Earlier this month, county independence Party chair Len Bernardo announced the party’s nominations for local office. That list didn’t sit too well with some of those left off it, three of whom collected signatures to force a primary, to be held Sept. 10 from 12–9 p.m. at the Senior Center.
Republican Supervisor Kelly Myers, Republican Town Board candidate William Schirmer and Democratic Town Board candidate Marjorie Block hope a good chunk of Saugerties’ 702 registered Independence Party members will turn out to write their names in on the lines now occupied by Greg Helsmoortel (supervisor), Bruce Leighton and Jimmy Bruno (Town Board).
However, though Myers, Schirmer and Block pounded the pavement and got the 36 signatures needed to force the primary for those three seats, they have no advantage over any other candidate who wants to seek that line, said Vic Work, co-commissioner of the Ulster County Board of Elections. Helsmoortel, Leighton and Bruno will appear on the ballot, with a blank space for a write-in next to each. “It can be anyone’s name,” said Work.
Other declared candidates from previous caucuses, like Gaetana Ciarlante and James Uhl for supervisor and Santos Lopez and Krista Barringer for Town Board, could just as easily court a few dozen party members and take the prize—Independence Party primaries, when they occur, usually have very light turnout.
The opportunity to ballot process for the Independence Party challengers is necessary because it doesn’t hold a caucus like the Republicans, Democrats, and Conservative parties. It doesn’t have enough local committees to qualify to do so, according to state law.
“It’s voter apathy,” said Bernardo. “People don’t have time to do it. People are working two jobs to keep their heads above water.”
Leighton said he would like to see his party become constituted and hold a caucus.
“In my opinion they definitely should,” Leighton said. “By doing this the voters that are registered [Independence Party members] in Saugerties would have direct input as to who represents them in local elections.”
Another explanation could be mistaken identity. Last year, a Daily News poll found 85 percent of respondents who thought they were registering as political independents (meaning unaffiliated with any party) actually registered with the Independence Party.