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Non-Partisan Party Slate Triumphs in Village Election

newtrusteesJustin Arest, Lena Crandall and Randy Whitestone were elected on Tuesday September 15After a bitter and divisive election for three seats on the Scarsdale Village Board, Scarsdale’s Non-Partisan Party came out on top, defeating the Voter’s Choice Party slate 2:1. Current Village Trustees Justin Arest and Lena Crandall, and first time candidate Randall Whitestone were elected to serve. They defeated Robert Berg, Sean Cohen and Robert Selvaggio, who staged an aggressive and lively campaign. Also elected was Village Justice Joaquin Alemany.

The election, originally scheduled for March 15, was delayed due to the pandemic. This delay stretched the political fight from weeks to months. Campaign signs, emails, ads, social media and letters were all employed with expenses underwritten by contributions to the two parties. The Scarsdale Non-Partisan Party campaign was led by co-chairs Dara Gruenberg and former Scarsdale Mayor Jon Mark. Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, who was a founder of the Voter’s Choice Party and ran for school board in May, served as the party spokeswoman for this campaign.

bergZoe and Robert Berg awaiting the results.Commenting on the outcome, Jon Mark said, “Our team is delighted that our residents have once again shown support for our non partisan system. It’s what makes Scarsdale great. Dara Gruenberg added, “We are thrilled that this community has come together to elect a slate of thoughtful, collaborative, committed candidates who understand the importance of civil dialogue and putting the community before personal interests. Thank you to everyone who helped with the campaign in big ways and in small. It all matters, and it certainly takes a Village! We are grateful for the time, commitment and support you showed. Thank you to all of the voters and to our Village Clerk and her staff, as well as the dedicated people who worked at the polls. It was a long day and a long campaign made even more challenging by COVID. We are so appreciative of everyone who helped."

The charged campaign was highly visible. The Voters Choice Party papered Scarsdale with political signs on Village property. In 2018, candidate Robert Berg sued the Village for the right to place signs in the Village right of way. The judge issued a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order, preventing police from removing political signs posted in the right of way in front of people’s homes. The party fully exploited this ruling and placed signs on public property throughout the Village.

The Voters Choice Party distributed door knockers on residents homes and even issued a FOIL request to secure the Village’s file of resident email addresses, so that that could blitz resident’s inboxes. Scarsdale Mayor Marc Samwick subsequently wrote letters to state legislators asking them to propose legislation that would exempt the release of personal information from FOIL requests.

Using techniques borrowed from the current national campaign for president, the VCP employed fear tactics to scare people into voting for them. They claimed that tree laws, written to protect Scarsdale’s tree canopy, were putting residents at risk of getting hit by falling trees. They took credit for squashing work on a potential development project at the Freightway Garage site by spreading fear that the project would crowd schools, despite the fact that Scarsdale’s school population is declining. As a result, the rusting garage remains in need of a major overhaul or replacement and taxpayers will have to foot the bill. They repeatedly claimed that the Non-Partisan party was racist and lacked diversity, though their own slate featured three white men.

It was a highly partisan campaign for a Village that prides itself on its non-partisan system of governance.

For the March 2020 election, residents had the choice of voting via absentee ballot and the Village collected hundred of ballots before the election was postponed. Residents could also vote by absentee ballot in the weeks leading up to the September 15 election, so before polls opened on September 15, the Village Clerk already had hundreds of absentee ballots.cake

On September 15, voting took place at the Scarsdale Congregational Church and was steady throughout the day. At around 1 pm Berg himself turned up at the polling place and stayed too long. After about 25 minutes a poll worker asked him leave the room but Berg would not cooperate. When another poll watcher approached him he moved to the entryway and ultimately outside, but stayed within 100 feet of the poll, which is prohibited by law.Jaffe BergPoll worker asking Berg to leave the polling place.

When the polls closed at 9 pm, the hand counting of over 800 absentee ballots began. It wasn’t until 11:30 that the results were announced by Village Clerk Donna Conkling who had been on site since 6 am.

The votes were as follows:

Total machine votes: 1,167
Total absentee ballots: 754
Total votes: 1,921

Voters Choice Party

Robert Berg 635
Sean Cohen 598
Robert Selvaggio 614

Scarsdale Non Partisan Party

Justin Arest 1,294
Lena Crandall 1,310
Randy Whitestone 1,271

Village Justice Alemany 1,468

Village Clerk Donna Conkling announced that they received 807 absentee ballots however 51 were duplicates, from non-registered voters or void and were not counted. She announced that the newly elected trustees could be sworn in as early as Friday September 18, 2020.

After the announcement was made, a quick reception was held in the dining tent in Scarsdale Village, ending past midnight.

At least for this year, Scarsdale’s non-partisan system of governance withstood another challenge, primarily due to the efforts of a dedicated team of defenders.
countingvotesCounting the votes. Photo by Lisa VanGundy.

churchVoting took place at the Scarsdale Congregational Church. Photo by Lisa VanGundy.

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