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October 1, 2021: Do Not Be Fooled

Summer has ended, kids are back in school, and fall is here. That means there is an election around the corner. Here in New York, Election Day is November 2nd, with early voting beginning on October 23rd, and this year, local politics take center stage. Do not skip casting your vote just because it is not a congressional or presidential election. Local elections matter.

In Southampton Township, where I live, the Democrats campaign slogan is “Democrats Deliver.” These are not empty words. With a majority on the Town Board, Democrats have delivered on policies that are improving people’s lives. Go to our website, www.shdems.org, and check out the interactive map that illustrates the advances Southampton Democrats have made in areas of “finance, land use, affordable housing, water quality, public health and safety, inclusivity and community outreach, recreation, and transportation.”

Republicans looking to unseat them cannot challenge these successes, so they are taking a novel campaign approach. They are imitating them. On the Southampton Republican Party website, their candidate biographies and party platform focus heavily on core Democratic values, such as protecting the environment and protecting residents from COVID, https://www.shtowngop.com/.

Southampton Republicans are playing a game of hide and seek; hiding what their party really stands for while they seek your vote. By removing Trump’s name from their website, they are hoping you will forget that this is still Trump’s party or that he came to Southampton numerous times for fundraisers over the last five years. Do not be fooled.

A truer reflection of the Southampton GOP can be found on their Facebook page, where there are no mentions of protecting the environment or support for protecting the public from COVID. Instead, most of the postings are shared comments from Trump’s biggest supporter, Congressman Lee Zeldin. The most illuminating entries are from January 6thand immediately after. Rather than any criticism of the insurrectionists and their brutal assault on the police officers defending the Capital, there is only a statement by Zeldin defending his speech on January 6ththat supported delaying certifying the presidential election, which he gave after the attack on the Capital. Follow-up postings by Zeldin, shared by the Southampton GOP, continue to spread misinformation about the integrity of the 2020 election. These postings include advocating a voter ID law in New York to prevent fraud.

Claiming to support protecting the environment are empty promises from a party that continues to deny climate change and votes repeatedly to gut environmental agencies and regulations. And purporting to care about those who have been harmed by COVID when Republican policies are killing people around the country, would be laughable if it was not so tragic. A recent article in The New York Timescharts how COVID deaths now reflect a red/blue divide, spiking in parts of the country with Republican anti-mask and anti-vaccine mandate policies. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/27/briefing/covid-red-states-vaccinations.html?searchResultPosition=1.

In a Washington Post column, entitled, “How to cope with a deceitful, anti-democratic party,” Jennifer Rubin sums up the Republican Party, “Our economy, democracy and lives are imperiled by a party that has transformed protections for minority rights into tyranny of an irrational, anti-democratic minority. The rest of us cannot afford the luxury of inaction.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/29/how-we-cope-with-deceitful-anti-democratic-party/

The Southampton GOP do not get a pass because they are local. Every Southampton GOP candidate needs to be pressed for answers, by the press and in debates, on these two defining Republican Party issues, the 2020 election and COVID. Here are a few sample questions: “Do you believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump? Do you think President Biden is an illegitimate president? Do you support the anti-mask and anti-vaccine protests by the Trump/Zeldin supporters who are flooding school board meetings on Long Island? Do you agree that mask and vaccine mandates are an affront to personal freedom?”

At a time when Republican conspiracy theories are threatening democracy and literally killing people, we have a right to know where local candidates stand. Because if they agree with the GOP party-line, then they are a danger to our community and should be disqualified from holding office. And if they do not agree, then the Trump/Zeldin voters in Southampton have a right to know that their candidates do not support policies that have become the foundation of this Republican Party.


July 23, 2021: “If we don't have the vote, we don't have democracy.” – Part II

“Now it's up to voters, particularly progressives who have voted before on the Working Families Party (WFP) line, to understand that right now, there is no other issue as important as defeating this form of voter suppression. Because if we don't have the vote, we don't have democracy.”

Those were Robin Long’s closing words at the end of Part I of our conversation about the Republican/ Conservative attack on our local election. Shortly after we spoke, President Biden issued the same warning to the nation. He called the GOP attack on voting, “the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War.” He also said, “I’m not saying this to alarm you. I’m saying this because you should be alarmed.”

Robin has been ringing this alarm bell all year. In this Part II of our interview about the primary, she elaborates on what we, as voters, must do this fall to counter how successfully the GOP nullified the integrity of the Working Families Party.

(If you haven’t read Part I of our conversation as well as our earlier pre-primary interview, you can find them both here: https://sites.google.com/view/theresistanceandme/blog?authuser=0)

The following is a lightly edited and condensed transcript of our conversation.

As you explained last week, Robin, the conservatives have corrupted the Working Families Party line for the election this fall.

The Working Families line always garners 300-400 votes because it becomes the place where Republicans who want to vote for Democrats go or those to the left of the Democratic Party go. They have often gone to the WFP. We need to get the word out to these voters to stay clear of the Working Families line because it is now a conservative Republican line. The WFP is also going to be putting out statements warning voters. If voters don't want to vote on the Democratic line but want to vote against Conservatives and Republicans, their alternative is the new Clean Water Party line. That is their landing place.

What does this experience tell us about the Republican and Conservative Parties?

One, they are no longer parties of conservative policy. They want to win and put their people in power but not because they believe in anything, not because they stand for anything. And two, it shows us that the Republican and Conservative Parties are analyzing, with laser-like focus, how Democrats won and are working to change laws or manipulate the system to make sure Democrats lose. To do this, they will torture the voting franchise to death, remove the oxygen of the American system of voting in order to suppress just enough votes so that they can win. Because if the American people speak, they lose. What happened here is a perfect example of this. They did not screen, they did not follow the rules, they twisted the system in order to win.

They analyzed the 2019 local election and saw that Democratic candidates garnered 200 to 300 votes on the Working Families line. Remember, the Independence Party line is gone, removed from the ballot by NYS. And now the Working Families line is above the Conservative line. The order of lines here in Southampton is Row A Democrat, Row B Republican, Row C Working Families and Row D Conservatives. The Independence Party line is gone and the Conservatives dropped down to line D. So, they studied how we Democrats were winning here in Southampton. We get votes. And their answer was, we'll take the lines away from them. And they gamble that with an uneducated electorate, now their candidates will get votes on that line. To them, it doesn’t matter that they don’t believe in the platform of the WFP, don’t follow the policies of that party, it is just about winning. And if you don't see this as analogous to what's going on in the rest of the country, you're closing your eyes.

What can we do to counter this?

We have got to turn out every Democrat and, in addition, we need get our message out to every member of the former Independence Party and every member of the WFP and every voter who is unaffiliated with any party, that to protect the voting franchise, they need to vote Democratic. At speaking engagements, I do not start with, "Hi, I'm Robin Long, running for Council." I say, "Hi, I'm Robin Long. I'm a Democrat here to protect democracy." And if you think that I'm blowing this up out of proportion, take a look at what's going on in state legislatures all over the South and the Midwest. Don't take my word for it. They're still looking for bamboo shoots in ballots in Arizona. They're trying to do the same thing in Pennsylvania. They are not doing policy, they're not talking about infrastructure, they're not talking about policing, they're not talking about gun control. They're talking about nothing but voter suppression. Why? To get Trump and his people back in. What do you think McArdle’s doing here? He's running for highway superintendent to get to supervisor. So, wake up Southampton and see the handwriting on the wall.

They are also trying to change the way elections are run to make them more partisan and to potentially overrule the will of the people.

They already have the judges. Look at the Supreme Court. When I was campaigning for Hillary, when I was on the bus, I said to people, “I don't care what you think of Hillary but for God's sakes we have to protect the Supreme court.” We didn’t and elections have consequences. By Biden winning, we have bought four years, but they are infiltrating local elections to be able to put the orange man back into power. They are now zeroing in on the franchise. At a speech I gave to the Huntington Democrats, I said, “Democrats, that's the big D. Now we've got to talk about protecting the little d, democracy, and we've got to come together and say the franchise means something. The system means something. Primaries were initiated for political parties to be able to pick their candidates that represent their party for the general election.” If this kind of party raiding is successful, it sets a precedent which will affect the rural north upstate more than here, downstate. We have 3,500 more registered Democrats than Republicans so if I can't motivate my base to come out, I'm doing a rotten job. But think about places where it's even closer. Are we giving away an assembly seat or a county legislature seat? One seat here, one seat there, its sets a standard as they figure out how to do it. How many Barbara Wilsons can we take? How many times can we have people coming in and infiltrating our party?

So, it's all about turnout.

Yes, and even though I have the numbers on my side in Southampton, I'm not going to be cocky and I'll tell you why. I don't know where the Independence Party and non-affiliated voters are going to go. And cockiness makes you lose, so I am far from cocky. I am very happy to see that we were able to craft a clear message that caused Barbara Wilson to be turned back at the doorstep. As campaign manager that's going to be my responsibility now, to craft another clear message but I'm starting the message with democracy demands your turnout. Along with the message, we then have to do the hard job of registering and persuading and identifying potential voters that the candidates can reach, which is why I announced at the committee meeting that I will walk in any neighborhood, in every election district. I will spend every night out, saying that our democracy little “d” is in trouble. Republicans and Conservatives no longer have policy. They no longer have morals. As I said before, it is politics without policy.

How remarkable that all this is going on and it is your first time as a candidate! By the way, what was it like for you to have your name on a ballot? It was on the WFP line, so you couldn’t vote for yourself, not yet anyway, but what did it feel like to see your name there?

I'll tell you a secret. I will allow my ego two seconds of talk here. I won election eve. And so I said screw them, they didn't think of me as a winner. I was winning that night. I'm fine with that. I have to be honest I've been going through a lot of changes coming forward as a candidate. People said that I would change more and I haven't. I don't know how to say this where it doesn't come out wrong. Maintaining my integrity, maintaining who I am is greater than the win. I will never make a compromise that said, for example, to the Working Families, “Put me on the line with Cindy McNamara so I can get 300 votes.” It could make the difference between my winning and losing. But if I’ve got to lose, then I lose but I'm going to wake up in the morning and still be able to look at myself in the mirror.

That does not surprise me, Robin.

Tommy John, Shari, Adam feel the same way. Democrats have integrity. I am so proud of the people I'm running with. I didn't have to ask twice. I asked Tommy John, “What are we going to do about the line? And he said, "I'm not running with her, Robin." And I said, "Well, you're not running with her, I'm not running with her." And then I called Shari and Adam and told them that I have been in touch with the Working Families and they're going to ask me my recommendation. Do you want me to recommend that they give you the line? Nope, they said, they wanted to stay with their party.

In my book, we discussed how ethics has been the north star guiding you throughout your life. How amazing that ethics played such a prominent role in your first election as a candidate.

I’ll tell you something that’s totally non-political. I've always believed that there is a thing called bashert, things that are fated and when things happen according to the right timing, they happen. I think this is a time for Democrats with a belief in our country who are grabbing onto the flag and saying, "Oh, for God's sake we have to protect the flag.” We've got an incredible class of candidates who believe in public service. And it really chokes me up that public service means something to them and they are willing to risk their own candidacies to accomplish that. And that to me is mind-blowing. So, it is bashert, it was fated that maybe I wasn't supposed to run until this point, when I could be on a ticket with Tommy John, Shari, Adam and Tom. I would be happy and proud to be on the Town Council and serve the people of Southampton. It will be worth all the work. I'm sorry the way it started but I couldn't have made the compromise at the beginning. Could you see me making that compromise? If we let these people in and I'm not talking about Rick Martel, I'm talking about Cynthia McNamara, Charlie McArdle, Barbara Wilson, people for whom public service means private service, then we have damaged what it means to be in public service. I want to keep the public in public service, that we are doing this for the right reasons. I do want us to win big but not because it’s my ego talking. It is so the Democratic Party can say, "Your shenanigans, the chaos, the planning, the plotting, the disruption, the undermining, it didn't work."

July 17, 2021: “If we don't have the vote, we don't have democracy.” – Part I

My last blog post about the June primaries featured an interview with Robin Long, Southampton Town Democratic Committee (SHDems) Vice Chair and candidate this year for Town Council. If you haven’t read it yet, take a look before reading this post so you understand who the candidates were, what positions they were running for and how a small group of conservatives forced primaries in both the Democratic Party and the Working Families Party. https://sites.google.com/view/theresistanceandme/blog?authuser=0#h.vd2e64k1v84

The votes have all been counted. This is how our local newspaper, The Southampton Press, described the results in the Working Families Party primary: “After the handful of votes cast in Southampton Town’s Working Families Party primary were counted on June 23, it appeared that Democratic candidates the liberal party had cross-endorsed would eke out narrow victories, but that was before the absentee ballots were added to the total. Last week, the Suffolk County Board of Elections announced that for the second town election cycle in a row, candidates backed by the Conservative and Republican parties had pulled off upset victories.” https://www.27east.com/southampton-press/conservatives-pull-another-upset-over-working-families-party-nominees-in-southampton-primary-1795985/

Once again, I turned to Robin to help make sense of what happened. It is a lot to take in. For that reason, this interview is divided into two parts. In this Part I, Robin discusses the results and then next week, in Part II, she explores the larger meaning of what happens to the voting franchise from party raiding and why it is so imperative that people come out and vote this November. Voter suppression takes many forms. Party raiding and corrupting the primary system is one of them.

The following is a lightly edited and condensed transcript of our conversation.

Which primary would you like to start with, the Democratic Party or the Working Families Party?

Let's start with the fun one which was defeating the Republican, Barbara Wilson, on the Democratic line. First off, I know it doesn't seem like 1500 people coming out to vote is a lot and it's not a lot but at this point, I am not poo-pooing 1500 people coming out to vote. I am so happy that Democrats saw how important this was, voted two to one against her. And as I brought up at the recent SHDems meeting, the most important thing, from a political standpoint, was the fact that Adam Grossman and Shari Oster came out so close in the vote. It's solidarity of the Democratic Party, understanding of the messaging and no fear of bullet voting. From a political science point of view, the importance of that should not be overlooked.

Why is that important?

When you have multiple people running for multiple slots, there's a thing called bullet voting which says I'm going to vote for just one person. Bullet voting can happen purposely, or it could happen because people don't know the other people on the ticket. For a lot of people, coloring in a circle for someone they don't know is something they just won’t do.

Even though the instructions were to choose two out of the three candidates for the judgeships, you are saying that sometimes people will just choose the one name they recognize.

Yes. They choose the one that they know, or they just decide they don't know the other people especially when it's three or four three out of five or something like that. You’ve got a bunch of candidates or a whole bunch of slots, like with the trustees. It really gets confusing. So, bullet voting is always a great fear. People will vote for who they know or who they really want to make sure it gets done. I'm not putting anything evil to it, but it can happen.

So, even though the number of Democrats who voted in the primary was low, you were still heartened?

Yes. I like to find some lemonade out of lemons. Even though Adam had the greater name recognition, our messaging was so clear that Democrats understood the importance of voting for two. That to me says a good job on messaging, a good job on campaigning, a good job by the candidates in telling their staff and their people that a vote for one was not sufficient, the vote for two had to be done. The unity was heartwarming to me. It really warms the cockles of my cold little political heart to know that people understood the messaging and understood the importance of voting for two. Is it fabulous that the turnout was low? No, absolutely not. For me, it's horrifying to think that people would waste an opportunity to vote. To me, the franchise is everything. But the lemonade out of it was the factors that I gave you. And I am going to take that and run to the bank. Because even though we dragged that horse kicking and screaming over the finish line, it finished. And that was a good thing so I'm very happy about that. On the other side is the Working Families Party primary and I have nothing positive, no lemonade, on that at all.

On election night you and Tommy John Schiavoni and Tom Neely had won your races, with Barbara Wilson and Adam Grossman ahead on the judgeships. I was shocked at the committee meeting when you explained what happened after that.

I have to be honest, I did not expect what happened. Let’s look at the Town Council first. As of election night, Tommy John had 14 votes, I had 13 - that is bullet voting or a fall off - Sean McArdle had four, Miranda Schultz had two. That's how it ended. Then for highway superintendent, Tom Neely had ten, and Marc Braeger had four. I am not sure of the justice race, but I think Barbara Wilson had 30 something, Adam had ten and Shari had eight. That was the way it ended. Brian Brown who was the other Republican Conservative running had no votes. Nobody voted for him on the Working Families. Then the 24 absentee ballots were opened. I needed a total of four out of that 24 and once I looked at the names, I was sure I was not going to get them. I didn’t know any of those people. All the ballots said the same thing, all write-in votes. All 24 wrote in Charlie McArdle for highway superintendent and the Republican Conservative Cynthia McNamara for Town Council. The other Town Council slot had 18 write-ins for Gordon Herr, our SHDems Chairman who, obviously, wasn’t running. And that's how it ended.

None of our candidates got anything from the absentee ballots, nor did the opponents whose names were on the ballot?

No, they were all write-ins and they were all written in the same way. And then for town justice there were 18 write-in votes, all for Fred Thiele, NYS Assemblyman, who wasn’t running. They sat down with their people and told them what to write. That's how it certified. Gordon and Fred, of course, declined. Fred was not a happy camper. So, on the Working Families line this fall, there will be Charlie McArdle for highway superintendent, Cynthia McNamara for Town Council and no one else. It'll just be her and I'll tell you why in a second. And for town justice it'll just be Barbara Wilson. Now you say to me, "But Robin there's two vacancies." Yes, there's two vacancies, however the rules say when a candidate has declined, the Working Families Party committee then has to appoint someone to take the slot. Tommy John and I said, “Nope, don't pick one of us because we won't run with her, we will not confuse the voters. I will not run with her nor will I offer my name in support of this charade, that's not happening." Our judgeship candidates said the same thing.

So, they succeeded in destroying the Working Families Party line for this fall’s election?

Yes. And they succeeded by going around the process of interviewing, screening, Wilson-Pakula, OTB, and McArdle got right where he wanted to be.

And they never gave interviews to the press, they never debated, they just gamed the system. Did they think it was funny writing in Fred and Gordon's names?

I would like to know what was the point of poking Fred’s bear. And now, to top it off, everybody's mad at the Working Families Party.

Well, they didn't come out and vote.

They didn't come out and vote. They clearly don't have a party in Southampton. However, my position has been you don't blame the victim for the crime. Let us not forget what the crime here is. The crime was party raiding then organizing the absentee ballots. Now, by the way, the new NYS legislation that is making its way through the process to become a law, this law would have made writing in a candidate who was not a member of that party illegal. So, Charlie McArdle would not have been able to have his name written in. The bill has passed in the NYS Assembly and State Senate and is on its way to Governor Cuomo’s desk. I was told it's in transit, though I don't know what the hell in transit means.

Do you think that was their plan all along?

Absolutely. This was all organized. They sat there and waited. Do you realize the planning it took to do this? All because I wasn't going to leave Tom Neely behind.

Explain what that threat was, from the beginning.

The threat from the beginning was by the Conservative Party. And I won't say from who or how it got to us, but it was made clear to us that Charlie McArdle will not accept anything short of Tom Neely not accepting the Working Families line, and once we got it, we were advised of that. If we did not tell Tom not to take the Working Families nomination, they were going to come after us. They didn't really care about me and Tommy John for Town Council, they really didn't even care about the judgeships.

Because McArdle only cared about winning as highway superintendent.

Exactly. After the decision was made by the WFP, and they chose our candidates to run on their line, we were told to turn down the highway superintendent slot. As you can guess, that didn’t go over well with me. He had it all set up that either I gave it to him voluntarily or he'd take it by force.

Who is he to dictate what candidate can and can’t run on the WFP ballot line?

Essentially the message was, "You're not going to be on that ballot or this is what I'm going to do. And it's going to cost the taxpayers over $118,000 and I don't care. And I'm going to get those 200 votes and teach you guys a lesson." Now it's up to voters, particularly progressives who have voted before on the WFP line, to understand that right now, there is no other issue as important as defeating this form of voter suppression. Because if we don't have the vote, we don't have democracy.

Next week, in Part II of my interview with Robin, she emphasizes what we need to do going forward to counter this assault on the voting process in our own backyard.

June 18, 2021: Robin Long Explains the Conservative Attack on our Local Elections

The theme of “MAGA Goes Local” is emerging across my blog posts this year. My last two posts were on the Smithtown Board of Education race and how three Trumpster challengers used lies and fear mongering to win that election. Today, I am looking at how the Republican and Conservative Parties are attacking the ballot lines of other political parties. This is playing out across New York State this year, including here in Southampton Township. Recent articles in Newsday and The Southampton Press highlighted the unethical behavior that led to these Southampton primaries.

‘The liberal Working Families Party says it’s being raided by former Republicans and Conservatives who switched their enrollment this year to the minor party and then submitted petitions to run primaries against WFP candidates, according to a Newsday review. Working Families Party members say the June primary efforts imperil their endorsed candidates in Southampton, mislead voters and drive up the public cost of holding primaries.” https://shdems.org/2021/05/25/newsday-wfp-says-gop-conservatives-trying-to-raid-its-ballot-lines/

“Three primary elections for town office in Southampton on Tuesday, June 22, are expected to cost taxpayers $118,000, even though it is likely that only a few hundred voters will cast ballots. The races involve the Working Families Party, where Sean McArdle, a former Conservative, and his wife, Miranda Schultz, who was formerly registered as a Republican, changed their party affiliation in January and will challenge the Working Families nominees, Robin Long and Tommy John Schiavoni, who are both Democrats. A third race pits Marc Braeger, who was formerly a Conservative, against Democrat Thomas Neely for the party’s nominee for highway superintendent.” https://www.27east.com/southampton-press/major-cost-for-minor-party-primaries-1790303/

In an editorial in The Southampton Press, the editorial board emphasized why this behavior must be taken seriously. “It’s easy to wave this kind of skullduggery off as “just politics,” but it’s more than that. It’s the dirty kind of politics that all elections, particularly local elections — which should always put policy and character over party — should be free of. It’s nasty and petty, and it is the kind of behavior that the perpetrators should feel ashamed about, but most worrisome of all if that it undermines voters’ faith in democracy.” https://www.27east.com/southampton-press/stop-the-raid-1785345/

Local races are often decided by a handful of votes, so a second ballot line can be the difference between winning and losing in the November general election. It is imperative that voters understand this and turn out and vote in the June 22nd primary that will set the ballot lines for November. Vote at your local polling place on Tuesday or vote early through Sunday. Early voting locations can be found at https://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/BOE/Early-Voting-Sites-6-22-2021

To better understand the issues at play in these primaries, I turned to Robin Long, who is also quoted in these newspaper articles. Readers of The Resistance and Me will remember Robin as one of the most dedicated women I profiled in the book and a person who, throughout her pollical career, has been guided by ethics. Robin is 1st Vice Chair of the both the Southampton Town Democratic Committee (SHDems) and the Suffolk County Democratic Committee and Vice Chair of the NYS Democratic Committee. For the first time, she is running for elected office as the endorsed Democratic candidate for Town Council and is now involved, as a candidate, in the Working Family Party (WFP) primary. She is also an attorney who is well-versed in election law. The following is a lightly edited and condensed transcript of our conversation about the primary.

Before you explain how these primaries came about, give us a quick lesson on the applicable NY election law because how a candidate gets on the ballot is confusing.

In New York State, we are a fusion state and we're also a ballot-driven state. So, let's look at the general rules first and we can use me as an example. I, as a Democrat, decide that I want to run on the Democratic line for the Town Council. I'm a registered Democrat, so I go to my party, I say I'd like to run, they conduct screening and interviewing, and they make a decision whether they give me an endorsement or not.

If they choose me, I then run as the endorsed Democratic candidate after getting the required number of signatures. If they do not choose me, I have a right as a Democrat to then go out on my own. I don't need the party's permission because I'm a party member so if I get the right amount of signatures, I can get on the ballot. If that forces a primary, so be it, but I am a Democrat trying to run on the Democratic line. I get those signatures, which have to be valid and there’s a whole process for validating them but I don’t need the permission of the party that I am a member of, to run. I would like their endorsement, of course, because that makes life easier, but I do not need their permission because I am registered in their party.

There is a second scenario to getting on the ballot. I am not registered in a party but, for example, I turn to the Working Families Party and I say, "You stand for a lot of things I believe in. I stand for a lot of things you like. I would like to run on your line." Since I am not registered with the WFP, I need their permission. They conduct a screening procedure to find out if I, as a candidate, represent their values. If I do, then they give me permission, an actual certification, to run on their line. And that is called, in the political vernacular, a Wilson Pakula. (The Wilson Pakula Act from 1947, authored by State Senator Irwin Pakula and Assemblyman Malcolm Wilson, forbid a candidate from getting the nomination from a party if they weren’t registered with that party unless they got permission from the party to enter the primary).

With that permission, I as a Democrat can run on the Working Families line, though I still have to get signatures. Just because I have their endorsement doesn’t mean I don’t have to get signatures, which I did. I had to get the amount of signatures that were needed for the Working Families and then I got their endorsement. If you have Working Families members who want to run on the Working Families line, they also get signatures like I did as a Democrat and then force a primary with me.

That's two different scenarios of how you get your name on a ballot. One scenario is where you're a member of the party, the second scenario is where you're a guest of the party. But there is also a third scenario called an opportunity to ballot, an OTB. It's a little loophole that says, "I didn't get permission, I am not a member of your party, but I'm going to now get signatures and force a primary."

Did the conservatives use this loophole this year?

No, it did not come into play this year because the legislature said, "We don't want primaries because we have COVID," and they suspended the process known as opportunity to ballot. This is extremely important.

Now let's go specifically to this year. Let's look at the Democrats first. On the Democratic line we have Jay Schneiderman running for Supervisor, myself and Tommy John Schiavoni running for Town Council, Tom Neely running for Highway Superintendent and five fabulous Trustee candidates, all getting the Democratic line. And we have two judges.

With judges, they have their own set of election law. Judges are separate and apart. They have nothing to do with Wilson Pakula. A judge candidate can run on any line they want without getting permission of the party. They do though have to get signatures.

For Jay Schneiderman, the Council candidates, the Highway Superintendent and the Trustees, we all have the Democratic nomination, we have the Democratic endorsement, we got our signatures, they were validated, we got on the line, and no one chose to run against us. There is no Democrat challenging any of us for the Democratic line in November.

Turning to the Working Families Party, they have on their ballot, the Town Council, the Highway Superintendent, and the judges, not the Supervisor or the Trustees. So, now let’s go back to my case in particular. I have the Democratic line, I have permission and I do not have a Democratic primary. I am also running on the Working Families line. But I now have a primary on that line because some members of the Working Families Party got enough signatures to get on that ballot. But here is where the shenanigans come into play this year because of who those Working Families Party members are.

Conservative Party member Charlie McCardle could not do an OTB to get his name on the WFP line, so what he did in January, he had his two children change their party registration from Conservative and Republican to Working Families as well as their residency from Brookhaven Township to Southampton. They got four signatures because the Working Families is small and fewer signatures were needed this year due to COVID. They are the ones forcing this primary. It is called party raiding because they are not in any way aligned with the positions of the Working Families Party. He registered people in the party for the purposes of denying the party its representation. Also, understand, this is a primary. This is to set the ballot for November. He wants to prevent Democrats having another line in November.

Barbara Wilson, a registered Republican, was able to force a primary for judges on our, Democratic line, by getting enough signatures. It may be legal but it doesn’t seem ethical to me.

Understand Ms. Wilson has her line. She is a Republican and she has her Republican line, she has the Republican endorsement. Her choice to go after our line is her sense of self-importance, and disregard of the electoral system.

Is it set to confuse? Is it set to cause chaos? Is it arrogance? It's everything that I think a traditional candidate should not be doing. And most important, is what I call the spirit of the law. The reason they took judges out of Wilson Pakulas was they wanted to de-politicize the judiciary. They wanted to say, "We don't want to put the political restraints on you because we don't want to politicize judges." I think what she's done is completely against the spirit of the law because she has politicized the judges’ races by saying, "I am the only candidate anybody's going to be allowed to have and I'm going to use the signatures, and I'm going to do everything to make sure there's no opposition to me because I'm the best judge you've got." Mr. McCardle and Ms. Wilson are setting the groundwork for Republicans and Conservatives to come into our party and do this on a regular basis, which is why I'm so adamant about stopping them.

Explain to voters that when a Democrat goes to vote in this primary, they will only get a ballot for registered Democrats so they will not get to vote for you in the primary. The Democratic primary ballot is only for the judges. Registered Working Families Party members will be voting for the judges as well as for you, Tommy John and Tom Neely.

This is important for folks to understand. If you're a Democrat, your ballot will have Adam Grossman, under his name is Shari Oster, next to him is Barbara Wilson, and it asks you to pick two out of the three. You will not find myself, Jay, or any of us on the Democratic primary ballot. We don't have a primary on the Democratic line. You will see us in November and I will be back asking you to vote for me.

If you're a Working Families member, you will get a ballot that has my name, Tommy John Schiavoni, Tom Neely and our opponents as well as Shari Oster and Adam Grossman. Why? Because Barbara Wilson is also challenging them on that line.

The whole concept of a primary is for people of a particular party to have a right to determine who is going to be on their ballot come November. The point of a primary is to stop party bosses or backroom deals. But we went through a lengthy process to become endorsed candidates. What Mr. McArdle and Ms. Wilson have done is said to the Democrats and the Working Families Party, “You don't have a right to pick. I'm going to play with the system. I'm going to tell you who's going to be on it. I'm going to deny you that right.”

Have you seen this before here in Southampton or is this something new?

Two years ago McArdle won which is why he is emboldened. He did this on the Working Families line with an OTB and he got his name on the ballot for Town Council. He didn't have to run his son and daughter-in-law. This time it's even more pathetic because he can't get his name so all he wants to do is be a spoiler. He's benefiting at the cost of the system. But he's a Republican/Conservative; they don't care about elections.

We have come to a point in our country, an extremely dangerous crossroads, where we have allowed the Trump people, the Republican Party, and the Conservative Party, and I put them all together because when you are silent you are complicit, to no longer be about policy, but only about politics. I have coined this phrase, politics without policy. Who the hell would have ever thought of destroying another party? To the best of my knowledge, Democrats have never challenged the determination of another party. We've been involved in primaries, but only where we have been given the Wilson Pakula by the other party to run. Could you imagine me going out and getting signatures in the Conservative Party?

I have heard from many of my Republican friends who I have a lot of, who I love very dearly and I respect, and they start every conversation with me with, "Robin, we’re not Trump supporters,” and I say to them, "Then go down to the Board of Elections, change your registration, make a statement to the Republican Party and the Conservative Party in Southampton that they will not allow or support shenanigans affecting our election system."

These is also a literal cost for all of this chaos these conservatives are creating.

It’s costing the taxpayers $118,000, through the Suffolk County Board of Elections, just for Southampton. It will continue to cost us because you know there are going to be recount challenges after this. Why? Because we usually garner between 300 to 400 votes in November on the WFP line. They want to stop us from getting those votes.

I really have to apologize to Mike Anthony (former Chair of the SHDems). Mike used to say to me, "Don't make any deals, don't cross-endorse. I don't want Conservatives." And we would say, that's national politics, we're local. We're all for good water. So if they're putting up a really good candidate, do we have a problem endorsing them? But he was right because the culture of the Republican Party and the Conservative Party has become politics without policy that is seeping down through the state legislatures on concepts of re-redistricting and election law and it's finally come home to roost in our township.

I have met some Working Families Party members who are skeptical of the Democratic Party. What’s your message for them?

This is not a Democratic Party issue. This is a democracy issue. And I would like to add that the Working Families Party have been fabulous working with me. They have stronger leadership now than I've ever seen. And I told them that we as Democrats are going to stand with them. They are standing with us, we're standing with them.

Two years ago there was a small attack. Now they are doing this throughout the state against the Working Families Party. They challenged the Working Families Party even being on the ballot. They had to spend a ton of money defending a frivolous lawsuit on electronic signatures. I mean, the Republicans and Conservatives are going to do everything they can. We cannot let them win on a local level.

And understand this is in great opposition to what the state wanted. When the NYS legislature in January lowered the amount of signatures we needed, suspended the OTB, they did it because they didn't want this. Because we were going to either still be knee-deep in the big muddy of COVID or we were going to be digging out. That’s where our focus and resources should be, not having to defend our electoral system.

Grassroots progressives turned out and helped make the difference in the 2018 midterm election and the 2020 presidential election. We need to also show up for local elections.

Congressman Lewis is watching us from heaven. And he’s saying, “It's really nice that you guys named a bill for me, and it really will be very nice to have a federal law,” but I'm sure as all hell when he walked across that bridge, it was for the right to vote on a local level.

Take a stand. I'm asking everyone to take ten people to the polls for the primary. I'm not even asking you to send me a dollar. Don't send me any money. I want you to take ten people to the polls and say, "We're Democrats, we're proud, we're loud. Give us our ballots. We're voting." And vote the Democratic choices. And Barbara Wilson will have her shot. She's a Republican. She'll be on the ballot come November but not on the Democratic line.

And then our brothers and sisters in the Working Families, our brothers and sisters of the union, our brothers and sisters who are more progressive, who have turned around and said, "Tommy John Schiavoni is my choice. Tom Neely's my choice. Robin Long's my choice." Go defend your line. I've spent more time defending that line than my own because I believe in it.

These conservative-sheep-in-progressive-clothing have not responded to the press and my understanding is, they did not want to participate in a debate.

We received a call from the officials of the League of Women Voters, as they always do before a primary, asking Tommy John and myself if we would be willing to debate Miranda Schultz and Sean McArdle, the Working Families primary candidates, in a League of Women Voters primary debate. I said, "Absolutely. You set the rules. You set the time. Tommy John and I will be there." They called our opponents and never received a return phone call from them. They called Charlie McArdle, because he is Vice Chair of the Conservative Party. I think they even called the Republican Chair. They were trying to call whoever they could to get a return call. There were no return calls. So, they could not hold the debate because they are non-partisan, and I respect that, and they won't have empty chair debates because that would appear partisan. I told them that I am totally respectful of whatever their decision is. But they were not happy not being able to have a debate.

But if they end up being the only Working Families Party votes, they could win that primary.

Exactly. What a sad, sad commentary. Public service is not what drives them. Private service is what drives them. If we don’t take a stand, then this gets bigger and bigger. We see what's happening nationwide. This is another form of voter interference to cause chaos to undermine the system. When you attack voting, you've attacked the heart of democracy.

May 16, 2021: Smithtown BOE Election in the News

When I wrote about the contentious Smithtown Board of Education (BOE) election in my last blog post, there was almost no news coverage of the race at that time. Given the national implications, I was surprised. That changed this past week.

Newsday, Long Island’s largest newspaper, finally took notice of the controversy. The article, Smithtown school district defends equity efforts amid accusations of anti-white bias, focused heavily on the accusations against the school district. This would not be a surprise to many teachers who have accused Newsday of having an anti-teacher’s union bias. But the article also included details about the people pushing this challenge:

And since January or before, Suffolk radio show host Robert Cornicelli has spoken on-air about the “radical left and indoctrination” in schools, including Smithtown’s. Cornicelli, the website saveourschools.me, the Suffolk PBA and pro-Donald Trump group Long Island Loud Majority endorsed a slate of challengers… The Suffolk PBA, which did not respond to an interview request, does not typically make endorsements in school board races… A not-for-profit, School Oversight Solutions, created the saveourschools site. That entity is registered with an East Islip woman, Lisa Azzarelli, who moved out of Smithtown last year, according to neighbors and records. Azzarelli could not be reached for comment.

https://www.newsday.com/long-island/education/smithtown-diversity-inclusion-equity-1.50240354

Politico, a national news source, framed the people and groups supporting the Smithtown challengers within the larger, national discussion about race in their article, Shadowy group brings culture war to Smithtown school board election:

It is a microcosm of a national movement against discussions of systemic racism in schools and educators’ attempts to rectify racial discrepancies, which conservatives have painted as a bid to immerse students in liberal values. Similar rhetoric has been deployed in school districts in Virginia and Texas, state legislatures in Idaho and Oklahoma and in talking points among prominent Republicans like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is featured in a video on the Long Island group’s website.

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/05/13/culture-war-smithtown-school-board-election-488073


Fox News broadcast a short segment that focused only on the Suffolk PBA endorsement of the three challengers. According to Fox, this was part of a heroic fight against the left. The host introduced the segment with, “As the left pushes their defund the police narrative, the police unions across the country are pushing back.” While he spoke, the title on the screen was, “Cops fight to keep anti-police bias out of schools.” Images from Black Lives Matter rallies last year with Defund the Police posters flashed across the screen.

The only guest was from the Suffolk PBA. While the PBA had refused to grant interviews to the other news organizations, it was obvious why they wanted to appear on Fox. When the PBA representative said, “The Smithtown school district is perpetuating anti-police propaganda, which explains why the Suffolk PBA has taken the unprecedented step of getting involved in a local school board election,” the host did not question that statement. Instead, he added that “defending critical race theory devolves into anti-police rhetoric” and then pointed out that police unions in California and Florida are also endorsing school board challengers.

The host read a statement from the Smithtown BOE denying it has an anti-police agenda but when the Suffolk PBA representative scoffed at the statement, the host responded with, “I love you getting involved. I have a feeling this kind of endorsement is going to be coveted in the future and might incentivize the right, the kind of patriotic people, to serve on school boards. I love it.”

It was a classic example of right-wing media misinformation pretending to be journalism. In contrast to the propaganda on Fox News, a small, independent weekly newspaper, The Smithtown News, conducted some real reporting. They published three articles on the Smithtown BOE election in last week’s issue.

The first two articles focused on two of the challengers, Stacy Murphy and Karen Wontrobski-Ricciardi. The article on Murphy, Racial campaign rhetoric riles parents in Murphy workplace: Amityville School Board concerned over guidance counselor who is backed by group with extremist, racist political agenda, revealed that Murphy works as a guidance counselor in Amityville, a predominantly minority school district. Parents there are, understandably, distressed by the Save Our Schools and Suffolk PBA statements. Many, including the local NAACP, are questioning if a counselor who is supported by anti-racial equity proponents can guide the children of a community that is 90% black and Hispanic.

The second article, Challenger for board seat denied tenure, filed lawsuit against S. Huntington District, explored a lawsuit filed by Wontrobski-Ricciardi. The article quotes from public documents about the case. In 2001, the S. Huntington school district dismissed her because of low teacher evaluations but the following year, she sued the school district, claiming she was dismissed due to discrimination against her because she was pregnant. The judge’s decision in 2005 ruled for the school district and dismissed the case, stating Wontrobski-Ricciardi had presented no evidence to back up her claim.

The third article, Important to back Thode, Kowalik, Rollins, endorsed the three incumbents and explained, in detail, why they deserve to be reelected and why the challengers need to be defeated. “In the Smithtown School District there is an urgency for residents to get out and vote, a fringe group of radical extremists is trying to wrest control of a board of education that has provided the school district with responsible and sound governance.”

Since I could not find a website for The Smithtown News, a friend scanned hard copies for me. Take the time to read them. They are illuminating. They are also an example of the importance of local reporting. The Smithtown News 1.pdf, The Smithtown News 2.pdf

As information has emerged about this election, it is clear how dangerous this misinformation campaign is and how unqualified these challengers are. Last Tuesday, on May 11th, the Smithtown BOE held their last meeting before the election. It was heartening that more parents and educators spoke up in support of the board than at the previous meetings. Several parents directly addressed the importance of teaching tolerance and diversity to the Smithtown students. https://www.facebook.com/SmithtownSchools/videos/789688541717673

The Smithtown News endorsement ended with the following, accurate summation about this story. “As important as it is for voters to get out and support the incumbents, it is equally important that Smithtown residents turn out May 18 to turn back these challengers. They will be bad for the future of Smithtown.”

May 6, 2021: Race, Police, Education and Lies - The New Right-Wing Culture War

This is the story of how our inability to confront our racist history is fueling a right-wing misinformation campaign against our schools, resulting in contentious, partisan school board elections in district after district around the country.

School board elections tend to be low turnout, non-partisan events. But for many districts, this year is different. On Long Island where I live, one of those races is taking place in the Smithtown Central School District. Three challengers are trying to unseat the incumbents who are up for reelection on May 18th in a campaign unlike any school board election Smithtown has ever seen.

As in other districts, the opposition to the Smithtown school board began last year because of COVID. In some districts, parent protests were sparked by opposition to mask mandates. In Smithtown, it was opposition to a hybrid COVID modification plan of part in-classroom and part remote learning for the 2020-21 school year that set off protests. Under the slogan, “5 Days to Thrive”, meaning that all children needed to be back in school five days a week to thrive, a group of parents protested against the hybrid model. https://longisland.news12.com/smithtown-parents-continue-to-demand-their-kids-be-allowed-to-return-to-school-5-days-a-week-42529542

This was before vaccines and when the CDC was still recommending six feet between desks. The only way to achieve that was to have half the usual number of children in the classroom at any given time. The schools had moved from all remote learning at the beginning of the lockdown to the hybrid model last fall, just like the vast majority of schools in Suffolk County, but these protesting parents claimed that the board wasn’t trying hard enough to bring their children back full time. They did not view the decision as being in good faith. They claimed it was a conspiracy between the board and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) to favor teachers over students.

This past spring, all students came back full time, with almost all teachers and staff being vaccinated and new CDC guidelines. But that did not quiet the protests or the spread of misinformation. They evolved from COVID to the right’s newest boogeyman, critical race theory (CRT). If you are not a consumer of Fox News and other right-wing media, where it has been a major focus for years, you probably never heard of CRT until recently. I know I had not.

Last month, Newsweek focused on states, such as Idaho, passing laws banning CRT from their schools. Below is an excerpt from that article:

Kendall Thomas, a law professor at Columbia University and co-editor of Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement, told Newsweek: "CRT maps the nature and workings of 'institutional racism.' CRT challenges us to see that racial injustice in America is not, and has never been, just a problem of isolated instances of individual bias and private prejudice which we can solve by enacting 'color-blind' laws and policies.”

He added, "The right-wing weaponization of CRT aims to shut down a difficult but necessary conversation about race, racism and the future of democracy in America. The architects of these anti-CRT laws want Americans to stop talking about institutional racism, even if it means trafficking in the reckless politics of racial division they say they oppose."

https://www.newsweek.com/what-critical-race-theory-why-do-some-want-ban-1587389


The Washington Post published a lengthy article this week about the CRT controversy under the headline, “As schools expand racial equity work, conservatives see a new threat in critical race theory.” It opens with the following sentence: “The nation’s reckoning over race has reached thousands of U.S. schools, and so, too, has a conservative backlash.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/05/03/critical-race-theory-backlash/

Michelle Goldberg, in a May 3rd column in The New York Times, entitled, “Why the Right Loves Public School Culture Wars,” wrote, “The Christian Coalition took off during Bill Clinton’s presidency, when the religious right engaged locally because it felt shut out of national power. Clearly some conservatives think that opposition to critical race theory could be the seed of something similar. Telling parents that liberals want to make their kids hate their country and feel guilty for being white might be absurd and cynical. It also looks like it might be effective.” https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/03/opinion/public-school-culture-wars.html

I read all the articles. I understood what the right hoped to gain from weaponizing the fears of their base. But I still did not understand why CRT, in and of itself, was controversial. The country was founded on protecting slavery, a Civil War was fought over it and Jim Crow was a Supreme Court sanctioned system of apartheid. Of course, we have systemic racism. Is it better than it was? No one is claiming it isn’t. But to deny that systemic racism still exists in our institutions seems, to me, to require a willful blindness.

As Charles Blow, columnist for The New York Times explained in a column this week, entitled,” Is America Racist?”, “Some will concede the historical point and insist on the progress point, arguing that was then and this is now, that racism simply doesn’t exist now as it did then. I would agree. American racism has evolved and become less blunt, but it has not become less effective. The knife has simply been sharpened. Now systems do the work that once required the overt actions of masses of individual racists.” https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/02/opinion/america-racism.html

One sign of just how charged this issue has become was my inability to convince anyone I spoke to about the Smithtown school board race to go on the record. People supporting the incumbent school board members only felt comfortable speaking to me on background. They were too afraid of being targeted if their names were used. People aligned with the challengers refused to speak to me at all.

When was the moment that the Smithtown parent protests morphed from focusing on COVID to the school board race and CRT? The earliest sign I found was a website called Save Our Schools that went online the end of last year. You might remember the Save Our Schools phrase from a movement a few years ago that supported higher pay for teachers and more equity in public education. This new SOS website had nothing to do with that movement, other than appropriating the name. It was filled with inflammatory rhetoric and accusations that sounded a lot like McCarthy-era fearmongering:

Critical Race Theory was polished in the 1950s and by the time the counterculture phenomena exploded in the 1960s with postmodernism’s entrance into the world’s philosophical framework in the 1970s, it had become a guiding manifesto for action by radical elements like the terrorists at the Black Panther Movement. Today, its contemporary offspring, Black Lives Matter (BLM) along with its symbiotic associate, Antifa, continue the “war of liberation”. https://saveourschools.me/knowledge-is-power/

It was in the downloadable newsletter on the website that I first saw this issue tied to the police. The newsletter is organized under the following section titles: “HOW DO WE SHIELD STUDENTS AGAINST CRT? PROTECTING THE BLUE SO THEY CAN PROTECT YOU. HOW BOE RACES TURNED INTO DO OR DIE ELECTIONS.” https://saveourschools.me/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Save-Our-Schools-April_2021_v2.pdf

I came across an earlier newsletter that was circulating on social media, but was no longer on the website. This one specifically tied the three school board challengers to the SOS website. One of the challengers, Stacy Murphy, is the parent who spoke during the 5 Days to Thrive protests. Below are screenshots of that three-page earlier newsletter.

The website and the newsletter were not the only sources online. Partisan groups started posting about it on social media, all of them spreading the same misinformation about CRT and the school district. They included: Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin, who represents Smithtown, and has announced he is running for governor of New York next year; a fringe group of the Smithtown Republican Party; and the Suffolk Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the police union.

It was highly unusual for any organization, other than NYSUT, to endorse school board candidates. It was particularly upsetting for some residents to see the police union get involved. One Suffolk PBA post went so far as to name a Smithtown teacher and labeled him anti-police because he had signed an online Black Lives Matter petition against having armed policemen, as opposed to security guards, in the school. The PBA used this one teacher as their example of the school’s war on police, which could be stopped only by voting for the three challengers.

I called up the Suffolk PBA and asked for the press office. I stated that I am a journalist with an online blog and I was working on an article about the Smithtown School Board election. I had two questions. Why was the police union getting involved and could you please take down the post that named the teacher? Given the climate, it felt dangerous to me. I was told that the teacher’s social media post was public and therefore fair game. He then said he had no comment for my article and hung up the phone.

I reached out to the three challengers’ campaign through their Facebook page and asked them for an interview. I posed the same question, asking why was the police union getting involved? They did not respond.

The Smithtown BOE tried to remain positive and stick with an upbeat campaign for the three incumbents running for reelection. I shared their virtual postcard on Facebook. The postcard features the incumbents’ accomplishments and the text that accompanied it reminded residents to vote on May 18th for a board that had shown their support for public education.

But by this time, the anti-CRT messages were going viral on social media. In public and private Facebook groups, heated discussions were taking place for and against CRT, even though there was no evidence that critical race theory was even taught in the Smithtown schools. At the recent school board meetings, the challengers’ supporters were loud and confrontative. It seemed to take the board, which had only just come back to in-person meetings, by surprise. Recordings of the meetings are on the BOE website. http://www.smithtown.k12.ny.us/boardofeducation/board_meeting_audio.

It became clear that the board needed to address the misinformation powering the challengers’ campaign head on. They released the following letter to all Smithtown residents, in both an email and on the district’s public Facebook page.

How astonishing that a school board needed to publicly explain what they were not doing. Will the letter be enough? There is one more school board meeting, on May 11th, for them to make their case to the public and for parents to ask more questions. The more people understand what is driving this challenge, the more they can make an informed decision. While Smithtown is a conservative-leaning community, a Republican stronghold, I highly doubt they want school board members influenced by misinformation and conspiracies making decisions about the welfare of the teachers and students in their school system.

And for the rest of us, we need to keep a close eye on this new right-wing dog whistle and how it is being employed. In 2009, the Tea Party ran a racially charged misinformation campaign against the first African American president and the passing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Then, their dog whistles were “birtherism” “death panels” and “socialism.” They successfully rode that campaign back to power, taking back the House in the 2010, the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016. I have no doubt that is the intent here.

April 16, 2021: Governor Zeldin?

I have learned a great deal about Lee Zeldin over the last few years. While my journey as an activist began in response to Hillary losing the presidential race in 2016, Indivisible taught me that protesting my own Republican member of Congress sends a powerful message. We had a lot to protest with Zeldin. In his first congressional race in 2014, he ran on a platform of lies, hate and fear; Trumpian before Trump was even a candidate. Under President Trump, Zeldin went from bad to worse.

Unfortunately, despite our protests and the attention we brought to his radical right-wing record, Zeldin kept winning. He squeaked by in 2018 despite it being a blue wave year and won again last year, this time by a comfortable 10% margin, even though Biden-Harris won New York with over 60% of the vote.

One of Zeldin’s winning strategies is outlined in my October 29th, 2020 blog post: Two Zeldins. He plays a shell game, hiding his true voting record from the electorate in a fog of fake bipartisanship. Analyzing last year’s loss, it is clear we need to do two things if we are going to defeat him in 2022. First, we need a stronger Democratic candidate, not weakened by a divisive primary, and second, we need a better strategy to expose the Real Zeldin.

After the election, Real Zeldin upped the ante with his embrace of Trump’s Big Lie. He was one of the most vocal GOP voices in the House supporting the conspiracy theory of rampant voter fraud that stole the election from Trump. His social media posts, always divisive, were virulent. Then came January 6th. In my first blog post of 2021, entitled Complicity, I wrote about the blood on Zeldin’s hands.

Zeldin’s shamelessness makes it even more important that we find a way to erase that fake moderate veneer and defeat him once and for all. This district deserves better than Lee Zeldin. Though we will be busy this year campaigning for our local candidates, both East End Action Network (EEAN) and the Southampton Town Democratic Committee (SHDems) have begun discussing initiatives that would keep the pressure on Zeldin. One idea from both is a letter-to-the-editor writing campaign.


Then, last week, Zeldin upended everything with an announcement that he is running for governor. Because of the scandals attached to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, a lot of politicians on both sides of the aisle are eyeing this race. Zeldin has started raising money and is conducting a tour of upstate New York. He does not have to withdraw from running for reelection here yet. Next year’s primary dates for the governor’s and congressional races have not yet been announced but when they are, he will then have to decide which ballot line to be on since you can’t be on two ballot lines at the same time. I have heard he has to decide by next April.

Over the coming weeks, I will be reaching out to many of my sources in the Democratic Party and the grassroots to ask them their thoughts about Zeldin running for governor. What do they think it means, for the governor’s race, for Zeldin and for our district? And just how worried should we be that this radical politician could now climb to higher, statewide office, despite his complicity in the COVID deaths in our district and the insurrection, not to mention his complete absence from any policies or legislation that would have helped us in our district?

To begin, I started with the EEAN leadership team. We held a Zoom meeting to discuss Zeldin, which I recorded. In attendance were leadership members Sharon Adams, Rebecca Dolber Ray, Patricia Callan, Cindy Salwen and new member Corinne Bernath. Absent leadership members Syma Gerard, Lisa Marrin and Wendy Turkington emailed me their reactions.

Syma: I can only hope that it’s a wonderful decision on Zeldin’s part. That he loses in the governor’s race and is gone from the House. If both primaries are the same day, I’ve read that he can’t do both.

Lisa: I hope that Cuomo doesn't run. He is still very popular, but in my opinion, he has been governor long enough. Zeldin is a nightmare. I am hoping he faces a primary (against Guiliani's son, perhaps) to split the party. At the end of the day, I think we need a strong, popular Democrat and then this whole Zeldin debacle goes away. Who? I don't know. I am staying minimally involved right now but resting up for the fight.

Wendy: I feel hopeful that Zeldin's decision to run for governor of New York will enable the Democratic Party to find a terrific candidate to run for CD#1 and we will finally have fair, intelligent, and impassioned representation in Congress. I don't think the great state of New York will make the mistake of electing a failed, superficial, biased, and minimally informed former Republican representative such as Zeldin to its gubernatorial seat.

Below is a lightly edited and condensed transcript of our conversation. My first question to the group was about the wisdom of a right-wing Republican trying to win statewide in Democratic New York.

Right after Zeldin’s announcement, a grassroots activist posted on Facebook, “this may be the stupidest political decision of all time.” Voter registration in New York is two to one registered Democrats. I had the same reaction and wondered why he would want to lose a race for governor rather than probably win reelection to the House?

Sharon: I don’t think he cares about Long Island anymore. So, what does he have to lose?

Cindy: I think he thinks he can win.

Rebecca: I do, too. When I heard that he was running and I know the statistics and the numbers in New York and that everyone says a Republican can't win statewide, but after 2016, I believe none of it anymore. I think anybody can win on any given day. This is intuition based, not based on any set of facts, but I feel that Lee Zeldin is the kind of man who does what he is told. So, if he was told to run for governor, Lee Zeldin is going to run for governor, and I think that he probably is going to have a lot of money behind him. I've been told that Republicans fall in line. So, I imagine if Lee Zeldin is running in the primary, it's because they think Lee Zeldin is going to win. If he didn't think he could win that primary, he seems like the kind of guy that would not do it.

Corinne: I agree. I come from a family of Republicans and I had six family members last week repost his announcement, and say, “Where do I sign up? What do we need to do to get Lee elected?”

Patricia: They love him.

Rebecca: This is his time. I feel it. I feel that he is the person that could unite enough of them to change the conventional wisdom of New York politics. I also don't know what's going on with all these voting machines in New York. Not to get too conspiracy-minded, but there’s a lot going on. I don't think that we should ever say there's no way he's going to win which is what everybody said about Trump.


One thing that scares me is the press attention he has gotten so far, when he made his announcement and on this tour of upstate New York. They are buying into the fake Zeldin. Lazy reporters just took his press releases verbatim, never even mentioning Trump, January 6th and Zeldin’s vote to decertify the presidential election. The exception was the article in The New York Times.

Patricia: That’s why I think he has a shot because there are enough crazies still out there and because the upstate people don't really know him. If their local press just takes everything he gives them, and we know he claims things that aren’t true, then they can be fooled.

Rebecca: Not to mention that Cuomo is weak right now. If he doesn't resign and decides to seek out another term…

Patricia: Then Democrats might not vote and then we could be done.

Cindy: I’m even more cynical. I think he views the New York governorship as his stepping-stone to run for President.

Corinne: Agreed.

Patricia: Yes. I think he has always had higher aspirations. He's got an inflated ego and being aligned with Trump has only increased that. I could see him going first for governor then trying to go against Gillibrand or Schumer for the Senate, all in preparation for a run for the presidency.

All the more reason why we have to get the word out there about the Real Zeldin.

Rebecca: My first question is what changes for us now that he's running for governor? Do we just wait? Do we put together a plan to attack him in the primary?

Cindy: I don't think we should get involved in any way in the Republican primary, except for something like letters-to-the-editor to a newspaper that was so lazy that they didn't say anything about who he actually is or fact-checked his bio. That might be worthwhile. But I don’t think we should consider trying to stop him getting the nomination.

Patricia: For the governorship or further out here?

Cindy: For the governorship. I don't want him to be governor, but we vote in our primary, they vote in theirs and then we try to knock him out.

Rebecca: Let the primary play out because we're not part of it and then if he wins it, then we take up the cause.

Patricia: I don't feel comfortable just waiting. Maybe there are postcards we could write to people or let them know what Zeldin's voting record really is, like how bad he’s been for the environment, for women. He’s such a total hypocrite. People need to know this statewide. Who better to tell them than the people he inflicted this pain on?

Rebecca: Well, I would agree with you there and I think that this might be the thing that brings all the grassroots groups together, especially if he wins the nomination. We are going to need a collaborative effort to let the state know how horrible he actually is.

Sharon: Well, going back to our list of original initiatives, we had letters-to-the-editor on our list. It might be a good time now, when we don’t have a lot of other things on our plate, to start writing those letters. We have the resources from groups that have been tracking his voting record. Also, I have a lot of back letters regarding Zeldin from The Southampton Press that I have cut out and saved. Now might be a good time for us to jump on that initiative and each take a turn to do a letter. That would be what Patty was mentioning, letting people know now about how he's voted or hasn't voted.

Patricia: Yes. People across the state don't really know him just like we don’t know their Congress people.

Rebecca: I think people across the state who have been paying attention know Zeldin. But I agree, the average voter probably doesn’t. I think your idea is a good one, Sharon. In fact, what you're saying is making me think that maybe, in addition to the letter writing, we can do something with video to tell our stories about our experiences with Zeldin. I always tell the story about how before Trump was elected, I moved back to Center Moriches from New York City and Lee Zeldin was running for his first term in Congress. He took up an office in the King Kullen shopping center and I remember thinking, “Oh, who is this guy?” So, I read about him and learned just how horrible he is on gay marriage. Having this person with his main office in my hometown, just made me feel sick and sad.

I wonder if we could do a video-based project where we all tell stories about how this congressman has affected us. Just little snippets that could be passed around on social media. It might even be easier than writing a letter. Even if you don't have a personal story about Lee Zeldin, you can talk about how it felt to have your congressman give that disgraceful speech on the floor of the House on the same day that the Capital was attacked. We could do a whole campaign about it. “We are not actors. We are constituents of Lee Zeldin.”

I have read about the short, 30-second videos on TikTok and when they go viral, they reach a lot of people, particularly a lot of young people. This video story project would powerfully expose the fake Zeldin that he’s pushing. He is even trying to take credit for the federal funds that saved the Long Island Railroad from further cuts, even though he voted against Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

Patricia: Right. We live in his district; this is who he is.

Cindy: But wouldn’t this be more useful to the general election if he is the candidate?

Rebecca: I agree. It’s a lot to take on now.

Cindy: Besides, who knows how Republican primary voters think? They might think these are good reasons to vote for him! It would probably be like a badge of honor that he's being attacked so much by these “radicals” or whatever he calls us these days.

Patricia: No, I disagree with that because that's like saying he is right and we are those radicals when the truth is that he’s the radical. We're just saying what his voting record is, what he's done and how he's made us feel as his constituents. That’s not radical, that’s pretty straightforward.

Rebecca: But you know what? I don't care what they think, because I'm not trying to change their minds. I think these videos are for new voters. If I was a young person and I saw this it would make me energized to vote. We have been talking about new ways to reach out to younger voters. This may be another way to do that.

What do you think the impact is going to be on the congressional race here in our district if he isn’t running?

Rebecca: Well, my first thought was he leaves a huge hole for a Republican who could be worse than him to run, which could be a good or bad thing. That was my thought.

Cindy: I think it will be a free-for-all on both sides. But at least with a primary on both sides, then we are not as screwed as in the past when there was a contentious primary on our side and an incumbent on the other.

March 12, 2021: Lessons from a Vaccine Appointment Volunteer

Ever since I scheduled COVID vaccine appointments for my family in January, I have been worrying about people who need the vaccine but are not getting it, because they do not have access to a computer or because the online appointment systems are so inefficient or because they live too far away from the New York State sites. The fact that so many of them may be those who are most in need of the vaccine – seniors, minorities, essential workers - haunted me. So, I decided to join the ranks of the vaccine appointment volunteers.

I was not alone. Hundreds of people had the same idea. It has been a joy to witness, strangers stepping up to help strangers. People are pitching in on their own or through local governments, non-profit organizations or religious institutions. For me, that meant working on a joint initiative of the Southampton Town Democratic Committee https://shdems.org/ and OLA of Eastern Long Island https://www.olaofeasternlongisland.org/.

Some of the most amazing assistance is also being offered through Facebook groups, organized for just this purpose. These groups connect volunteers to people who know someone in need. They have also become a central clearing house of information, offering tips and advice as well as posting information when a site opens appointments. There is so much that is bad about social media, so it is particularly heartwarming when it is being used for something good. I was able to secure several appointments thanks to information posted on the Facebook group I joined, Long Island COVID-19 Vaccination Information https://www.facebook.com/groups/874423786675869/

Even with all this help, it was rockier in the beginning than I had anticipated. When I was on the NYS site in January, scheduling my family’s appointments, this often meant going on in the middle of the night to avoid online traffic. But once on, I was able to get appointments. But by February, demand had so overtaken supply that it didn’t matter what time of the day I went on. There were no appointments. One tip I learned from the Facebook group, was to keep hitting “refresh” endlessly in hopes that one or two appointments might pop up and you could quickly grab them. Sometimes this worked, but more often it didn’t. There was no ideal time to log on which meant making the rounds of all the sites – NYS, Walgreen’s, CVS, Rite Aid – in an endless loop, because to get an appointment, you literally had to be on the site at the exact moment a date and time became available. It was crazy, and exhausting.

It took ten days for me to finally find two appointments, for a couple I was helping, and doing so knocked the stuffing out of me. I stopped paying attention to anything else, out of fear that this lovely couple in their mid-80s would miss out on getting the vaccine. The logistics of where they live made it even harder. They live in East Hampton, far to the east of the vaccination sites. The absolute lack of vaccination availability on the East End was a scandal. They told me they could travel as far west as Stony Brook but that was their limit and since they no longer drive at night, they needed to be home before dark. Not a surprise for people in their age group. Each day, I saw openings at Aqueduct or Jones Beach or New York City or Westchester, but they were not options for them. And each day, there was nothing at the pharmacies or Stony Brook or if there had been, I had just missed out. The first thing I did when I woke up and the last thing I did before going to sleep was make the rounds of all the appointment links on my phone. One pundit aptly named this system, vaccination “Hunger Games.”

The Facebook group became my lifeline, for advice, for commiseration, for help. And finally, after those ten days, it was a posting on this group that helped me grab appointments for the couple in East Hampton. I was lucky that I saw it as soon as it was posted since all the appointments would end up being taken within an hour. It was the moment that LI Community Hospital in Patchogue opened their vaccination appointment system. After seeing the alert on Facebook, I rushed to the hospital link online and with shaking hands, booked two appointments, back-to-back, at a time that was convenient for them. Luckily, Patchogue was about as far away as Stony Brook so I knew they could get there.

I then had to take several days off from vaccination volunteering. I could not face the frustration again. But when Gordon Herr, chair of the SHDems, emailed me the names of a couple in their 90s from Sag Harbor, I decided to try again. What a difference a week made! There were now many more options, more locations, more dosages and I was able to secure their appointments in one day.

If you are searching for the vaccine for yourself or are helping others and you live here on Long Island, here are a few key links. There are many more and to get a list of all of them, reach out to Long Island COVID-19 Vaccination Information on Facebook. They update their list nearly every day.

For Nassau County residents, you can pre-register at this site:


For Suffolk County residents, the county released the following information: Suffolk County is allowing seniors to pre-register to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at all three campuses of Suffolk County Community College, and at other pop-up sites throughout the county. Dial 311 from inside Suffolk County, or 631-853-6311 from phone numbers outside the 631 area code, or email the county at CommunityImmunity@suffolkcountyny.gov to be placed on the pre-registration list. Those eligible with comorbidities can also pre-register by email.


Very soon this search is going to get even easier. President Biden explained how the funding in the COVID relief bill will increase vaccine production and enable states to open more locations. We learned this week that a NYS vaccination site will finally be coming to the East End, at the Stony Brook Southampton campus. Local governments and organizations, like OLA, have done a yeoman job setting up pop-up sites to vaccinate seniors on the East End but having a dedicated site that offers appointments every day is going to make such a difference. President Biden also announced the creation of a new federal website that will reduce the need to be checking on dozens of sites each day. This, too, will be a game-changer.

As the eligibility keeps expanding, let us hope that the availability keeps pace. If it does, then we can achieve Biden’s goal of getting every adult vaccinated, maybe by the end of the summer. I am confident that with the expansion of dosages and locations, we will be able to help more people, with less frustration, to get vaccinated at locations much closer to their homes.

February 17, 2021: Grania Brolin- One of a Kind

On January 20th, the Southampton Town Democratic Committee (SHDems) and the JP Spata Southampton Democratic Club created a virtual Gala for Democrats everywhere to come together and celebrate the Biden-Harris Inauguration and the end of the Trump presidency. It was a joyous event, featuring Joe Lauro and the HooDoo Loungers broadcast live from the Bay Street Theater. In addition, we honored two members who had just retired, Mike Anthony and Grania Brolin, with awards for their outstanding service to the community.

I reached out to them, requesting interviews, so I could follow up and discuss their work, particularly how they helped grow the Democratic Party here in Southampton. My last blog post was about Mike. This week is about Grania. I had not been lucky enough to work very often with Grania, so I didnt know as much about her background as I did with Mike, who I had interviewed previously for my book. So, I asked Grania to email me a short biography in preparation for our conversation.

What a life it has been! Imagine my astonishment to learn that Granias honorary godmother was Eleanor Roosevelt. Grania told me that, over the years, she has given a presentation about Mrs. Roosevelt and had been scheduled for just such a talk last year at Rogers Memorial Library. Unfortunately, it was cancelled due to COVID. This is how that presentation was advertised in the local press: Grania Brolin first met Mrs. Roosevelt as a shy girl of 7. Her father, David Gurewitsch, had become Mrs. Roosevelts doctor shortly after she left Washington to settle in New York City. The two became close friends in 1947, and Mrs. Roosevelt welcomed young Grania into her world, taking on the role of informal godmother. From then on, Mrs. Roosevelt was a strong presence in Ms. Brolins life—in New York, Hyde Park and on trips abroad. Join us for a fascinating look at Mrs. Roosevelt through a young persons eyes.” https://www.27east.com/events/memories-of-mrs-roosevelt-with-grania-brolin/

Her stepmother, Edna Gurewitsch, published a book in 2002 about her husband’s relationship with Mrs. Roosevelt, entitled, Kindred Souls: the friendship of Eleanor Roosevelt and David Gurewitsch. When I asked Grania about Mrs. Roosevelt, she said we didn’t have enough time to do the subject justice. The role Mrs. Roosevelt played in my life is basically too long to go into,” Grania wrote to me. It had many pluses and a few minuses. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time around her, starting when I was seven until I left the country when I was 21 (she died after I turned 22). I spent almost every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter at Hyde Park plus many weekends every year and, after I was 16, my father and Mrs. R shared a house in New York together. I traveled with her, both when my father was there and when not, and I lived alone with her in Hyde Park after she found me my first summer job.”

Reading through her biography, this extraordinary relationship is but the beginning of Granias fascinating life. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, she traveled the world making films that were featured at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, the American Film Institute, the International Festival of Women's Films, the Margaret Mead Film Festival, NBC/TV, KQED/TV, WNET/13, Warner Cable, Showtime, BBC/TV. Here is how Grania briefly described her filmmaking career:

After studying political science in Paris, followed by dusty research work for UNESCO, I fell into the film business. My first film job was in Mexico, working on a BBC exploration series. On Day One, I learned how to process and print photographic film, found my way around Mexico City in an English Army jeep, convinced the Mexican Department of Anthropology to give our team a permit to film in Chiapas and the Yucatan, and signed us up for scuba diving lessons (all of this in Spanish which I didn’t yet know how to speak). It seemed clear that there were fields in which almost anyone can do anything if given the chance.

Many other kinds of production work followed. The most interesting experiences were when I was the lowest guy on a short ladder (always the best way to learn). Highlights: helping to produce political spots for an integrationist running for Governor of Alabama in 1966; doing the research and writing for a documentary about India’s economy (and then being part of the overseas crew); and working on the independent feature film, “Putney Swope” in five production roles.

In my early thirties, I took off on my own and produced and directed documentaries on social issues. I worked with advocacy groups and social service agencies and on personal projects funded by grants. There were a few firsts: the first film portrait of a person with disabilities (other than those about Helen Keller or FDR), the first film showing patients as people, the first in which children were interviewed at length. I often chose to feature African Americans to illustrate subjects of general interest. By now this has almost become commonplace. The films were short movies” although they were made for the educational market and therefore had long lives. They were supposed to open hearts and minds, were strong on feelings and low on facts, the facts being confined to accompanying print materials. Luckily, my work won the kinds of awards that helped with both fundraising and distribution.

Someday I hope to sit down with Grania and learn more about her life and her work. For now, our focus was on how she helped grow the Democratic Party in Southampton, as both a Committee member and the president of the Democratic Club. Below is a lightly edited and condensed transcript based on our conversation and notes that Grania emailed to me.

Before we begin, I wanted to ask you your thoughts on the news of the day, the impeachment trial and the January 6th assault on the Capital.

On January 6th, my reactions went from incredulity to shame and then to fear because of the impunity with which the invaders were pursuing their goals and might do so all over the country. As to the impeachment trial - ever an optimist, after I’d heard most of the House Managers’ presentation, I had an (admittedly vain) hope that McConnell might be convinced to save his party and call for a unanimous vote to convict. Of course, this didn’t happen. However, if the vote could have been on what the former President did NOT do to protect Congress, as evidenced in the timeline we saw on Friday, I think that our side would have had a chance of success.


It really hits home just how crucial it is that Biden and Harris won. Celebrating the Inauguration together was a great event. The award ceremony was a lovely part of it. You and Mike were told about each others awards, but you did not know about your own. How did you feel when your name was announced?

I was utterly surprised and touched. And, tickled. It is fairly rare that people can pull wool over my eyes. When I was asked to draft a tribute to Mike (Anthony), I had no idea that Mike had been asked to draft one about me and that both Jay (Schneiderman) and Bridget (Fleming) were going to speak. I have organized a lot of surprises in my life and it was such fun to see others do it so successfully. I thought that the evening worked really well thanks to the many co-conspirators. More importantly, as I know very well in what ways I am no Mike Anthony, it was an honor to be included along with him.

Mike joined the SHDems in 2007. He said Southampton then was so Republican, that Democrats were viewed as a joke. When did you join?

I joined the Committee in 1999 after my husband, Tip, and I had run a local Democratic campaign. On the day after Labor Day we had gone out of the blue to hear three candidates on the steps of Town Hall announce they were running on the Democratic line. One for Supervisor and two for Town Board. Apparently the campaign manager had just quit. The chair of the Committee had met Tip and, again out of the blue, asked if he would take over. He said that he would only do it with me. He was a nuclear engineer who ran huge projects, and I had my production experience. We both knew how to get stuff done. It turned out to be a very good introduction to campaigns as well as to Southampton. We learned that Southampton was indeed a one-party town with policies basically determined by business interests. Our guys ran on an environmental platform. One of them dropped out and the other two won. A first. Afterwards, I stuck with the Democrats while Tip, who only became a Democrat six months ago, went on to work on environmental protection.

Did you join the Club at the same time?

I didn't know about its existence at that point but I went to one of the breakfasts the following year. The Club used to meet at the back of the Hampton Bays Diner. The first time I went, the speaker was Chris Kelly, a lawyer and the Democratic Committee chair from East Hampton. He was a big deal and so some 11 or 13 people came to the breakfast. At that time, Democrats were in the closet. If you had a business, you wouldn’t want to register as a Democrat because you wouldn’t get any business. Everyone knew how everyone else was registered. We hoped that some of the people who were registered as Unaffiliated or what we call Blanks were really Democrats. The Club was a little bit like a secret society. Every year its main event was a holiday party. When Democrats got together, say at one or two little tables in the back of the Hampton Bays Diner, they were really happy. Just as it does now, the Club existed to welcome both stalwart and stray Democrats, to offer what was for some a rare opportunity to meet and talk with like-minded people, and to be a way station for potential candidates and Committee members. It had been started by a long-time Democratic Committee member, Joan Farrell, in memory of her son, John Spata. The marvelous Marion Boden was the Club’s president when I joined. If you dont know Marion, you have missed a lot. She was the soul of Hampton Bays and the voice of reason during that first campaign as Tip and I dealt with some 7 to 13 crises, depending how you count. Other presidents followed: Charleen Murphy, Tom Henry and then me, followed by fabulous Joy Flynn. Each of us helped sustain and grow the Club. My own rationale for putting a lot of energy into the Club and campaign work was that I simply refused to live in a one-party town. Also, when I became president, I found that organizing Club and campaign events was not unlike producing films.

How was it like filmmaking?

Film people need to establish personal relationships with countless strangers. If you make documentaries, you have to be liked and you have to get past people's reticence. At that time, setting up each event, especially as we started to bring in a crowd, took a real leap of faith – similar to what happens in the film world when you start with a sliver of an idea and want to take it all through to when you are supervising distribution of the completed work.

You were a city person. Was it hard to adjust to living in a rural, Republican area?

Tip and I had lived in Manhattan, Princeton and Washington D.C. before deciding to try out living in Water Mill full-time. He had bought our house, formerly a migrant workers shack, in the late 1970s but we had never spent more than ten days in a row here. It turned out we were able to put down roots pretty fast, both literally and figuratively. As to being a Republican stronghold, we hadn't taken that in. I'm embarrassed to say, even after moving to live here full-time, we hadn’t thought much about the politics of the area until we started to work on that campaign. We just focused on how happy we were in our house with fields all around and the big sky above.

I have heard about an amazing event you helped organize for Obamas first Inaugural in 2009.

Many of us fell in love with Obama. We just fell in love. We all did our best to help him win. After he did, we all wanted to party. I had gone to inaugural balls in Washington and thought, “why not here?” Gordon and I passed the word among friends in each of the different constituencies in town. We invited many different kinds of musicians to perform. In the end, 247 guests registered and others dropped in. It was a formal affair, with table assignments, Ann Anthony’s fun party favors, a good dinner and dancing. Enumerable people helped in different ways. It was just as it should be. Exhilarating. The Inaugural Ball wasn't really a Committee or Club event. It was a Democratic happiness explosion. And, interestingly, I was told that it was the first time at a social event in Southampton history that the number of guests from minority communities equaled that of white guests.

Excitement over Obama certainly galvanized Democrats. How important is the candidate when it comes to growing the Democratic Party?

Candidates are crucial. After we had gotten two Democrats elected, it became easier to find people willing to take the risk of making the personal, financial and time commitment to run. It a real plus that the candidate selection process has been moved up. Candidates used to be selected in May and they usually took June, and into July, to establish their teams and then they began to worry about raising money. For many of them, the process of becoming a candidate was overwhelming. Some were, understandably, a little scared of the spotlight and many had information overload even before they started to take much in. They often felt they didn’t have time to learn about the concerns of residents in each part of town and to go out to meet and learn from people we now call “influencers”. As a result, by the time Labor Day rolled around and the campaigns started in earnest and the debates were around the corner, many were still unknown outside of their own community of friends, relations and neighbors. Now, with the new schedule, candidates can use May, June and July for listening tours.

Tell me a little bit about how you organized an advisory board for the Club.

I just created it. I needed and wanted help. When I became president, I focused on bringing in more people to Club events and, in general, on trying to change the image of Democrats in town. Eventually it became clear that the Club would benefit from an advisory board with members from each side of the canal.

As you and Mike and other early organizers retire, how do we find the next generation of Mikes and Granias?

Ideally, you want to find volunteers who are willing to contribute in one way or another without asking for much in return. Historically, people at two different stages in life have surfaced in our local Democratic world. Either they have been young (think Jake Grier) or recently retired and, often, newcomers to the area (think, practically all of us). It always used to be that the Republican Committee had a waiting list of people wanting to join it while we had to beat the bushes. But, over the past ten plus years, under Gordon’s leadership, the Democratic Committee has gone from a bunch of hopefuls to a real organization. Of course, the Committee needs to continue to grow. It needs to include members of the different constituencies that make up our world, particularly minorities, some of whom are young people, businesspeople and parents with young children. To achieve this, I think it would helpful if members of the outreach committee as well as other Committee members are asked to commit to going to meetings of Citizen Advisory Committees (CACs) and as many issue-related groups as possible. Getting to know people and offering to help them achieve their goals is the best way to reach out. Personal contacts create trust. Instead of asking for help, we can offer help. We can offer mentorship programs, internships and opportunities to get to know each other outside of Committee meetings and campaign work.

You mentioned that new structures in the Committee’s organization helped you decide this is the moment to retire.

During the 18 months or so before COVID, the Committee laid the groundwork for several positive changes. A committed group drafted new rules and regulations, others contributed to the first actions of a visioning subcommittee, and a dedicated outreach subcommittee started to discuss how to diversify the Committee’s membership. For a long time, I’d hoped that all this would happen and now they will be part of the workings of the Committee. It is not that I contributed greatly to these changes but I do feel just fine about pulling back now.

Mike told me he is looking forward to playing more golf. What are you looking forward to?

I turned 80 last summer. I don't want whoever comes after me to have a lot of papers and other stuff to go through. There is a barn and two other buildings and our basement to clear out. At the beginning of the COVID shutdown, I made an endless list of stuff to do but barely scratched the surface. It is high time I “grow up” and do better in this area. Also, just as with many people, COVID allowed me to be in closer contact with many of the young people and old friends and others in my life. Calling and Zooming. Laughing. Breathing. I’m looking forward to more time to breathe.

Any thoughts on writing a memoir?

It has occurred to me, but it would be better once everybody is dead and this won’t happen while I am still alive. So, the answer is “no!”

January 21, 2021: Mike Anthony - True Blue Democrat

It is the day after the Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I was fearful of the ceremony being outside at the Capital, but it was the right decision. It was cathartic to replace those images of the murderous horde Trump incited overrunning our Capital building with the traditional, visual representation of democracy. From the COVID memorial ceremony on Tuesday, to the Inauguration to the concert that ended the night, I was deeply moved by all of it.

I was lucky to virtually celebrate the day with many of the people who have shared this journey with me the last four years. The leadership of East End Action Network (EEAN), members of the Southampton Town Democratic Committee (SHDems) and my extended family. And in person, in our living room, where the three of us have been hunkered down due to COVID, my husband, son and I drank champagne and toasted the end of the dark chapter of Trump and the beginning of a new future for the country. What a glorious day. I am still choked up by the words President Biden and Vice President Harris. I doubt that is going to get old any time soon.

A Southampton Democrat who joined in the celebration yesterday is the subject of this week’s blog. Whereas last week I focused on the insurrection and the complicity of Congressman Lee Zeldin, today I get to shine a light on a man who is a beacon of hope and goodness, the anti-Zeldin in every way. He is Mike Anthony, quintessential Democrat, a mentor and a friend and always an inspiration.

When I was reporting and writing The Resistance and Me, I always planned that the book would be a memoir/oral history of the women of the anti-Trump movement. But this left me with a quandary. What to do about the handful of men who were instrumental to this journey, men like Mike? Without his guidance, I might have bailed on being a Democratic Party committee member early in 2017. So, I compromised. The book remained a historical work about women but also features a few key men who taught me so much. Mike Anthony stands at the top of that short list.

So, you can imagine how I felt when Mike told me he was retiring from the SHDems. My immediate, gut reaction was a loud, spontaneous “No!” I knew no meeting, no canvassing, no event would be as well organized or as enjoyable without Mike. Once I calmed down and pushed past my selfishness and thought instead about how much Mike deserves a break from all he has shouldered, I could extend my genuine, heartfelt best wishes to him and his wife, Ann. It helps that while he is retiring from being an executive and leader on the SHDems, he remains just as committed to getting Democrats elected and assured me that one day we will be out knocking on doors again and talking to voters together.

I asked Mike for an interview to commemorate his retirement and because I knew a conversation with him about how he helped turn our township from red to blue would be valuable as we go forward fighting the vestiges of Trumpism. The timing turned out to be perfect, because last night the SHDems presented Mike with an award for his outstanding service to the community. Both he and Grania Brolin, another powerhouse Democrat who is retiring, received the awards at our virtual Inaugural Gala. No Democrats deserve it more. I am grateful that Grania has also consented to an interview which will be featured on my blog in February.

My interviews with Mike took place before the award presentation and before the Inauguration of Biden and Harris. I reached out to Mike by email today and asked him how he was feeling about both. About the award, he wrote that it was hard for him to put into words, “how appreciative I am to be recognized by my friends and colleagues in the Democratic Committee. It truly means a lot. I am loathe to be recognized just for doing something I like to do, but, in this instance, I’m definitely making an exception. Yesterday was wonderful for a variety of reasons.”

Those reasons included the Inauguration, which for Mike, “was like waking up from a very long nightmare. We clearly live in a time when one of the major parties is atavistic while the other is forward looking and chooses to embrace the society we are becoming, more diverse and gender equal.”

Below is a condensed version of my conversation with Mike. To read a more in-depth version of our conversation, please click HERE.

Hard to begin without first asking you what your reaction has been to the insurrection and the attack on the Capital.

I'm still processing it, but it's just unbelievable to see what was going on. Horrifying. I was watching it live and, in the beginning, it seemed that most of the horrible activity was outside the Capitol. Then subsequently, you realized what was going on inside. I was watching MSNBC at one point and Andrea Mitchell started to cry. She was saying how the Capital is a place to revere. You walk through there, and you see all these statutes in Statuary Hall, all the past leaders, the history of the country. And in four hours, they ransack the place. You see these costumes and carrying the confederate flag, the guys with the Nazi tee shirts, the sheer boldness of the attack, the sense of entitlement. How could they possibly think they could do that? So delusional. I mean, these people really think that all these states cheated, that we really denied Trump the presidency? After 60 courts cases, after hardly a shred of evidence about anything, they just listen to Trump. If you say something over and over again and say it loud enough, it starts to sink in with these people.

And even after that attack, our congressman, Republican Lee Zeldin, still went forward with his speech demanding that the electoral college votes not be certified. AFTER the attack. Is there any other time in our history that you think comes close to this?

The Civil War. Ann and I were talking about this the other day. We were in Washington, D.C. protesting the Vietnam War when we were in college, and of course there were things like the underground weathermen, and there were bombings by some of the fringe people. Then there was Chicago in 1968 at the Democratic Convention. But most of the demonstrations we went to were peaceful. Ann and I, we went, we chanted, then we went out and got some lunch.

Maybe that's the difference between the left and the right. We chant, and then we get lunch.

The last time the Capitol was under siege was the War of 1812. This time Americans did it.

What process should we be using to try and find a better candidate to run against Zeldin?

I’m glad Rich Schaffer (Suffolk County Democratic Committee Chair) is organizing a candidate selection team comprised of Democratic, progressive and labor leaders to find a super candidate we can rally around to defeat Zeldin. I'm sure there are people out there. Whenever I listen to Zeldin talk, he has these talking points that he gets from the different right-wing groups. Everything with him is a false equivalency. “The Democrats did this.” But it never comes close to the damage the Republicans have done.

In the book, you said that your becoming chair of the SHDems in 2007, “was just a case of being in the right place at the right time,” but I know it’s more than that.

If I could go back to that quote in the book about being at the right place at the right time, there is a lot behind that in a sense that I grew up out here, and then I lived in New Jersey and worked in New York City for 33-34 years, and then we moved back here. And I just happened to move back when the party wasn't on its feet. There was internal conflict and I came in as the neutral guy. When I was interviewed to become a Democratic committee member by the chair at the time, he spent two or three hours with me telling me his version about what was going on with the Southampton Democratic Party. And Ann and I were both, “we just want to help Democrats get elected.” It was kind of a fresh start then.

I realized that the party was kind of stuck in the mud with people just having beefs with one another. So, after a while and observing the dysfunction I said maybe I should run for committee chair. So, I did and I won. But then it was like that scene in that Robert Redford movie, The Candidate, where after he wins, he says, "Now what?"

That was your feeling after you won, now what am I supposed to do?

Yes. Slowly it dawned on me, wait a second, we have to come up with candidates now. The thing that I had started paying attention to right away was that we just didn't have a very good public reputation. We needed to change our image to have any success. I remember reading an editorial in The Southampton Press that said something like, "It’s too bad there's no real opposition against Republicans. Too bad there’s not a strong two-party system." I felt like we had to find candidates that we could present to the public. We also had to resolve the internal divisions and start trying to be united. Those were our two immediate needs. And at that time there were, I think, 4,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats. I knew what we were in for and we couldn’t expect overnight miracles, that we had to be in it for the long haul.

Did you think of running yourself for town board here?

Not unless I can have the meetings at the golf course. One other thing that stuck with me from my time in New Jersey. Our congressman's name was Henry Helstoski. He looked like your quintessential Marine-type guy. He had the jaw, the square face, the crew cut and the mannerisms, but he was as liberal as could be. I was a George McGovern town coordinator. I would be out knocking on doors for McGovern and everybody would say to me, "I can't vote for George McGovern, he's too liberal, but I am voting for Henry Helstoski." And I would say, "Henry’s voting record is pretty much a carbon copy of George McGovern's voting record." They would say, "Get out of here, no way."

The basic appeal, the gut appeal that candidates should have, cannot be overstated. It helps to have an appealing candidate. We now have more than 3,000-4,000 more Democrats than Republicans. We knew that if we just stuck to it, put one foot in front of the other, that if our goal is to knock on 10 doors, then let's knock on 15 doors. Let's write one more letter to the editor. Let's just do one extra little thing. Then we had some nice summer parties and it looked like we knew what we were doing. It's a long-haul process. I think there's a lot to be said about just sticking to it. Of course, you're going to stumble along the way and you make some mistakes, which we did, as humans we all do. Stick to it and believe in the cause. I love the Democratic Party so it was easy for me to hang in and do the little extra.

It is hard to imagine going forward with the SHDems without you because you have been such a rock for so many of us, helping us understand what we were doing and how to navigate some of the issues within the committee. You were a bridge to all sides. How are you feeling having declared your retirement? Is there some relief?

Well, I'm definitely committed to helping our candidates. I can't wait until we're back to normal and I can go knock on doors again. I love knocking on doors. I want to do that for candidates again. It's not like I'm disappearing. So I'll be out there working for the party, working for our candidates, helping to get them elected. But I began to feel that I wanted to make room for other people, other ideas. I think I mentioned to you I just felt like a little bit spent. It was kind of a slow process. I started thinking about it two or three years ago. I feel strongly that the party has to become younger and more diverse. And I don't fit those two characteristics. So I hope whoever replaces me on the committee is young and a person of color.

I came into the committee in 2017, as a lot of people did because of Trump. Turns out Trump really was a uniter, he united people passionately against him and he united support behind him. We saw both sides come out in this election. There was a blue wave and there was a red wave. Without Trump, where do you think the Resistance goes?

That's a tough one. I think there's going to be that push and pull between the moderates and progressives. I think that'll continue. I happen to think that's not a bad thing, but other people go, “Oh, the Democratic Party is split again” and all that stuff. It is so important that we stay united one way or the other. We have to do a better job of rolling out the vaccine, we have to get the economy back on track, we have to tackle climate change. There are so many issues and we need to be united to be able to fight hard for those issues. I hope that wanting a better America, a better world, that will be the glue that keeps us together.

One of the campaign tactics that I've read about this year is Deep Canvassing. It is the idea that voters can be persuaded by spending time with them and engaging in a positive value-laden conversation. It's new to me as I always thought quantity over quality, that the visit to a voter was a reminder, a touch, to ID as many good votes as possible for GOTV. Deep Canvassing endeavors to meet people where they are using positive examples to move them toward our candidate. In the following link is a document about using deep canvassing to improve Biden's numbers. They didn't bother mentioning Trump, believing the saturation point had been reached regarding Trump. This group claims to have moved 3.1% of voters to Biden using this method. Can it work here and in CD#1? Probably, but it would require some training and practice. https://peoplesaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/PA-ReportDeepCanvassingResults09.14-FINAL.pdf

You started at 24 with the Democratic Party, and you stayed with it. How do we create the next generation of Mikes?

That's a good question. I don't know. How do we find the next somebody who would be as super committed as I was? Someone who will say to themselves, “Do I want to go knock on these doors, or go hit some balls at the driving range? I'll go knock on doors, I’ll make that right decision.”

Well, think about when I came out here, I was retired. Ann and both took early retirement. I was able to devote the time to it. Like I said, we must think long term. One foot in front of the next. Commitment, there's got to be a commitment. That's something that comes from within somebody. To me, social justice and doing good, for the common person was always animating to me so I'm fighting for it. I don't know if this is relevant to a lot of people, I think it was relevant to me, is that I grew up playing team sports. Some of my best memories are achieving something with other people. We're all fighting for the same thing, to me that's very uplifting. There's got to be other people out there that see that we're on a team and we're trying to do good.

The thing I'd like to say is that we have to love each other. Democratic committee members, we have to be patient with each other. We may be unhappy with each other from time to time for various reasons, but we have to go in it thinking that everybody's giving it their best effort and it's all in good faith because the things we're trying to get accomplished and the people who are opposing us are huge things. We really need to stay united.

Going forward, what do you think should be our first priority or first action this year? What would be the thing you would be telling us as committee members, "This is our number one priority, this is what I need you to all be working on."

As I mentioned, I think it remains outreach. We have to meet as many people as we can and when you do, bring voter registration forms with you. Find out who the newly registered are and say hi to them. Tell them we're here, we're interested in what they have to say. We're the grassroots of the grassroots, right?

I would also be recommending that we, as a committee, do more fun things together. Camaraderie is so important. A lot of times when professional athletes retire, they are asked, "What do you miss? You're not going to hit another home run. You're not going to score another three-point basket. What do you miss?" And they say, "I miss the locker room. The friendships, the camaraderie that's built up there.” I think if there's more fun things that we could think about once we can get back together, that would be good.

We have worked so hard the last few years to put new structures in place for the committee, structures like the rules and regulations, the letter-writing group, the great website and Facebook page. Now we need to use these structures to reach out to the community. Also, I can't wait to hear the feedback about how people like the new candidate selection process. Hopefully that will work out well.

You had a hand in helping put these structures in place. Do you think you might get bored with golf and think, “I really miss the committee”?

Funny you should say that. I'm always in the living room checking my golf stance, thinking, "What should I do with my right elbow? What should I do with my left elbow?" I was toying around with how far apart my feet should be, and I thought, "I can’t wait to get out there again on the golf course.”

January 14, 2021: Complicity

One way or another, Donald Trump will face a reckoning for his part in the mob attack on the Capital on January 6th. In a House vote that included ten Republicans voting for impeachment, the Article of Impeachment, entitled Incitement to Insurrection, states that "Donald John Trump engaged in high crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States." He is the only president to be impeached twice. Whether there is a conviction in a Senate trial or not, this becomes part of the official legacy of Trump's presidency. Already, the brand of his name has suffered with businesses withdrawing their association with him. He is banned for life from Twitter and Facebook. Corporations are announcing they will no longer give political donations to politicians who fanned the flames of the insurrection. January 6th and the riot he incited with his big lie that the election was stolen from him, will be added to the pantheon of dates that live in infamy in American history. And it will always have his name on it.

Those of us in the anti-Trump Resistance have been warning about the danger to our democracy from a craven and immoral president for four years, a danger that was compounded exponentially by the Republican Party and right-wing media. It all came to a head in an explosion of hate and violence that was both surprising but also tragically inevitable.

And yet, the insurrection left us stunned and in shock. The first few days after the riot, I was overcome by a deep sense of paralysis. Some of that came from the whiplash of careening from joy to despair in less than 24 hours. In the early hours of January 6th, we celebrated the projected Democratic wins in the Georgia runoff. Then the same day, we mourned the death and destruction at the Capital.

Over time, as more videos were made public, the murderous intent of many of the rioters Trump exhorted to “fight like hell” came into sharper focus. Shock gave way to anger and demands for accountability. As the House Democrats go forward with impeachment, the FBI is arresting rioters around the country and investigations are underway for the massive security failure. This is a fast-moving story, with updates by the hour.

But what of the other insurrectionists, those Republican Party members not named Trump who also incited the rioters by promoting the lie of a stolen election? If not for them using the pro forma event of certifying the electoral college vote as a platform to object to the Biden-Harris win, the “Stop the Steal” rally turned riot probably would not have happened. His GOP enablers gave the lie a legitimacy. Their complicity made it real. Where is the accountability for them?

When I began my journey with the anti-Trump Resistance, after the 2017 Women’s March four years ago – with not one incidence of violence – I learned from Indivisible to focus my activism on my member of Congress (MOC) because direct involvement in my own district would have the greatest impact.

Learning that my MOC, Congressman Lee Zeldin, was one of the 138 Republican House members who objected to the certification was not a surprise. I have followed his slavish devotion to Trump and am aware that he has spent his congressional career, even before Trump, appealing to the most right-wing elements in our district. He was first elected in 2014, ushered in on a Tea Party wave, with a campaign built around a big lie, that his opponent, Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop was under FBI investigation for taking bribes. His “law and order” campaign also included racist dog whistles to white voters about the “danger” to them from the growing undocumented population in the district.

Since Trump, his affiliation with right-wing groups intensified. Throughout the 2020 campaign, Zeldin welcomed the support from two of these pro-Trump groups, the Setauket Patriots and Oath Keepers. There are numerous pictures online of Zeldin with them, accepting their endorsement. This was while there was mounting evidence that these groups were harassing and threatening peaceful protesters and Biden-Harris supporters. Their “Trump 2020” parades of flag-emblazoned cars and trucks always had a threatening tone. Yet, here is a video on Twitter of Zeldin speaking to one of their gatherings and talking about the danger of Democrats in Congress who are just after “scalps.”

https://twitter.com/senoritacruzz/status/1346968158742183937?s=20&fbclid=IwAR3N9zVfBkmAX650l8TqbdRPHLJAIxVIOr8pZ9jP0G_0Zv_VE0DIVyMrs1Q

These groups were advertising the January 6th rally on their Facebook pages with a quote by Trump that said it would be “wild.” The avowed purpose was to “stop the steal” as Trump and Zeldin continued to push the big lie that the election had been stolen from Trump in massive fraud. Press reports state that the Setauket Patriots sent four busloads of Trump supporters to the rally. Since the riot, Facebook has removed their page. I will not be surprised if there are FBI arrests in our district resulting from their attendance.

After the Capital was attacked, Zeldin issued a statement. “This should never be the scene at the U.S. Capitol. This is not the America we all love. We can debate and we can disagree, even on a January 6th following a Presidential election. We can all passionately love our country, but in our republic, we elect people to represent us to voice our objections in the House and Senate on this day.”

He did not mention his supporters who were at the rally nor did he condemn the insurrection. He also did not apologize for his complicity in the attack. By announcing he would be objecting to the certification of Biden-Harris, he contributed to the riot by first, inflaming the rage of their supporters and then, by directing them to the Capital to stop what they were told was a crime.

Then, that night, when the House returned to their work to certify the electoral votes, he doubled down on the lie that had just fueled the violent assault on our democracy. In a shameful display of tone-deaf opportunism, his four-minute floor speech repeated every right-wing conspiracy about the election. He went so far as to claim that it was his constitutional duty to object to the certification of the electoral votes.

“My constitutional oath is sacred, and I have a duty to speak out about confirmed, evidence-filled issues with the administration of the 2020 presidential election in certain battleground states. Signature verification, ballot observation, voter roll integrity, voter ID requirements and ballot collection protections were weakened on top of the millions of mailboxes that were flooded with unrequested mail-in ballots. Many of my constituents have been outraged and demanding that I voice their objections here today. This debate is necessary because rogue election officials, secretaries of state and courts circumvented state election laws.”

His speech, given AFTER the attack, was a dangerous reiteration of the same false assertions and outright lies that had just triggered the assault on the Capital. And, of course, he omitted that those same accusations about the election had been thrown out of every court in over 60 cases, often by Republican judges, some appointed by Trump. And he hid from the public that each state, even those with Republican governors and election officials, had looked at the charges, recounted votes, checked machines and ratified their electoral votes because there was no evidence of voter fraud.

To read a point-by-point expose of Zeldin’s speech, read the excellent article in the Sag Harbor Express by Brendan J. O’Reilly.

https://sagharborexpress.com/analysis-lee-zeldins-house-floor-speech-on-election-was-deficient-in-facts/

At the end of the article, Mr. O’Reilly sums up his analysis by stating, “Some of Mr. Zeldin’s “facts” were not facts at all. Some may have been accurate but had no bearing on the issue at hand. Others lacked key context. On the whole, he painted a picture of an election rife with irregularities that were never examined or litigated — and that picture is false. Mr. Zeldin urged that votes be guaranteed while criticizing efforts to ensure that citizens may register to vote, vote safely, and be assured their votes cast in good faith were counted.”

Despite his complicity in the insurrection and his continued spreading of lies after the attack, over the weekend Zeldin sent an email out to his constituents that did not acknowledge or apologize for his part in the riot. Instead, it contained a disingenuous call for unity.

Dear Barbara,

We live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. We have big challenges at the moment, real disagreement over important issues, and a precarious future as a republic.

Following Congress' certification of the Electoral College results, on January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. of Delaware, will be sworn in as the next President of the United States, and Kamala D. Harris of California, will be sworn in as the next Vice President of the United States.

For our nation to thrive, we need our economy growing, our national security strong, our freedoms defended, our Constitution protected, and so much more.

Moving forward, there will be continued debate and there will be disagreement, but out of that must be a healthy, guarded and even thriving republic. Right now, I am not going to dwell on any doubt, but to recommit to working towards a vigorous defense of lady liberty at all costs, and the pursuit of unity whenever possible.

I returned home from our nation's Capitol after witnessing firsthand from inside the House chamber on Wednesday the best of America clash with some of the worst of it in a moment of my life I will never forget.

The vandalism and loss of life at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was totally unacceptable and there must be ZERO tolerance for violence in any form!

I love our country and I ask for your prayers tonight for each other, for any hope of unity, for your wisdom, for a peaceful transition of power, for President Trump and Vice President Pence, and for President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris.

For this moment, let's take one collective deep breath, recharge and renew our spirit for whatever lies ahead. We are all Americans first.

It is an honor to represent you in the United States House of Representatives, and I always enjoy hearing your thoughts on issues before Congress and how they affect our communities on Long Island. Please do not ever hesitate to reach out to my office at (631) 289-1097. To receive email updates on this important issue and more, please subscribe to my e-newsletter at zeldin.house.gov.

Best Regards,

Lee Zeldin

Member of Congress

But in true Zeldin form, while he was asking for unity on the one hand, he was continuing to spread lies with the other. This was his response on Twitter:

To the Dems and media trying hard to somehow tie Wednesday's shameful acts of violence in the Capitol to the intentions and motivation of tens of millions of other Americans - just stop. It's an incredible double standard when those who failed to condemn violence in Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Kenosha, DC, NY, etc become holier than thou. Or when suddenly, 1/6 objections used by Dems to object to every GOP presidential win in the past generation is now treason. Wed’s violence was terrible, but some people need to take a deep breadth and look in the mirror. Those who committed acts of violence in the Capitol must be held accountable, but Dems and media eager to use Wed to settle political scores would only be dividing our country more.

Both the email call for unity and the Twitter attack on Democrats are as much of a lie as his previous statement and floor speech. They are the typical Zeldin shell game of pretending to be bipartisan while riling up his base with the most inflammatory rhetoric. Right before the election, on October 29th, I published a blog post entitled, The Two Zeldins. https://sites.google.com/view/theresistanceandme/blog?authuser=6#h.ja5whyljmzp5

In it, I wrote:

Just as he did in 2018, Zeldin has taken every opportunity to describe himself during this campaign season as bipartisan. In the two virtual debates with Nanc (Goroff), in his television ads and his mailings, he likes to quote some obscure rating that says he is the “12th most bipartisan member of Congress.” But if you follow his votes on major legislation (not minor bills, like renaming a post office), or listen to his rhetoric on right-wing media or endure a member of his staff screaming at you over the phone, then you know that Zeldin is one of the most partisan Republicans in Congress.

He must count on the fact that the average voter only pays attention right before an election. Since they are not aware of these two, different Zeldins, it is easy to mislead them. Election Zeldin says he reaches across the aisle, supports protections for pre-existing conditions, cares about the environment and works hard to get federal assistance for our district. But throughout the year, Real Zeldin accuses Democrats of being dangerous radical leftists, votes repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), does not support federal regulations including those on the environment and defends every Trump tweet and policy no matter how harmful to the people of his district. Once you learn about the two Zeldins, it is easy to figure out which one is the mirage.

Like Donald Trump, Lee Zeldin’s lies and rhetoric that fueled an insurrection and are stoking right-wing flames, make him a dangerous man. They both need to leave, now. Resistance groups circulated a petition online, to be presented to Speaker Pelosi, requesting the impeachment of Donald Trump and the expulsion of Lee Zeldin from the House, for their part in inciting the insurrection. Indivisible organized rallies for Monday, January 11th under the title: “Never Again” Means Coups Have Consequences.” A protest rally took place in front of Zeldin’s office in Patchogue.

https://longisland.news12.com/protesters-descend-on-rep-zeldins-office-demanding-he-be-expelled-trump-impeached

Using the phrase “Never Again” has specific connections to the Holocaust. Trump’s tenure has consistently inspired comparisons with the fall of democracy in Germany and the rise of the Nazis. In my book, The Resistance and Me, Democratic Party leader Robin Long is quoted as comparing the Trump years to Germany in the 1930s. The interview was in 2018, right after the family separation program was revealed:

The point of reference is if we don’t learn from history, we are going to repeat it. And we’ll repeat it in a different form. So, you had the Armenians, a million and a half, and Hitler knew he could get away with killing the Jews because nobody cared about that so we’re going to repeat this…

So, now the question is, what do we say to people, right now, to try to get them to understand that we’re in a very unique time period? Not because I believe we’re going to have concentration camps opening next week, but we have holding camps for women and children. This is the first time. So, this isn’t a thing of Republicans against Democrats, it’s not liberals against conservatives; it isn’t any standard guides that we ever had before. This is not McCain, this is not Bush, this is not Reagan, this isn’t even Nixon. These men, though I didn’t agree with some of their policies, believed in our country with checks and balances as the basis of our democracy. We are at a crossroads now. This is saving our democracy. You cannot attack the press the way he has. You cannot attack the judges, the judiciary the way he has. You cannot be constantly attacking the minority party which is the Democratic Party because all you’re doing is undermining our country. We do not have due process at the border because these people do not have rights. That’s what they said about Jews. That was the beginning.

At the time, some accused her of hyperbole for her comparisons. Few people are calling them hyperbole now. During the riot, the mob threatened reporters. A New York Times photojournalist was harassed and beaten. A CNN crew fled, feeling their lives were endangered as the crowd jeered and harassed them. Associated Press reporters had their equipment smashed. A Capital policeman was beaten to death. Rioters carried the confederate flag and displayed Nazi symbols and messages. Marauding rioters, carrying zip-tie handcuffs, stalked the halls of Congress looking for Pelosi and Pence, chanting “where’s Nancy?” and “hang Mike Pence.”

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, born in Austria right after World War II, posted a video statement comparing the attack on the Capital to the 1938 attack on the Jews. In his statement he condemned Trump and all of the GOP enablers for their complicity. “I grew up in Austria. I’m very aware of Kristallnacht, or ‘the Night of Broken Glass.’ It was a night of rampage against the Jews in 1938 by the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_P-0I6sAck

Zeldin’s complicity to this insurrection did not begin with the big lie about the stolen election. It has been there for four years. The Holocaust also teaches us lessons about long-term complicity. A famous quote, attributed to Martin Niemoeller, personalizes the complicity of silence that led to the genocide of European Jews by the Nazis. If you are not familiar with this powerful statement, read it here: https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/martin-niemoeller-first-they-came-for-the-socialists

If Zeldin had one ounce of decency, he would apologize for his short and long-term complicity and resign. I have taken the liberty of writing the speech for him, the speech he should be giving but will probably not. My appropriation of Niemoeller’s quote is not to diminish its specific significance to the Holocaust. Quite the contrary. It is to elevate the seriousness of Zeldin’s complicity in Trump’s four-year attack on our democracy and the riot that resulted from it.

First Trump came for Mexicans calling them criminals and rapists, and I did not speak out – because I am not Mexican.

Then he came for Muslim immigrants with the Muslim ban, and I did not speak out – because I am not Muslim.

Then he came for African Americans threatened by white nationalists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and I did not speak out - because I am not African American.

Then he came for migrant children seeking asylum, separating them from their parents and putting them in cages, and I did not speak out – because they aren’t my children.

Then he came for the LGBTQ community, seeking to reverse legal protections from the Obama administration, and I did not speak out – because they aren’t my voters.

Then he came for reporters from CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other legitimate news outlets, calling them the “enemy of the people” and I did not speak out – because I would have been kicked off Fox News.

Then he came for the intelligence officers who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election, and I did not speak out – because I feared a primary challenge.

Then he came for the ambassadors and whistleblowers on the Ukraine quid pro quo scandal, and I did not speak out – because I loved the media attention I got from defending Trump on impeachment.

Then he came for the scientists trying to warn us about COVID, and I did not speak out – because I was too busy defending Trump on impeachment.

Then he came for the Black Lives Matter protesters, tear gassing them so he could hold up a Bible at a photo-op, and I did not speak out – because Setauket Patriots wouldn’t have endorsed me.

Then he came for the Governor of Michigan, and I did not speak out – because riling up the mob in a battleground state would help suppress Democratic voters.

Then he came for the United States Postal Service workers and I did not speak out – because it was mostly Democrats who wanted to vote by mail.

Then he came for state election officials doing their job administering a free and fair election, and I did not speak out – because ambition was more important to me than truth or democracy.

Then he unleashed hell on Congress, endangering all of us. For my complicity in this act of violent sedition and my silence leading up to it, I must resign.