Guest Spot: The demise of the Riverhead Democrats

The overwhelming rejection of Phil Cardinale and his team of Democrats makes me wonder if the party even matters any more in our town. The stunning two-to-one margin of victory for the Republicans is even more compelling given the fact that Democrat Steve Bellone won by double digits over his GOP opponent and the “throw the bums out” attitude prevailing in the electorate in general. And while Republican chairman John Galla did a great job of unifying his party (I am delighted to see palpable progress downtown and confess that Sean Walter has matured as a leader, too) the GOP infighting made the other side easy targets.

Sure, the buck has to stop with the Dems’ leadership (or lack thereof) and a lot of the blame in this disaster belongs to Vinny “I don’t write so good” Villella — the one-term supervisor booted out after perhaps the worst decision — other than the millions wasted on the dump during Cardinale’s tenure — in our town’s history: the Burman giveaway at EPCAL. But as I attended the Democrats’ meetings earlier this year in that pizza parlor (I hadn’t had a meeting in such an establishment since fourth grade), I became convinced that perhaps the Democrats didn’t take themselves seriously either. Watching the pizza man qua the party’s vice chair in his apron dishing out calzones during candidate interviews, I wondered if anyone there even understood their responsibility, or whether some of these people’s skills were better suited to picking cheese and tomatoes than viable candidates and leaders.

Rather than use the debacle in this election as a learning experience, the repudiated ex-supervisor told the Riverhead News-Review he had “no idea” why he lost by thousands of votes, and told everyone in a dismal campaign headquarters that “the future of the party” was in the hands of his running mates, who lost by even bigger margins and who this newspaper aptly opined were unable to even articulate any cohesive plan to better our town.

I, for one, am deeply concerned about one-party control of our town’s government. We’ve already seen what may be out of control development and special favors after last election’s GOP landslide. And, frankly, no one has come up with any plan to cut taxes or bring real jobs to Riverhead.

Democracy works best when different factions compromise to achieve a fair result. But unless, and until, the leaders of Riverhead’s Democratic party understand why they have fallen short so often and clean house, we may be destined to one-party Politbureau control of our town and enormous potential for abuse.

Mr. Hariri is a lawyer who lives and works in Riverhead and New York City. He had sought a Democratic nomination to run for a Town Council seat but was not chosen in a vote by the Riverhead Democratic Committee.