By Karl Grossman
Independent. It’s a politically-potent word. Endorsement by the Independence Party was critical in a good number of races in Suffolk County in last week’s election — in both western and eastern Suffolk.
In Islip Town, incumbent Supervisor Phil Nolan, a Democrat, was defeated by Republican Tom Croci. Deduct the 1,238 votes Mr. Croci got on the Independence line from the 24,056 he received on the GOP and Conservative lines, add them to Mr. Nolan’s 23,637and Mr. Nolan would have been re-elected.
In the 18th District of the Suffolk Legislature, a part of Huntington Town, if Elizabeth Black, running on the Republican and Conservative lines, had received the 692 votes on the Independence line Democratic William Spencer got, she would have won. The count was 7,885 for Mr. Spencer, 7,706 for Ms. Black.
In the 7th District of the Suffolk Legislature, a portion of Brookhaven Town, Democrat Robert Colarco won by 6,051 votes over 5, 918 for Republican John Giannott. The winning difference: the 521 received on the Independence line.
In East Hampton, if the narrow margin holds for incumbent Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, a Republican, it will be the votes on the Independence Party line that re-elected him. Before absentee ballots have been counted, it is 3,066 for Mr. Wilkinson and 2,889 for Zachary Cohen on the Democrat ticket — with the 438 Independence votes for Mr. Wilkinson the difference. Absentee ballots, which could change the outcome here, are still being counted.
In East Hampton, too, Marilyn Behan and William Mott, running for town board on the Independence line, lost after a vigorous campaign showing that the Independence line might be powerful, but without a major party tie-in, not a winning ticket. Still, they received substantial votes and caused a voter split that could have influenced the wins of the Democratic nominees, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc.
Indeed, in his first time out seeking election as an Independence Party member, ex-GOPer Jay Schneiderman of Montauk was re-elected to the Suffolk Legislature in the 2nd District, which encompasses East Hampton and Southampton Towns and a slice of Brookhaven — but he wouldn’t have won without Democratic Party support.
Independence Party member Anna Throne-Holst was re-elected Southampton Town supervisor but running also on the Democratic line. She had no opposition from a major party candidate. But former Supervisor Linda Kabot as a late-arriving lone write-in got 3,602 votes to Ms. Throne-Holst’s 6,249. That’s a huge percentage for a write-in candidate. The new paper ballots make writing in someone’s name far easier than doing it on the old lever machines. Are we to see more write-in candidates in coming years because of this — and will this boost prospects for independents?
On Shelter Island there was a demonstration that perhaps being a grassroots independent can trump the Independence Party brand. Incumbent Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty, a Democrat who had Independence Party endorsement, was defeated by Glenn Waddington, running as the Conservative and Island Unity — his own independent line—candidate. Also, Paul Shepherd was elected to a Shelter Island Town Board seat running on the Conservative and his own Local Liberty line.
Frank MacKay, Suffolk and New York State Independence Party chairman, is happy with his party’s impact in last week’s election here. The Independence Party acquired ballot status in 1994 in New York and served initially as a vehicle for one of its founders, millionaire Tom Golisano of Rochester, to run for governor that year.
Mr. McKay, of Rocky Point, now a TV talk show host, with a background in public relations and music promotion, has been involved with the Independence Party since 1995. In addition to being Suffolk and New York chairman, in 2007 he became chairman of the Independence Party of America. He was thinking nationally last week — of an Independence candidate for U.S. president next year. With 450,000 enrolled in the Independence Party in New York alone, we’re “the largest third party political organization in the nation,” he said. “We’re blessed with a great name,” he told us. “The word independent is a coup.” It seems it is.
The party, he added, is also unusual in that it “is not platform driven. We allow people to speak without the interference of party bosses or special interest groups.”