Following back-to-back special elections that saw Brookhaven Republicans win races for supervisor and highway superintendent, a local attorney hopes he can help Brookhaven’s Democratic party turn its recent losses around.
Anthony Parlatore, a resident of Stony Brook since 1971, was named the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee's chairman on Monday in a unanimous vote.
Parlatore said not only will it be his goal to "groom good candidates to properly serve the people" – but it will also be to get the word out about the importance of voting.
"In this last special election ... voter turnout was only a little more than 8 percent," he said. "That’s an embarrassment to all the political parties that had candidates in the race.”
He said the party is currently bringing together a screening committee that will soon begin to choose candidates to run in this year’s races.
Parlatore, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for a district court judgeship in 2011, succeeds former state assemblyman Marc Alessi as chairman. In an interview with Patch, Alessi said he stepped down from the post to be able to spend more time with his family and concentrate on his new business, Synchropet, which he said is developing a new way for doctors to perform PET scans.
Alessi said he thinks the Democratic party will make some gains on the town board come November under Parlatore’s watch.
"I think he’ll do a great job," Alessi said. "He’s a very calming force, very smart. I think one of the most important things as a political leader is someone who just wants to do the right thing. I have a really good feeling about him."
Brookhaven GOP chairman Jesse Garcia said he called Parlatore to congratulate him on his election as chairman. “I know Tony to be a very organized, good man, and I look forward to meeting him in the field of political battle,” Garcia said. “From the Brookhaven Town Republicans’ perspective, we’re going to keep putting forward the qualified candidates with exciting and innovative platforms … that have led to our overall successes in town hall.”
Garcia suggested the Brookhaven Democrats “were left a mess” when former town supervisor Mark Lesko and former highway superintendent John Rouse resigned.
But while Alessi said there is room for some party-building, he said in no way do the recent Republican victories – in particular Ed Romaine’s win as supervisor – reflect any weaknesses within the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee.
“Ed Romaine was such an important name in households for 20 years, and it was in the middle of the presidential election. It actually overwhelmed the Beedenbender campaign,” Alessi said. “It was just an un-winnable race, unfortunately. We didn’t see that until a few weeks before the election.”
Rich Schaffer, Babylon Town supervisor and chairman of the Suffolk County Democrats, said the only weakness the party faces is one that all political parties face – people’s general disillusionment with politics.
“I think what we have to overcome is the cynicism that’s out there, and the need to get additional people involved,” he said. “It’s something that we’ve been trying to overcome for years.”
And now, Schaffer said, the Brookhaven Democrats have a strength in their new chairman. He called Parlatore “a consensus builder.”
“He’s someone who knows how to bring people together, very well-respected, very high integrity,” Schaffer said. “So I think all those characteristics make him an outstanding choice to be the new leader.”