By Robert Brodsky Published on October 10, 2015 www.newsday.com
Green Party leaders in Nassau and Suffolk say their ballot lines have been hijacked by Republican and Democratic judicial candidates who aren't party members -- and whose political views sometimes clash with Green Party stances.
In Islip, Councilman Anthony Senft, a Conservative Party member, won a Sept. 10 Green Party primary for Suffolk County Fifth District Court judge.
Senft was the liaison to Islip's Parks Department when 32 tons of asbestos-laden debris was discovered at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood. Senft, who did not respond to a request for comment, has not been accused of wrongdoing.
"It looks bad for us," said Suffolk Green Party chairman Roger Snyder. "He is someone I am sure we would not put forward to run on our line because he does not meet our values."
Two Republicans also won Green Party primaries for Suffolk District Court while a Democrat and a Conservative won Green primaries for Family Court judge. In Nassau, Republicans for the first time ran candidates for the Green Party line for County Court, Surrogate's Court and District Court in the September primary -- although Democrats won all the contests. No Green Party candidates were running in those races.
Major party candidates seek multiple ballot lines in order to boost their vote totals in the general election, if only by small amounts. And the Green Party is vulnerable to encroachment because of its small size, lack of funding and quirks in state election law. The Green Party has 1,779 registered voters in Suffolk and 1,465 in Nassau. State election law does not require candidates to get a party's permission to run on its ballot line. Candidates also do not have to tell Green Party members who sign their nominating petitions that they're not registered in the party or endorsed by the organization.
Long Island Green Party leaders say the maneuvering creates confusion among voters because the major party candidates often have policy stances at odds with the Green Party's record on issues, including environmental protection. Nassau Green Party chairman Jim Brown said he disagrees with policies of both parties. For instance, Brown said Democratic and GOP lawmakers have voted to privatize land in county parks, a policy Greens oppose.
The Green Party, which obtained its ballot line in 2010 after Howie Hawkins received more than 50,000 votes in his unsuccessful run for governor, does not cross-endorse candidates because the two major parties accept corporate donations.
Brown said he is encouraging Nassau's registered Green members not to vote for any candidate "masquerading as a Green. I don't care which party does it. We want to preserve the independence of our line." Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs defended his candidates who seek the Green line, arguing that their values on the environment are closely aligned.
In the weeks before the Sept. 10 primaries for County Court, Surrogate's Court and District Court, Nassau Democrats sent fliers to Green Party voters warning that Conservatives were "conspiring to take over your Green Party ballot line. You can save the Green Party ballot line: support our Green Party candidates." The GOP candidates also had the Conservative endorsement.
Anthony Santino, spokesman for Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello, said the Green Party "never seemed to mind when it was only the Democrats running on their lines."
Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia-based political consultant who works primarily for Republicans, said the Green Party deserves blame because it has yet to increase its voter registration or attract viable candidates. "If the Green Party wants to complain, they should start by looking in the mirror," he said. Brown and Snyder said their party operations are growing slowly. They are calling for a change in state election law that would require candidates to stipulate on their nominating petitions whether they are a member of the party or have its endorsement. "At a minimum, that information should be disclosed to voters," Snyder said.
The Nassau Green Party is running three candidates on the November ballot: Laurence Hirsh in the 3rd Legislative District, Cassandra Lems in the 10th and Joseph Naham for City Council in Long Beach. Jeffery Peress, who lost a Green Party primary in the 11th District to Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, is campaigning as a write-in candidate. In Suffolk, the only candidate on the November ballot with the Green Party endorsement is Pauline Salotti, a candidate for Brookhaven Town Board.