The demise of Suffolk County’s public campaign financing before it ever had the chance to run was brought to you by the Republican majority in the Suffolk Legislature, who were joined by Democrats Al Krupski and Tom Donnelly to override County Executive Steve Bellone’s veto of the repeal bill. Numerous excuses as to why we couldn’t run this program were made, and they presented a false choice that this county can’t have safe communities, strong social services, and an equitable campaign finance mechanism.
Every person who wishes to run for public office deserves the opportunity to do so, regardless of background or level of income. Our residents are better served when people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives represent us in government. When we reduce the power of moneyed special interests and wealthy donors, we have a more vibrant democracy. This is what Suffolk County’s public campaign financing program would have helped us achieve.
The cries of corruption and abuse in the system made by Legislator Donnelly rang especially hollow. The public campaign financing system would have held candidates who opted in to a higher ethical standard, a welcome change in a county where too many of our elected officials have been taken away in handcuffs.
The question that looms is why these two Democrats joined the Republicans to kill this legislation that is popular with Democratic Party voters. I believe that the cross endorsements of Legislators Krupski and Donnelly played a strong role in their decision to cross party lines. Both of these Democrats are cross endorsed by the Conservative Party, whose rightwing worldview conflicts with core Democratic Party principles.
The cross endorsements of Legislators Donnelly and Krupski by the Conservative Party is a conflict of interest. Because of these two legislators’ votes, the people who would have benefited from campaign finance reform– women, people of color, LGBTQ and low-income candidates, folks who are less likely to run for office because of the financial barriers to entry, have been denied equity. Had these two legislators voted with the rest of their colleagues in the Democratic Party, we could have had a real opportunity to level the playing field. The Democratic voters who elected Legislators Krupski and Donnelly into office should reconsider whether these are the best people to represent them in the County Legislature.
Shoshana Hershkowitz is the founder of Suffolk Progressives