Local Democrats resurface with big wins

Grassroots efforts seek governmental change and better candidates

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Locally, regionally and nationally, Election Night 2017 was a victorious one for Democrats. The party took the top jobs in Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead, George Latimer won the county executive post in Westchester and a Ralph Northam captured the gubernatorial race in Virginia.

One of the forces behind the Democratic surge came from grassroots efforts. Indivisible, a volunteer organization that sprung up in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election was one of the groups that the party to victory.

The South Shore chapter of Indivisible began organizing after the Women’s March last January and emerged as one of the engines behind the wins for County Executive-elect Laura Curran, County Comptroller-elect Jack Schnirman and Town of Hempstead Supervisor-elect Laura Gillen.

The chapter held meetings with the candidates and campaigned door to door for the candidates. “It’s a historic win for women in Nassau County,” said Indivisible member Patricia Roblin. Curran is the first woman Nassau County executive and Gillen is the first Democrat in a century to be Hempstead town supervisor.

“We wanted more smart, strong, tough, caring women in politics and Laura Curran, our newly elected county executive, fits the bill,!” Roblin added.

Possibly the biggest upset was Gillen defeating incumbent Anthony Santino, while having 13 percent of the money that the Republicans had.

Michael Turi, a member of the Five Towns Democratic Club, believes the volunteer support was essential in her win.

“Laura Gillen won because she had the right message,” he said. “It wasn’t a matter of money. Voters were tired of a town government that doesn’t listen to its residents.”

Claims of corruption aimed at the local GOP played a role as well. “People of all ages are waking up in ways they haven’t in a long time and are getting organized to make sure their voices are heard,” Indivisible member Julie Pareles said. “We are seeing young and old join together to speak up. And they are motivated, angry and ready for change.”

There is no central Indivisible organization. Chapters refer to a guide based on the grassroots Tea Party campaign that helped Republicans take Congress in the early 2010s. Members say the methods are similar but the goals are vastly different.

“People are seeing their quality of life erode at the same time they are worried about threats to healthcare, lack of access to quality education, cultural, racial and sexual discrimination and lack of inclusion, the erosion of protections from banking regulations to safeguarding our air and water to protecting our children from the devastating effects of climate change,” Pareles said.

Indivisible also seeks to restore a degree of civility they feel has been missing in politics recently. Icela Fischtal, another Indivisible member harkens back to the principles the country was founded on. “We need to follow [the founding father’s] lead and build a shared future by linking arms — now more than ever,”

she said.

Five Towns Democrats are wary of becoming too complacent, believing this may be the time their party could become a powerhouse at the local level. “I believe [a Democratic resurgence] has already begun and will continue,” Turi said. “The Five Towns Democratic Club had its most active year in recent memory, and the opportunity to partner with other local groups brought new energy to the

Five Towns.”

Have an opinion about Election 2017? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.