Thursday, May 21, 2009

At The Westchester Democratic Convention

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Democratic Party Insiders Stage
A Very Tightly Controlled
Un-Democratic Nominating Convention

Last Wednesday night the clique that tightly controls all that goes on in County government to the point where the County Legislature is
nothing more than a rubber stamp for the will and the whim of County Executive Andrew Spano, ran a totally choreographed, really un-Democratic Party nominating event.

Entering the arena at the County Center in White Plains, we were immediately struck by the predetermined nature of it all. Signs declaring
Andrew Spano, Janet DiFiore, and Tim Idoni, were strung up everywhere to the exclusion of all others as though the outcome, the very
purpose of the evening, had already been pre-determined.

A district leader from Mount Vernon was told, in no uncertain terms by Reginald LaFayette, that he could not put up a sign for Tony Castro,
candidate for District Attorney. And, in fact, when he then placed some 150 Tony Castro signs at a table next to the entrance where all delegates came in to the arena, and where there were three other stacks of signs, all for Spano, Idoni and DiFiore, those Castro signs were quickly removed, never to be seen again.

When Andrew Spano, the County Executive who first ran for the Office 12 years ago, telling everyone he was only seeking two terms, and who is now, at 74, seeking a fourth, took to the podium, it was difficult to determine just what he was thinking about when he uttered the following: “You flush the toilet. Ever wonder where it goes? That’s County Government.” This reporter certainly had to agree that what has
been going on in County Government between the County Executive and the Board of Legislators doesn’t pass the smell test.

Spano then, apparently not quite through with the subject of waste matter, proceeded to tell the delegates a whopper of a lie, declaring that
he had “gotten the Mob out of the solid waste business in Westchester.”

This reporter was present, some four years ago, having been personally invited to attend a meeting of the County Legislature’s Solid Waste
Subcommittee, by its chair, Tom Abinanti, when then-Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz stood at the doorway to the conference room, and, one by one, called each of the several legislators present out of the room in order to twist their arms into approving an $87 million, five-year contract, with City Carting of Connecticut, a company the City of New York refused to do business with because of its known Mob connections, rather than exercise the County’s available option to renew with the then-current hauler for only $70 million for the next five years.

When asked by this reporter if the original hauler, at $70 million, had been doing a good job, then- Solid Waste Commissioner Landi, another Andy Spano crony, admitted that they were. When then asked, “Why, then, did you not renew the option with them for the next five years, at $17 million less than you will now be paying?”, Landi said, “We wanted to test the waters.” Landi knew then, as did each legislator in the room, that trash hauling was a very tightly-held and choreo-graphed industry, where prices only went up, just like County government over the last 12 years; just like the so-called nominating convention.

Curiously, when it came to nominating a candidate for District Attorney, Party Chairman Reginald LaFayette insisted that Tony Castro’s,
and Janet DiFiore’s, speeches could only be given after a voice vote was recorded declaring DiFiore the nominee. Apparently he was so insecure that, perhaps, if they each spoke before the balloting, perhaps Castro might have inspired too many of even the tightly-controlled, rather unenthusiastic, crowd.

Truth be told, Spano never really supported Tony Castro in either of his prior attempts to become District Attorney. Andrew Spano has far too many skeletons in his closet, both as County Clerk and as County Executive, to ever risk having a competent, experienced law-abiding prosecutor, the likes of Tony Castro, in the District Attorney’s Office. Spano and his cronies needed, and still need, people like Jeanine Pirro and Janet DiFiore, who will sacrifice the interests of decent, innocent individuals, police officers and civilians alike, while covering up crimes and malfeasance, outright corruption in office. Hence, the all-out effort to put Janet DiFiore, a horrible, self-serving Republican DA, across as a Democrat.

Spano expects the real Democrats, the families who are not Fat Cat Insiders, but who, instead, are struggling with the highest taxes in the nation, to accept DiFiore as one of their own, despite her well-known, ruthless handling of innocent victims, and her vindictive crushing of honest, hard-working police officers. He expects her acceptance from rank and file Democrats, just as he expected them to accept the $5,000 raises he wanted to gift to his crony commissioners already getting $155,000 salaries last Fall. In short, he wants Democratic families to drink the Kool-Aid and accept Janet DiFiore despite the fact that a News 12 poll, taken several weeks ago, with a hefty 999 viewer response that indicated voters for District Attorney favored Tony Castro by an overwhelming 55 percent, Dan Schorr, the Republican, with 27 percent,
and incumbent Janet DiFiore, a distant third, with only 18 percent.

We are confident that, in the certain primary between Castro and DiFiore, Westchester’s Democratic families will not be fooled into Drinking
The Kool-Aid for DiFiore.

“You flush the toilet. Ever wonder where it goes? That’s County Government.”

Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano

The Westchester Democratic Convention

Democratic Committeeman Maurio M. Sax’s
Nominating Speech For Tony Castro

Chairman LaFayette, fellow Delegates, eight years ago I had the privilege to stand before you and place in nomination Tony Castro for Westchester County District Attorney. At that time you enthusiastically, and overwhelmingly, made him our nominee for that Office. Four years later, again, you gave him your unconditional endorsement and, in the election that followed, he received more votes on the Democratic line than his Republican opponent, Janet DiFiore did, on the Republican line. Unfortunately, he lost because of minor Party endorsements held by his opponent.

This evening, we have a complex issue before us, as Tony Castro, once again, seeks the Democratic nomination for DA. He is being challenged by the present Republican incumbent who seeks the Democratic nomination for her re-election to that Office. Let’s be clear. There is a real distinction between these two candidates.

Tony Castro is the incumbent Democratic nominee, seeking to be the Democratic nominee to run as our Democratic candidate for DA. Ms. DiFiore is the incumbent Republican District Attorney who seeks the Democratic nomination for her re-election.

One must question why the Republican incumbent, who campaigned against our Party’s candidate, is now seeking our Party’s nomination.
When asked, at a Committee meeting, why she is defecting the Republican Party, she responded, “I like the Democratic Party’s values.” And, when asked which of those values she liked, the response was, “I am against the Iraq War.”

The question must be asked, what, in fact, being a Democratic District Attorney, would permit you to do that you can’t do as the present Republican in that office? Is there a Democratic or a Republican method of enforcing our laws and protecting the public interest? Will you be more competent and serve the public interest better now that you are a Democrat? This Office requires a person who is independent from political demands; someone who possesses fair social ideals and humanitarian principles which relate to law and justice.

Or, is the real reason that the incumbent Republican candidate cannot win re-election against a strong Democratic challenger. If it is, it is an admittance of weakness in your ability to serve that Office. We should not allow our Party to be used for political opportunism and self-preservation. Let’s not be enablers to those who seek to entrench themselves in public office. If this is the trend, there will be a public backlash against this. Both political parties must maintain the sanctity of the two-party system which is basic to our democratic values.

The facts are, when News Channel 12 ran a poll as to who should be Westchester District Attorney, Tony Castro received 55 percent. Dan Schorr received 27 percent. And Janet DiFiore received 18 percent. From this poll, and his two campaigns, we know that there is strong public support
for Tony’s candidacy.

Most of us in this room know Tony Castro. We have seen him and supported him through two elections. He is the prime example of the American Dream. He is the son of immigrant parents, who worked his way through Harvard University. His whole life has been one of public service, having served for 14 years, with distinction, as an Assistant District Attorney. He is committed to public service and will champion the cause of virtue over vice. Finally, allow me to say this. In over 100 years, a Democrat has never been elected to this office. With Tony Castro, we now have an opportunity to elect a life-long Democrat. Let this be an opportunity to elect a true Democrat to be our next DA, for he will enrich the Office with new, dynamic leadership that is so sorely needed.

It is with great pleasure that I place the name of Tony Castro as our Party’s nominee for the next District Attorney of this great County.

The Westchester Democratic Convention

Tony Castro’s Address Before The
Westchester Democratic Convention

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice; and, when they fail in this purpose, they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” Two generations ago, New York Democrats were instrumental in waging and winning a battle for the soul of our Party as we embraced Dr. King’s non-violent crusade for justice as our own.

Just last November, New York Democrats proudly took part in an historic election of change, and promise, when we elected a President of the United States who is as much a son of Kenya as he is of Kansas. But the battle goes on. Today, here in Westchester County, victims of violence at the hands of a few law enforcement officials, are prosecuted by our District Attorney despite public and overwhelming evidence that they have done nothing wrong.

One man was held incommunicado and denied access to his attorney and family for four days. I know, because I was his attorney. In two recent cases, the United States Department of Justice has had to step in and prosecute because our District Attorney charged the victim instead of the offender.

I am a candidate for District Attorney this year, not out of any sense of entitlement as a former candidate. I run because, in this election, I am the better candidate, the better Democrat, and I will be the better District Attorney. Many of you know me as a life-long Democrat who fights the good fight and remains true to the values that define us as Democrats; an uncompromising, unwavering commitment to the civil liberties and rights of all, regardless of economic or social status.

That is the kind of District Attorney Westchester deserves, and that is the kind of District Attorney I will be. Our representations of justice show her blindfolded so that she may weigh, in the scales she holds, the fate of the accused before her, without regard to who that individual may be. In the United States, we are all equal before the law and, as District Attorney, I will make sure that is the practice here in Westchester County again.

Now, I know change is hard. It’s easier to embrace the status quo, to go with the conventional wisdom, to stick with the incumbent even when she just joined our Party. Senator Obama had a good gig going in Washington. It’s nice to be a United States Senator. It’s hard spending weeks in the frozen fields of Iowa convincing Iowa Democrats, sometimes one at a time, that you are the right instrument of the change that America needs.

So, tonight, in asking you to do the right thing for Westchester, and for our Party, I am asking you to do something hard. I am asking you to send a message to the power brokers who put this deal together, and to say “No”, a three-time Republican is not the future of the Democratic Party here in Westchester. And, “No”, we embrace a different vision of justice for our home towns.

It may well be easier to send this message in the privacy of a voting booth in September. But I ask you tonight to join my cause because it is the right thing, not the easy thing, to do. How important is this cause? Dr. King taught us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Westchester deserves a better administration of justice than it has. And, as the Majority Party, it is our obligation to see to it.

Fellow Democrats, I ask for your support, and with it, I promise to return law enforcement to its true purpose, the establishment of justice. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and God bless the United States of America, and our President.


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