Suffolk Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer said he won’t make any new appointments to the party’s county committee until after the November election, despite newly galvanized activists eager to join.
Schaffer said in an interview last week he wants the progressives to first work on local elections this year.
“I want to know what they can do and see them participate in local campaigns,” Schaffer said. He noted there were no more county committee meetings until next year.
There’s been a surge in new activism since President Donald Trump’s election. The party has appointed hundreds of new volunteers to the county committee since January.
Liuba Grechen Shirley, leader of the group New York 2nd District Democrats, had presented Schaffer with a list of about 70 members more than a month ago. She criticized his decision not to make more appointments to the county committee.
“I don’t think it’s the right way to go about building the party and strengthening the base,” she said. “When you have Democrats interested in helping the party, you should welcome them with open arms and not make them jump through hoops.”
Grechen Shirley said she and other members of activist groups known as “pop ups” had worked for Democrat Christine Pellegrino’s successful state Assembly election, which Schaffer sat out, and planned fundraisers for Democratic county legislative candidates.
At a tense Aug. 7 meeting, Grechen Shirley and more than 100 members of progressive groups pressed Schaffer to fill the committee vacancies.
He said he’s not worried about tamping down the enthusiasm of new volunteers. “This is getting them front-row seats to the campaign,” he said, even though he won’t appoint them immediately as committee members.
Schaffer said some of those members on the list didn’t live in Suffolk and others weren’t registered as Democrats.
County committee members are expected to meet twice next year — once in the spring to pick party-backed candidates for elected office and again in the fall to elect party leadership — including Schaffer.
Schaffer came under fire from progressive activists for failing to back Pellegrino in her successful Assembly bid and for taking a hands-off approach to elections for Republican-held state Senate seats in Suffolk.
There 2,104 committee members — two for each election district in the county. Hundreds of seats are unfilled, although the county party did not immediately have a count of committee members.