This election cycle has delivered more political season drama than anything I’ve seen during my 24-year tenure as chairman of this Conservative Party. While there have always been some disagreements between candidates, party leaders, etc., no other year has quite matched this one; it has been unparalleled.
With all the cross-endorsements, backroom deals, sign- and banner-swiping, press-bashing and circumvention of the process by those who would thwart the will of the rank-and-file present at their caucus and pull the rug out from underneath their chosen candidates to steal the endorsements, party loyalty and values seem to have fallen by the wayside. Now it’s all about “who do I like” vs. “whom don’t I like.”
Most voters will join a political party because they believe in that party’s philosophy. However, many will either join a party or even switch parties just so they can vote in that party’s caucus in order to help another party’s candidate get an endorsement. Unfortunately that happens quite often.
Another important factor that comes into play is that many of the non-enrolled voters (those who haven’t declared an official party affiliation) vote on the “Independence line,” mistakenly assuming that is the line for independent voters. But, it is not. The Independence line represents the Independence Party, not independent voters. It seems that the creator of the Independence Party was very shrewd when he named the party… he gambled that people would vote on that line thinking that they were voting as independent voters.
During my time as chairman I have always sought Conservative candidates or candidates who are in line with Conservative principles and values and this year was no different. We have a political process in selecting candidates who seek our line and we faithfully follow those rules. Although critics blame party leaders for picking the candidates they want, that is not really true. Party leaders do not handpick the candidates they want, it’s done by caucus or petitions.
The process begins with the placing of an advertisement in the newspaper asking that anyone who may be interested in running for public office and who shares our values to send us a resume. The next step in the process, once resumes have been received, is to create a screening committee to interview all prospective candidates for a critical examination to determine whether each of the applicants is in line with our Conservative values and is seeking our line for the right reasons. (For instance, one particular individual indicated to the committee that he was only seeking the Conservative line because he wanted to amass as many lines as possible.)
The final phase in the process consists of our endorsement, which is done at the party caucus-convention. Unlike other political parties, the Conservative Party sends postcards to every single registered Conservative in Saugerties to notify them of the date, time and place of the caucus-convention.
The screening committee may, and usually does, make its recommendation to the membership during the caucus but, ultimately, it’s the majority of the membership present at the caucus who makes the final decision as to whom receives the Conservative endorsement and gets the line— not the party leaders and not the screening committee. In our case, the rank-and-file members at our caucus-convention selected the following individuals:
Gaetana Ciarlante for town supervisor; Allyson Barbaria and Dan Ellsworth (who will replace Joe Roberti, Jr., by the Committee to Fill Vacancies) for Town Board; Mary Wawro (District 1), Angie Minew (District 2) and Dean Fabiano (District 3) for county legislator; and Doug Myer for town highway superintendent.
Wawro, Minew and Fabiano were the only candidates for county positions to respond to our advertisements and subsequent interviews and the rank-and-file at our convention-caucus unanimously supported all three. Unfortunately, two other individuals who had refused to follow the proper process sneakily took an unconventional route through the backdoor and filed OTB (Opportunity to Ballot) petitions in an attempt to force a primary and steal the line away from the candidates the rank-and-file had chosen at our convention. (As a matter of fact, one of the candidates who had filed those OTB petitions had notified us, in writing, that he would not be seeking our line. He lied to us and quietly, at the 11th hour, submitted his petitions in his effort to take the line away from our candidate.)
While individuals have a right to file OTB petitions, political parties similarly have a right to have a procedure for vetting candidates. The main thing is the Conservative Party, its leaders, candidates and rank-and-file members followed the proper procedures and chose the candidates they want on the Conservative line. Although criticized by other (former) party leaders and the local gossip column in their veiled attempts to sway voters toward not supporting our candidates, we will not be deterred from moving forward to give the voters the choice they deserve.
Our candidates deserve the same respect and treatment as any other candidate; they are decent and qualified people who have chosen to step forward and offer themselves in service to our community by running for office and ultimately making a difference.
The Saugerties Conservative Party went through a thorough process to make certain that we chose the right and best candidates who are in line with Conservative values. We will give the voters that choice on Election Day. Give change a chance, vote Row C.