The Voters Will Decide in the Fall

The evening began with residents of legislative district #12 demonstrating their support for Joe Meyers in front of the County Legislature Building, and it ended with the legislators disregarding the voters’ choice. Instead, they selected legislator Ilan Schoenberger’s candidate, Patrick Withers to assume the seat vacated by Ellen Jaffee’s successful run for State Assembly.

In the County Democratic Committee meeting for district #12, Joe Meyers had won with 93% of the vote. Patrick Withers was at that meeting, but his supporters did not nominate him at that time for a face to face contest between the two. There’s little doubt that he would have lost judging from the support Meyers had with the committee members present. Perhaps the deal with the legislators had already been brokered. Perhaps Withers supporters wanted to avoid the embarrassment of explaining the loss in the legislative meeting. Whatever the reason, both Meyers and Withers later expressed the desire to have a special election to let the people decide. The night of the committee meeting, it was Withers who was unwilling to let the people decide.

The legislative meeting was marked by some rather long and convoluted speeches by legislators who were trying to explain their reasons for bypassing the regular procedure that has been used to pick replacements in their ranks. The last eight replacements were accepted after the political committees voted and offered a recommendation. What was especially ironic was the fact that on this very same day that the County Legislature was reprising backroom politics, the new Governor delivered his State of the State address repeating his promises to reform the entire political process to return it to the people.

To give an example of how odd the rhetoric got, Legislator Edwin Day (District 5) voted against Joe Meyers nomination because he thought the system was broken. The only way to do this properly, he insisted, was to let the people vote. Yet when Legislator Bruce Levine made a motion to table the vote and set up a procedure for creating a special election there was silence in the chamber. A second was called for, and Day simply raised his hands before him, palms up, waving them slightly as if to say "No, not me." The Levine motion failed without a vote by the panel.

The decision to choose a replacement for the vacated seat took two voice votes. In the first round Bruce Levine nominated Joe Meyers and Roman Rodriguez seconded the nomination. The vote was 6 for Meyers and 10 against.

Then Ilan Schoenberger nominated Patrick Withers of Suffern. John Murphy offered a second. David Fried seconded the second followed by Pat Moroney with a third second. The vote was 13 for Withers and 3 against. The three opposed were Bruce Levine, Ted Dusanenko (who was consistent in opposing the method and, thus, both candidates), and Edwin Day who was still, one supposes, holding out for the voice of the people. Roman Rodriguez’s comment when he voted was, "The voters will decide in November."

After Patrick Withers delivered his acceptance speech, Joe Meyers and his supporters went out on to the steps of building where Meyers offered his comments to a Channel 12 reporter and Sarah Netter of the Journal News. He also announced his intention to run in the Fall primary for the position of Rockland Legislator from District 12. Those comments are available as audio here.

In a week that has featured long and energetic discussions about reforming politics, both in Albany and, today, in Washington, last night’s proceedings were something of a blast of stale backroom air from the past.

Michael Castelluccio