By Dan Murphy and Ben Cohn
Can you win elective office in the City of Yonkers without running on the Democratic or Republican line? When was the last time a minor party, or Independent Party candidate won a seat on the Yonkers City Council? Former
City Clerk Joan Deierlein could not remember a candidate for mayor or council winning without the Democrat or Republican line.
Former Mayor Angelo Martinelli may have come the closest, forming a party line to run against Republican Pete Chema and Democrat Terrence Zaleski in 1991. Zaleski won, but Martinelli got 30 percent of the vote on a third party line. Many third party candidates have run for mayor in Yonkers in addition to Martinelli, in the 1970s and 1980’s, but did not win. Can any of this year’s crop of six candidates break through?
Nineteen-year-old Brandon Neider is running for City Council in the Fourth District (against Republican Dennis Shepherd and Democrat Tim Theotokatos). Neider, a graduate of Lincoln High School and a student at Westchester Community College, collected enough signatures – 600 – to form his own party, which he calls the New York State Constituents Party, to appear on the ballot for City Council.
Neider’s petitions were scrutinized and challenged, but upheld by the Board of Elections. He said he is running because he doesn’t feel that the people of the Fourth District are being well represented by either the Democrats or Republicans. “I want to be a community-oriented councilman,” he said. “I’m running on a third party to avoid the restrictions that come with running for one of the main parties…I’m running in this district because I care for it, I’ve put a lot into it even though I’m young, but before I even announced my candidacy I knew our neighborhoods, our associations, and our district.
“I can’t see why someone would come in and attempt to represent something he has little association to – if any,” he continued. “It’s like if I moved to New Rochelle and the first thing I did was run for office with zero knowledge of any thing about the city. Let’s even be realistic, when you say you want to lower taxes but increase school funding greatly and bring back or add more services, you are just creating magic money or you’re being a typical politician.”
As a recent graduate of the Yonkers Public Schools system, Neider said he wants YPS to have additional funding and perform better, but residents have to be realistic on what can be provided right now. “I want to lower taxes, but we must be realistic when we say that; I guaranteed that I will push to cut ridiculous spending when I come across it,” he said. “I don’t owe party favors on either end, and I only represent one group and that’s the citizens of this district and this city,” continued Neider. “I’m a candidate who’s really integrated with the community not the political system. That’s why I’m running for City Council, and why I believe I should be our City Council member for this district.”
Neider has received the endorsement from Local 200 United Service Employees International Union. He gained a lot of press from other media outlets over the summer, so we shied away from covering his campaign. But we congratulate Neider most for collecting enough valid signatures and forming his own party line. That is a good accomplishment for anyone at any age, and Brandon deserves his day in Yonkers Rising.
Two candidates who are still running in November had difficulties collecting enough valid signatures. Jason Hundreger is running in November on the Working Families Party in the Sixth District (against Republican candidate John Larkin). Hundreger was the Democratic nominee but failed to submit enough valid signatures to stay on the ballot as a Democrat.
After getting knocked off the Democratic ballot, Hungreder vowed to continue his campaign paign on the Working Families Party line. Grace Borrani’s campaign for City Council president continues into November after she was knocked off the Republican line for not having enough signatures, and after losing a Conservative Party primary to Liam McLaughlin. But like Neider, Borrani collected enough signatures to form her own party, named the Every Vote Counts Party, and will be on the ballot Nov. 5.
City Council president candidate Ivy Reeves who narrowly lost the Democratic primary to Michael Rotanelli last month, announced that she will continue her campaign as a write-in candidate. In a video posted on YouTube, Reeves thanks the 2,048 Democrats who came out to vote for her for council president in September.
“Every single vote counts. If the Democrats lose the majority on the City Council, things will change and not for the better. We need to do a write-in; there is room on each ballot at the bottom to write my name in – Ivy Reeves – and fill in the vcircle to the left. Get out and vote Nov. 5. Please get out and vote Nov. 5; this isn’t over yet.” While Reeves was pressured to not run a write-in campaign and support the Democratic nominee for council president, Michael Rotanelli, Reeves told Yonkers Rising: “I feel a sense of responsibility to the 2,000 people who voted for me to continue my campaign and run as a write-in.”
Some write-in campaigns are successful; McLaughlin just won a write-in campaign in the Conservative Party primary for council president. But the number of voters increases drastically in a general election, requiring the write-in candidate to get more voters to write in their name. Delfim Heusler continued his campaign against Republican County Legislator Gordon Burrows.
Heusler, a blogger at http://www.yonkersinsider.com, is running on the Working Families Party line, with no Democrat in the race, in the15th District. Councilman Wilson Terrero is still running on the Independence Party line for re-election to represent the Second District. Terrero narrowly lost the Democratic primary for council to Corazon Pineda.
Terrero, who appeared at a Yonkers Democratic campaign office with Pineda, is still holding out hope that he can win re-election, on the Independence party line. All six candidates are considered long shots to win their races, but are exercising their right to run for office. Look for their names on the ballot –or write them in – Nov. 5.