Editorial: A Long Island minor party wags the dog

Lori Baldassare, Democratic candidate for Town of Brookhaven Lori Baldassare, Democratic candidate for Town of Brookhaven Highway Superintendent, at Town of Brookhaven Democratic Headquarters. (July 22, 2013) Photo Credit: James Escher

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Lori Baldassare, a Democrat, wanted to run for Brookhaven town clerk, and wanted to do so on her own party's line. She announced her candidacy, she campaigned for the spot, and she may well have persuaded voters to grant her their support.

But thanks to the festering malignancy that is cross-endorsement, her name won't be presented as an option on the ballot.

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See if you can follow this: Baldassare's opponent in the town clerk race was to be Republican Donna Lent. Lent was the favored candidate of Suffolk and state Independence Party chairman Frank MacKay. MacKay didn't want Lent facing any kind of significant challenge for the job, so he called Suffolk Democratic Party chairman Richard Schaffer and told him Baldassare needed to drop out of the clerk race. And what was MacKay's leverage? If Baldassare stayed in the clerk race, he threatened to pull the Independence Party ballot line from six Democrats who might well need votes from that third party line. The Democrats control the legislature by 13 seats to five, so if the party were to lose four or more of those six seats, it could lose majority power.

Pressured by Schaffer and Democratic Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone, Baldassare, a $95,000-a-year county public works aide, dropped her candidacy in mid-July. She is now running for Brookhaven Town highway superintendent, an office deserving of its own chapter in the epic saga of Brookhaven and Suffolk multiparty political manipulation.

Brookhaven voters shouldn't have their candidate choices controlled by the manipulation of county legislative races. Democratic voters shouldn't have their party's offerings controlled by another party's leader.

And no voter should be fooled into believing that the stamp of approval of the Independence Party actually has something to do with independence from partisan tomfoolery, when it actually does so much to fuel problematic political tactics.

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As long as cross-endorsing is legal and we have these faux parties, devoid of ideology and existing only to manipulate power, the voters will continue to be the losers in election after election.

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