he won. And, Democratic party regulars have been grousing about the betrayal for years -- and yet, here they are still talking him up and preparing to support him (or avoiding the real Democratic candidate). Same thing. Masochism runs deep in Southampton Democratic tradition. Or, is it just business?

So, between Schaeffer's (and Democratic Party) cross-endorsement support of Thiele for Assembly and his history of welching on promises -- what will the new Democratic Party do?

Well, that depends upon who takes control of the Party. The activists support George Guldi, the former County Legislator. The Friends of Thiele contingent support Mike Anthony. Tim Bishop, Steve Kenny, Dennis Suskind and Tim Motz are perceived to be too close to Thiele, emanating from an era during which no Democrat felt sure of even winning the post of Dog-catcher. Bishop, in particular, has been seen to be best buddies with Thiele and is perceived by activists to have turned his back on them once he achieved his Congressional seat. And, the "close to Thiele" group, reminds too many voters and party activists who want a real reform movement, of those days of betrayal -- which occurred twice before at the hands of Thiele and anyone surrounding him. Once the Republicans are voted out of office, the rank and file want Democrats, not reconstituted or reinvented Republicans in Bush's or Thiele's clothing.

The fact that the Southampton Press is all gushy (February 9th issue) over Mike Anthony, and barely mentions Guldi's candidacy, is telling and should worry any Democrat. The Press has been the Republican House Organ for decades. Its publication will cling to the Heaney crowd, hoping within 2 years to be the Kabot crowd, as long as possible. And, as it did with DiPirro, it will try to slowly pull the rug out from underneath any Democrat in power.

We'll keep you posted on where this goes, and why.