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Pledge against cross-endorsements is half-hearted

John Jay LaValle, here in a Nov. 2009

John Jay LaValle, here in a Nov. 2009 file photo, said that the party’s “first priority” is to help elect GOP candidates this fall and that returning the money will have to wait until after campaign season. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein, 2009

Suffolk Republican chairman John Jay LaValle's recent announcement that some of his party's candidates will no longer accept Democratic Party ballot lines does a good impersonation of being a major improvement in our sad electoral game in which there are few real choices.

Meaningful progress would demand a ban on all cross endorsements in all races, not just Democratic ones in nonjudicial contests.

While the change would seem to affect some countywide races -- like the ones Democratic District Attorney Thomas Spota and Conservative Sheriff Vincent DeMarco might enter in 2017 -- it probably doesn't. Generally, the major parties agree to cross-endorse in these races because one didn't have a candidate good enough to justify a costly campaign.

One place where cross endorsements particularly disenfranchise voters is in judicial races, which are nearly always decided in backroom deals. Unfortunately, LaValle hasn't banned those cross endorsements.

The other serious ill of cross endorsements occurs when there are deals between major parties and minor ones, most notably the Independence, Conservative and Working Families parties. Minor parties often trade their ballot lines -- and the small but crucial blocs of votes they attract -- for patronage jobs and juice as power brokers.

Voters deserve choices. A political party should have a political philosophy and, in any given race, a specific single-line candidate to represent it. What's needed is a change in state law to make this so, not half-measures enacted by individual parties at the local level.


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