Brookhaven GOP snubs three-term pol Walsh
When Brookhaven Republicans denied three-term GOP town board member Kathy Walsh renomination last week, it was the political equivalent of standing her up before a firing squad but shooting blanks.
While the town GOP rebuffed Walsh, Jesse Garcia, town GOP chairman, did not name another Republican to run for the seat. So if Walsh gets at least 500 qualified Republican petition signatures over the next six weeks, she is still likely to be the party's nominee.
That is unless another Republican decides to wage a primary.
Earlier, Democrats -- for the first time -- gave Republican Walsh their ballot line, in light of her increasingly tenuous position in her own party.
"I think Jesse just sent out a subliminal message that Kathy is going to have a long, hot summer collecting signatures," said Douglas Segall, who once ran against Walsh in a GOP primary but is now a Democrat. Walsh did not return calls for comment.
Walsh, while popular in her Selden-Centereach district, has alienated some in her own party by weakening the GOP's 4-3 town board majority, siding with Democratic Supervisor Mark Lesko and becoming his deputy supervisor with a $10,000 annual stipend.
She has also earned the eternal anger of the town Conservative Party because her husband, William, a CSEA union leader, two years ago spearheaded primaries against his wife's fellow board members, Conservative Jane Bonner and the late Republican Keith Romaine.
She only exacerbated her GOP woes this year by refusing to back the party's supervisor candidate, Cecile Forte, at a party screening. Walsh also no longer caucuses with her GOP majority bloc and her relations with GOP caucus leader Timothy Mazzei are strained at best. Mazzei declined to comment.
Several party insiders say Garcia was forced to withhold Walsh's GOP nomination because of Conservative ire, especially since Garcia moved to cross-endorse Democratic Highway Superintendent John Rouse.
"Both Walsh and Rouse are an anathema to them [the Conservatives], so Jesse is trying to calm the waters," said one Republican official, who declined to be identified. Garcia was also being pressed by ex-Suffolk GOP chairman John Powell to give GOP backing to both Rouse and Walsh. Powell is a consultant for Rouse and an adviser to Walsh.
Conservatives, meanwhile, not only want to make Walsh sweat for petitions, but are looking to oust her as well. They are trying to enlist a Republican to run with their backing to defeat her in a GOP primary in September and then beat her again in November.
"I'd be shocked if we did not have a legitimate candidate to take her on," said Kenneth Auerbach, Brookhaven Conservative leader, adding that he "wouldn't be shocked" if Walsh has a Democratic primary, too.
But Conservatives face an uphill battle. Two years ago, the minor party backed Democrat Ira Bernstein against Walsh. While Bernstein got a potent 12.27 percent on the Conservative line, he received 7 percent fewer votes than any other town board candidate that had the Democratic Party's line. Bernstein lost, 58 percent to 41 percent, to Walsh.
Marc Alessi, Brookhaven Democratic chairman, said he expects no Democratic primary. "She doesn't play partisan politics but does what's right for her community," he said.
And, Alessi added, Walsh will be elected in November. "Her lack of [GOP] endorsement is illogical, but in the end, it will be inconsequential," he said.