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Smithtown’s Democrats hope national anger will help them locally

Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer speaks during a

Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer speaks during a Suffolk Legislative meeting in Hauppauge on Dec. 20, 2016. Credit: Steve Pfost

Smithtown Democrats say they intend to field a full slate of candidates for town races this year.

Smithtown is a GOP stronghold where Democrats have failed to contest some seats in recent years. Republican candidates here often double the vote count of their opponents, and no Democrats currently hold elected town office.

Now Democratic Party leaders say they hope anger directed at Republicans at the national level will bring out more voters and candidates than the quality of life issues that have traditionally driven most local campaigns.

“We are hoping this new energy will also produce a new crop of candidates,” town Democratic chairman Ed Maher said last week after a membership meeting in a West Main Street venue drew about 100 residents — the largest in years. About half were new faces, he said.

Democrats said they would draw on attendees to help get out the vote and look to school, fire and library district board members — even Little League officials — to run for five town board seats this year.

Supervisor Patrick Vecchio, Deputy Supervisor Tom McCarthy, Councilwoman Lynne Nowick, Clerk Vincent Puleo and Highway Supervisor Robert Murphy, all Republicans, will come up for re-election. Suffolk County legislators Leslie Kennedy and Rob Trotta, Republicans whose districts encompass part of the town, also come up for re-election.

“As frightened as you are, as angry as you are . . . You’re here because [you] couldn’t sit back anymore,” Suffolk County chairman Rich Schaffer told attendees in a two-hour session.

John Feal, a Nesconset man who worked at Ground Zero and became nationally known for his advocacy for first responders there, said he was discouraged by what he called inadequate Democratic groundwork in recent local races.

“A lot of these guys that ran didn’t get the support and the backing that they needed,” he said.

Voter registration statistics suggest it will be a difficult climb to a Democratic victory in Smithtown: as of Feb. 1, the town had 34,194 registered Republicans and 22,378 Democrats, with 21,626 voters claiming no party affiliation.

Town GOP chairman William J. Ellis, reached over the weekend, said that Vecchio might face concern over the condition of roads and hamlet downtowns, but chuckled when told of the Democrats’ ambitions.

“I think voters in the Town of Smithtown have been very comfortable in voting for and electing Republican candidates,” he said. “They proved that in the last presidential race.”

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