Losing isn't same as cheating


To the editor:

(re: “A new political club rising?” May 17)

There has been a welcome upsurge in local and national political interest and activity, largely in response to the election of Donald Trump.

The Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club has grown and has expanded its activity beyond local politics into helping elect other Democrats to the state senate and to Congress outside our district, and even the state. Our recent annual club dinner had an overflow crowd, the largest in years.

Our April 25 endorsement meeting, at which we presided, had nearly 200 people in attendance. At that meeting, dozens asked questions of candidates, and many club members spoke for or against candidates during an impassioned, but orderly and fair discussion.

Member votes were cast by secret written ballot. 

As expected, the most controversial race was for the state senate, 34th District. The result was 106 votes for Sen. Jeff Klein, 46 votes for Alessandra Biaggi, and two votes for no endorsement.

Two recent letters to The Riverdale Press regarding this meeting challenged its fairness. Here are the facts.

• Several members were not allowed to vote. Like most other political clubs, the Ben Franklin Club has a bylaws provision to prevent last-minute ballot-stuffing by requiring a waiting period for news members to vote on endorsements. We start counting the waiting period no later than the day the application and dues payment are received.

Only about a dozen new members of 166 who attended April 25 were members less than 60 days. Almost all were eligible to vote at the last endorsement meeting May 23.

• Some new members didn’t know of the 60-day requirement. Each of several notices of the April 25 endorsement meeting stated that members would have to join no later than Feb. 24.

• Biaggi supporters were deprived of their “voice.” As many Biaggi supporters were recognized to ask questions of the candidates or speak on her behalf, as were Klein supporters — in a room where the written, secret ballot would later reveal they were outnumbered more than 2-to-1.

Of course, both Ms. Biaggi and Mr. Klein (in that order) began the process by addressing the members present, speaking for equal amounts of time.

• An observation was made that “one (elected) official had several turns at the mic,” without noting that there were five endorsements on the agenda (governor, lieutenant governor, and three state senate positions), and some members were recognized if they wished to speak on more than one contest.

Simply because your candidate is out-voted on an endorsement (the club will have voted on about 20 federal, state and judicial races this year) doesn’t mean you are being treated unfairly and are justified in making accusations contrary to fact against a club that has long had a well-deserved reputation for fairness.

After the primaries are over (June 26 and Sept. 13), we Democrats will want to continue to work with each other to combat the Trump presidency, protect our democracy, and achieve the many critical policies that we support.

False claims that the game is rigged, that you lost only because you were cheated — if they are believed — will stand in the way of our accomplishing these goals.

Michael Heller
Bruce Feld

The authors are president and vice president, respectively, of the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club.