Op-Ed: Fewer Parties on the Ballot

The Suffolk election ballot this year will be somewhat simpler with political parties on it
narrowed to four.

That’s a result of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2019 taking aim at the Working Families
Party. As the political journal Politico said that year, Cuomo was upset about the “major role” the WFP was playing in Democratic Party politics so he sought to “wreak vengeance on the WFP.” It reported: “Seven people—elected officials and other individuals prominent in state politics—told Politico that the governor or his top staff have told them…he wants to destroy the party.”

So in 2020 the State Legislature—with Democrat Cuomo pushing hard—increased what
was needed for a party to automatically get on the New York State ballot to 130,000 votes or 2 percent in contests for governor or president in the prior election.

The scheme didn’t work out for Cuomo. In 2020, Democrat Joe Biden running for
president received 386,613 votes on the WFP line in New York, thus the WFP was entitled to automatically continue on the ballot.

Parties that didn’t make it and lost their automatic ballot standing were the Green Party,
Libertarian Party and Independence Party.

The Independence Party had been a political force in Suffolk County. For a time, Frank
MacKay of Rocky Point had been its Suffolk and New York State chair. A prominent Suffolk official who was an Independence Party member was Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor. Since last year the party no longer exists in Suffolk or New York State.

As for the Conservative Party, the 296,335 votes Donald Trump received in the state on
its line in the presidential race in 2020 allowed it to retain automatic ballot status.

It like the Independence Party has had a substantial base in Suffolk. One of its founders
in 1962 was Kieran O’Doherty of Hampton Bays. Conservative Party endorsement, usually of Republican nominees, has many times made a winning difference here.

A leading Conservative Party official in Suffolk was William Carney of Hauppauge, a
county legislator who got the backing of the GOP in 1978 to run for the House of
Representatives. (That was a result of a deal in which the state Conservative Party cross-endorsed Republican Perry Duryea, Jr. of Montauk for governor.) Carney became the first Conservative Party member elected to the House, remaining in it until 1987, although switching his enrollment from Conservative to GOP in 1985.

On this year’s ballot in Suffolk, the top county contest will be for county executive and it
sets Democrat Dave Calone of Setauket, a former state and federal prosecutor, against
Republican Ed Romaine of Center Moriches, the Brookhaven Town supervisor and a former county legislator, running on the GOP and Conservative tickets.

In town and Suffolk Legislature races, most Republican candidates also have
Conservative Party backing. But this is not a consistent pattern.

Nearly all Republicans running for the 18 seats on the Suffolk Legislature are also on the
Conservative line. The exception: GOPer Catherine Corella of Deer Park in the 17th District running solely on the Republican line against Thomas Donnelly, also of Deer Park, who’ll be on the Democratic and Conservative lines. That’s Town of Babylon territory and in a race for a seat on the Babylon Town Board, Democrat DuWayne Gregory of Copiague, former presiding officer of the Suffolk Legislature, will be on the Conservative line, too.

In Southold Town, Suffolk Legislator Al Krupski of Cutchogue, a Democrat, is running
for town supervisor on the Democratic and Conservative tickets.

In the Town of Southampton, the Democratic candidate for town supervisor, Maria
Moore, mayor of Westhampton Beach, has Conservative support as does a Democrat running for the Southampton Town Board, Bill Pell, a member of the Southampton Town Trustees. A Democratic-Conservative combination has happened before in Southampton Town. The current town supervisor, Jay Schneiderman, has run as a Democrat with Conservative backing.

In 1971, Theodore O. Hulse, a mayor of Westhampton Beach like Moore, won the
Southampton Town supervisor position running on the Conservative Party line alone. (This ended 40 years of Republican control of that office and happened a year after a series of front- page articles about corruption involving officials in Southampton in the daily Long Island Press written by me and Leonard Victor, an investigative reporting team at the newspaper.)

Hulse would later run for supervisor on the Democratic line, too, beginning the
Democratic-Conservative alliance in Southampton Town politics that existed in periods for several decades.

As for the WFP which Cuomo disliked so much, this year a good number of Democrats
running in Suffolk—including Calone—are cross-endorsed on its line, too.
In contests for town positions in Huntington, the Democratic candidate for town clerk,
Linda Valdez of Huntington, will be on the WFP line, too, as will Jillian Guthman of Melville, Democratic candidate for receiver of taxes, and the Democratic nominees for town board, Jennifer Hebert of Huntington and Donald McKay of Dix Hills.


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