Scarsdale's Non-Partisan Party Scores Big Victory in Hotly Contested Election
- Shout it Out
- Published on Wednesday, 22 March 2017 00:18
- Joanne Wallenstein
Scarsdale's Non-Partisan Party slate scored a resounding victory in a hotly contested race for Village Mayor and Trustees on Tuesday March 21. In an election that usually draws only 300 voters, 2,854 Scarsdale residents came to the polls and selected the Non-Partisan Party slate by a 2:1 margin. Total votes cast, including absentee ballots were 3,030.
The race put Scarsdale's Non-Partisan system of governance to the test and the results showed that voters, young and old value the Village's unique system. For many it was the first time they had voted in a Village election, but when they realized what was at stake, they stood on long lines to cast their ballots.
Running for the Scarsdale Non-Partisan Party were a slate of candidates with many years of volunteer service to the Village. Dan Hochvert, a former Village Trustee was elected Mayor, Carl Finger and Matt Callaghan were re-elected to serve second terms as Village Trustee and Seth Ross was elected as a new Trustee.
The opposition party was formed in the wake of a Village-wide tax revaluation that critics charged was poorly executed and yielded skewed results. In fact, two of the candidates on the Scarsdale Voters' Choice Party slate had participated in an Article 78 lawsuit against the Village, charging that the 2016 tax roll should be voided.
The campaigns for both parties were led by younger women who brought leadership, new tactics and a new generation into the fight . ML Perlman, the next President of the Scarsdale Forum served as campaign chair for the Non-Partisan Party, while Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez chaired the Scarsdale Voters' Choice Party.
During the course of the long day of voting, no one seemed at all sure which way the vote would go. As more and more voters surged to the polls, it was difficult to discern what the outcome would be.
However, at 11 pm, after the votes were counted, it appeared that the Scarsdale Voters' Choice Party's calls for increased transparency, lower taxes and new roads failed to draw enough voters to overturn the status quo.
Here are the vote counts: (including absentee ballots)
What motivated voters? Though there was no exit polling, here are a few reasons voters gave for their decisions. The Scarsdale Voters' Party attracted 1,000 voters, triple the number of voters in a regular election. They promised minimal tax increases and better roads. This was an appealing message to those who feel their taxes are too high. However, Berg had many opponents as well. Some remembered that he had objected to the construction of a fitness center at the high school and led a campaign to defeat a school budget. Fearing that he would pressure the schools to cut their budget, they came out to vote for his opponent. Residents at Christie Place objected to Berg's pleas to enact the Homestead Act which would have doubled real estate taxes on condominium owners. Others came out to support non-partisan politics and Scarsdale's non partisan system of governance.
The campaign was noisy and visible. The Village was covered in campaign signs, candidate for Mayor Robert Berg made robo calls to Scarsdale households, there were meetings, mailings and heavy use of social media. In a town where candidates for Village Board and School Board are usually selected by nominating committees, the change was notable. Some voters said they objected to the divisive nature of partisan politics and were inspired to vote to ensure that Scarsdale did not go the way of national politics.
Speaking at the Scarsdale Woman's Club after the results were announced, Dan Hochvert vowed to mend fences and get to work for the Village of Scarsdale. Matt Callaghan called the team "the stewards of the public good," and Seth Ross said, "though we don't always agree, we are all members of a community." Carl Finger promised to be "the best trustee I can be," and Mayor Jon Mark praised the widespread participation and called on residents to volunteer and work for the community they love.
The candidates from the Scarsdale Voters' Party did not attend the post-election celebration and missed the invitation from the Non-Partisan Party to mend fences and put partisan politics behind them.