Does the Republican party need new life? Frank Seabrook of Wading River thinks so.
“I guess after seeing how badly we lost in the special election for [former county legislator] Ed Romaine’s seat, I really became alarmed,” said Mr. Seabrook, a retired New York City police officer who for the past four years has been writing a Conservative blog called the New York Liberty Report.
“The Republicans lost pretty bad and I was struggling to figure out what happened,” he said, referring to the recent special election pitting Republican Sean Walter against Democrat Al Krupski in a race to fill the county’s first legislative district seat.
Mr. Seabrook said he got a list of voters in the 1st Legislative District and was looking through it.
“I quickly figured out why we were losing elections,” he said. “The average age of Republicans on these lists was, like, 75 years old. I figured out pretty fast that the GOP is dying and I am trying to figure out how we allowed that to happen.”
In an attempt to reverse the trend, Mr. Seabrook and fellow Wading River Republican Brian Mills have started the Peconic Republicans Club.
The club, for starters, is just a discussion group on a Facebook page open to Republicans in the five East End towns. Its goals are to promote the principles and platform of the Republican Party; support candidates and elected officials that do the same; help create a stronger, more unified regional Republican voice; promote and encourage Republican volunteerism and activism; support the five East End Republican town committees; and increase Republican voter registration.
Once the group’s membership is built up through the Facebook site, Mr. Seabrook says he eventually hopes to register it as a political action committee that can raise money and support candidates. He also plans to form an executive committee for the group, with town, zone and ward leaders.
“Republicans have not done a good job in two areas, communicating our platform and attracting young people and minorities to our message of limited government and free enterprise,” he said. “And that’s when I figured out that I could probably help.”
“It’s definitely important for a political party to adapt to the times,” Mr. Mills said. He views the group as “a forum for Republicans to exchange ideas and find a way for the party to move forward and get ideas from as many people as possible.”
He says the group will have a positive environment and isn’t looking to challenge or criticize anyone.
Mr. Walter, who won two terms as Riverhead supervisor before losing the legislative race, said Mr. Seabrook “has his finger on the pulse of the next generation of Republicans and how they receive information on the Internet, and I think that’s one part of what the Republican Party severely lacks.
“He’s definitely on to something,” he continued. “If the Republicans don’t learn to disseminate information better, it’s going to be problematic in elections to come. I’m very supportive of his efforts.”
“I welcome any endeavor that is going to spread the word to new groups of voters,” said Riverhead Republican Committee chairman John Galla. “But it doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to win these young people over.”
Mr. Galla admitted that he knows little about Facebook, Twitter and social media.
“But I’m not that much of a dinosaur to realize that this is a new marketing opportunity and it’s a great opportunity to reach out to new demographic groups,” he added. “Still, I don’t think we should change any of our basic precepts or platforms to attract new demographic groups.”
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Southold Republican Committee chair Pete McGreevy. “This is casting a wider net geographically and trying to unify people on an East End level.”
Mr. McGreevy said that in an election like the one for county Legislature, which covered three towns, or a Congressional election involving all five East End towns, a group like Mr. Seabrook’s can be valuable, in that people from one town would be more familiar with issues in other towns.
He added that he does not think the results of the recent legislative race are an indication of problems in the Republican party.
As of Tuesday, after only a week, the Facebook page had more than 230 members, Mr. Seabrook said.
“We’re just trying to promote Republicanism in a positive way, and build a more unified vote on the East End,” he said.