Larchmont Electoral Season Opens as GOP Chair Resigns

by Judy Silberstein

(January 25, 2007) Electoral politics in Larchmont Village appear to be veering in untraditional directions for 2007, as they did in 2006. To start, the Republican Party has seen a sudden change of leadership, and the Independence Party is forgoing a caucus. The Democrats, on the other hand, appear to be returning to their historical pattern of putting forth a full slate of candidates to run for the Larchmont Village Board and for Village Justice.

Party Caucus Schedule:

Democrat - Tuesday, Jan. 30, 8pm
Village Center (behind library)

Indendence - no caucus scheduled

Republican - Tuesday, Jan. 30, 8 pm
Village Hall Court Room

The long-term chairperson of the Larchmont Republican Party, Marian White, announced her resignation suddenly this week (see Letters), effective 7:30 pm, January 30 – or thirty minutes before the Republican Caucus is set to begin. She handed her portfolio to Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld, who passed it on to Phil Johanson. “Business (as a certified ® financial planner) has taken off,” said Ms. White, who has led the party since 1995.

Though Mayor Feld is a registered Republican, she ran last year with support of Mr. Johanson on her own party line and as a “coalition” candidate with Democrats Marlene Kolbert and Jim Millstein against the GOP’s candidates, incumbent mayor Ken Bialo ( a Republican), Bubba Fanelli (a Democrat) and Mike Bucci (a member of the Independence Party.) (See: Feld-Kolbert-Millstein Coalition Sweeps Village Election.)

Phil Johanson, who ran unsuccessfully for Village Trustee in 2003 had been considering a re-entry this year – although it was not certain with which party he would affiliate. (See: Bittersweet Victory for Wiener & McAndrews). “I think about it [seeking office] every year,” he said, but commitments to his job, family – and now the party chairmanship – preclude a run this year.

So who will be running for the GOP?

“That’s the next question I’ll be working on,” said Mr. Johanson.

“I’m not sure if there will be any Republican candidates – I haven’t spoken to any as of this Tuesday,” said Mayor Feld.

There are plenty of rumors – including talk of Mr. Bialo running again this year or next. That brought a laugh from the former mayor, who has remained visible through the Republican’s LMC-TV show. “Who knows what’s going to happen at the caucus,” was his only official comment.

Up for re-election is Trustee Mike Wiener, a Republican, who lost his first race in 2002 but was appointed that year by Mr. Bialo to fill the trustee seat left vacant upon Mr. Bialo’s election as mayor. Mr. Wiener went on to win election against opposition in 2003 and in an uncontested race in 2005. It’s still unknown whether Mr. Wiener will seek another term, particularly if he has a Democratic opponent.

And all signs suggest there will be an opponent. Though Village Democrats have yet to make public announcements, it seems certain that Trustee Anne McAndrews will run again. She was first elected in 2001, lost a bid for the mayoralty against Mr. Bialo in 2002, and then regained her trustee seat in 2003 (against opposition). Her 2005 bid was unopposed.

Ms. McAndrews is likely to have a Democratic running mate, to be formally selected at the party caucus on Tuesday, January 30. At one point, there were rumors of multiple candidates seeking the second Democratic nomination for trustee, but in all likelihood the party has winnowed its choice to a single person. Jerry Bernstein, a partner with the law firm of Blank Rome, is likely to be nominated again for a fourth term as Village Justice.

In years past, the Democrats selected one candidate for each open seat. However, in 2004, they nominated only an incumbent, Trustee Marlene Kolbert, to run against the Republican’s incumbents, Trustee Liz Feld and Mayor Ken Bialo.(See: First in a Long Time: No Contest in Village of Larchmont Elections). In 2005, both parties again nominated only their incumbents, Trustees Anne McAndrews for the Democrats and Mike Wiener for the Republicans. (See: Incumbents Run Unopposed for Larchmont Trustee & Judge.)

What about the Independence Party?

Last year the tiny party, with only around 150 registered voters in Larchmont, was at the center of the electoral drama. (See: Outcomes of Caucuses to Have Atypical Influence This Year.)

Usually a sleepy affair in which a handful of party members give the nod to the Republican slate, last year’s Independence Caucus featured the first head-to-head contest between Ms. Feld and Mr. Bialo, who prevailed in a vote of 11 to 9 to earn the party’s nomination. (See: Bialo Wins GOP, Ind. Nod; Feld Will Challenge for Mayor.)

This year there will be no repeat drama. No Independence caucus is scheduled as of this date and the deadline has passed, according to the Westchester County Board of Elections.

The missing caucus derives from conditions at both the county and local levels. Because there are no Larchmont Independence Party officers, scheduling is typically handled by the local Republican chair, and the caucus is overseen by the Westchester County Independence chair. However, this year, two rival factions are battling in court over control of the Westchester Independence Party, and Larchmont’s Republican chair was loathe to get involved. “It is unclear who is legally authorized to take action on the part of the Independence Party,” explained Ms. White.

Any remaining mystery about the parties' nominees will be resolved by next Tuesday, when the Democrats and Republicans hold their caucuses. Of course, even after that date, additional independent candidates can circulate petitions to get their names on the ballot.