2013-04-03 / Front Page
New media and old philosophy had their impact on Village elections
As the new Amityville Village Board under the leadership of Mayor James Wandell settles in, an analysis of the election that swept his team into office shows that two things had an impact on the race. And, they were strategies that had never been used before in Amityville elections.
The first was the extensive use of new media to promote the candidates’ messages.
“I think that made a huge difference,” said Trustee Nick LaLota who was appointed to the board by Wandell two weeks ago after Trustee Peter Casserly stepped down. “All of the buzz stirring around the Village; all the talk about property taxes medical benefits and other frustrations that had been festering had a place to be aired publically on the Internet.”
Wandell’s team, Amityville First Party, established a web page where information on their concerns and their platform were clearly outlined. In addition, the campaign had a Facebook page with more than 500 users.
And, said LaLota, it wasn’t just younger people who gravitated to the sites. “Our demographics showed that the average age of users was between 35 and 54.
The party also used robo calls to keep residents updated with information. “I would say that it was our ability to connect with voters in many ways, the Internet, mail, knocking on doors and phones, that made a difference,” said LaLota who was Wandell’s campaign manager. “It all provided dialogue for the public.”
The second factor was the participation of a major party in the local election. The Babylon Town Democratic Party and its supporters campaigned heavily for Mayoral candidate Peter Casserly, something that not had been done in a Village election before. Many residents said they objected to the participation of the Democrats, including Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer, Councilman Antonio Martinez and S.C. Exec. Steve Bellone.
“I think it worked against their candidate because a lot of voters were turned off by their participation,” said former Mayor Emil Pavlik, a Wandell supporter. “They did not understand local politics; the Village is like a family and you don’t interfere with family.”
In a letter to the Record by Margaret Howard, a Wandell supporter, Howard said the work was an intrusion into local politics. “Running a campaign is very time consuming and expensive and allowing any major political party to be an influence with their power and money will certainly discourage many energetic, intelligent Village residents from fighting the big machine,” said Howard who pointed to a longstanding tradition in the Village that major parties have no part in Village politics.”
Ed Johnson, one of the mayoral candidates who lost to Wandell agreed. “I think it was in poor taste,” said Johnson, a Democratic committeeman in the 8th District.” “We never brought in big town politics to local elections.”