Dick Hubert’s Worldview: Local politics gets interesting; third parties, write-in candidates, & Latimer
November 16, 2023 at 12:56 a.m.
The Village of Mamaroneck (through its Rye Neck section a part of the Town of Rye) and its registered Democratic, Republican, and independent voters have given an object lesson to residents of Rye Brook and Port Chester and the Port Chester/Rye Town/County Democratic and Republican parties.
On Election Day those voters collectively got together and ousted their three-term (seeking a fourth term) Democratic mayor, Tom Murphy, who had the support of every prominent local Democratic official, from County Executive George Latimer to State Sen. Shelley Mayer and Assemblyman Steve Otis.
Before I tell you how Murphy was ousted (you may already know the answer), I should point out that up until now he has been the chair of the Board of Trustees of the Westchester Joint Water Works (WJWW).
I know Murphy as a vigorous and determined advocate for the proposed County Airport land swap location of the long-delayed, court-mandated WJWW water filtration plant. Every resident of Rye Brook and Port Chester demanding clean filtered drinking water owes Murphy a debt.
He will be replaced on the WJWW Board by the new mayor—a first time office holder, community activist, and registered Democrat, Sharon Torres.
David McKay Wilson, the Journal News’ Tax Watch columnist and a keen longtime observer of the County political scene, describes Torres and her political movement this way:
Torres is “a nonprofit executive who became involved in the public sphere during the COVID pandemic. She decided to run after she experienced pushback on social media when she joined the online dialogue. She joined with disaffected Democrats and Republicans to gather signatures to run on the independent Building Bridges Party line. That name took on added meaning in recent weeks as the town and village of Mamaroneck tussled over the town’s plan to rebuild and widen Waverly Avenue bridge to address flooding issues and the bridge’s structural deficiencies.”
Again, let me emphasize, Torres started a new political party which she called the Building Bridges Party, or BBP as it is known at the County Board of Elections when they totaled up the vote (1,952 for Torres, 1,780 for Murphy).
And the object lesson: you don’t have to settle for what the GOP and the Democrats throw at you in terms of candidates. At least locally. A determined third-party candidate can win.
For local Republican candidates who think that just adding their names to the Conservative Party voting line is the way to win elections here, think again. In this neck of the woods, the GOP brand has been tarnished big time by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans.
I’m especially thinking right now of Republican/Conservative Alex Payan, whose family and supporters swamped this newspaper with endorsement letters, and who may have thought that getting the endorsement of the Westmore News for Rye Town Council was a ticket to victory.
He and his running mates were wiped out by the Democrats.
My advice to Payan and his running mates: run for office again. But next time ditch the Republicans and the Conservative Party. Take inspiration from Sharon Torres, who upended her local establishment with a new political party.
In the neighboring Town of Harrison
Those who follow the WJWW know that another member of their three-person board is the supervisor/mayor of the Town/Village of Harrison, in this case and at least through the end of the year, Republican Rich Dionisio. (The third trustee is Democrat Jaine Elkind Eney, supervisor of the Town of Mamaroneck, who was unopposed for re-election).
Dionisio was up for re-election this year, and his Democratic opponent Mark Jaffe was engaged in another of his patented and energetic but so far unsuccessful runs for office.
And then—el whammo! Longtime former Harrison Republican Supervisor/Mayor Ron Belmont, he of “The Belmont Team,” decided to run as a write-in candidate for the job.
As of this writing, the County Board of Elections hasn’t gotten around to counting write-in ballots anywhere. Last election it took them nearly a month to announce write in, affidavit, and absentee ballot results.
If you were visiting the Westchester Board of Elections website from somewhere else in the nation right now, you wouldn’t even know Belmont is a candidate. His name has yet to be published in the BOE’s so-called “100% vote total.”
Again, the JN’s David McKay Wilson has this analysis:
“In Harrison, the late entry of former town Supervisor Ron Belmont, a Republican, into the race as a write-in candidate had impact. About 4,800 voters cast ballots Tuesday. The unofficial results found incumbent Republican Richard Dionisio leading Democrat Mark Jaffe by just 19 votes, with the tally at 1,698 to 1,679.
Belmont’s write-in ballots have yet to be counted, but they won’t be enough to win. They were enough, however, to give Jaffe a chance.
He said Wednesday there are about 200 absentee ballots where he could pick up votes. There are also 51 affidavit ballots at Purchase College, which should go to Jaffe, if accepted. So stay tuned to see if a Democrat will be elected in Harrison.”
Yes, we’re all staying tuned. Especially the management team at the WJWW.
In local Congressional politics
Will County Executive George Latimer mount a Democratic primary challenge to our 16th District Congressman Jamaal Bowman?
Latimer had told me through a spokesperson that he’d make an announcement sometime after the Nov. 7 elections. That “sometime” now looks like mid-December.
On election night, an enterprising reporter for the Westchester Business Journal, Peter Katz, caught up with Latimer and got these quotes. They are worth careful study:
“I’m looking at the options and I’m trying to analyze a lot of different options,” Latimer said. “I’ve run for office 17 times. I know how to run a race and I know when to run a race and under what circumstances. I’m not shy. I know how steep the hill is. Before you launch you really need to know every element of it. That’s the choice that’s ahead of me.”
“What happened on Oct. 7 has changed things. The issues that relate to Israel are more pointed now,” Latimer said. “I’m a strong supporter of Israel. We have to stand with Israel. That doesn’t mean we give them a blank check for whatever they do, but this is a moment that we’re seeing a rise in antisemitism.”
Latimer said that while the situation between Israel and Hamas has grabbed the headlines, it is not the only issue that must be dealt with by those serving in Congress.
“The discussion is more than just the policies of Israel,” Latimer said. “It has to do with economic policies and how do you put your time and effort into creating jobs and housing and things that the district really needs.”
“By mid-December I’ll be on the record officially in whatever direction I’m going,” Latimer said. “When you look at the political trends it really has to be localized. In Westchester County the Democrats have had strong results in seven consecutive elections. I think what we’ve proven at the county level of government is that we care about actually governing, not just making rhetorical statements. When you look at the way the county is managed, the way White Plains, Yonkers, New Rochelle and the villages are managed, they’re well governed. Crime is down in Westchester. We’ve moderated our taxes. When you produce results, you get electoral success.”
Latimer said that the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have been unable to function as effectively as they need to in part because both the far-right and far-left have been engaging too heavily in histrionics and showmanship.
“That stuff is anathema to me because I didn’t get into government to make bombastic speeches,” Latimer said. “I got into government to see if we can make government work and you need to see that happen.”
To me, that sounds like Latimer’s explanation he’ll give in mid-December as to why he’s entering the race.
If he takes the plunge, guaranteed our 16th District will be part of the national political dialogue.
Dick Hubert, a retired television news producer-writer-reporter living in Rye Brook, has been honored with the Peabody Award, the DuPont Columbia Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Journalism Award.
Editor’s Note: This column, written by Dick Hubert, represents his opinion and not that of this newspaper.