Soon after Richard Schaffer became chairman of Suffolk County’s Democratic Party in 2000, he decided to vacate his post as Babylon Town supervisor to focus on his new duties. That was the right call.
In 2012, after his town successor, Steve Bellone, was elected county executive, Schaffer decided to return to Babylon without leaving his party position. We sounded an alarm: Could Schaffer avoid conflicts that could arise by serving simultaneously as town supervisor and county political boss?
The answer is no. Governance and politics do not mix, even for someone as skilled at governance at Schaffer, especially for someone as deeply political as Schaffer.
His penchant for deal-making as Suffolk party boss has robbed voters of choices by presenting candidates cross-endorsed by so many parties that the electoral result is a foregone conclusion. While distasteful in any race, it’s an ethical travesty when you and your town board peers benefit from the shenanigans. Schaffer’s defense for not having council districts in Babylon is telling. He says, “We make sure” board members come from all over town so everyone is represented. When reminded those representatives are still “his” candidates, Schaffer, 53, says the system makes governing easier and more effective. But it’s wrong.
Unfortunately for Babylon voters, Republican opponent Dan Martin, 67, is not an acceptable choice for supervisor, either. A certified public accountant, his sole focus is on town finances, but some of his charges are questionable. One legitimate issue he raises is an ongoing Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of a potential conflict of interest for an adviser on town bonding. Another problem: Babylon uses that adviser as a subcontractor supplying dozens of nonunion workers for town departments. But Martin is hostile to good redevelopment projects in Wyandanch and East Farmingdale and has no vision for the town’s future.
Martin can’t handle the job; Schaffer has too many jobs to handle.
Newsday declines to make an endorsement in this race.
— The editorial board