WPCNR County Clarion-Ledger. Coverage of the Westchester County Democratic Convention. Special to WPCNR from the Yonkers Tribune. By E. Hezi. October 1, 2002:The drive to the Westchester County Democratic Committee meeting held Monday night at Woodland High School in Hartsdale allowed me to mellow after a long day, as the drive meandered from Yonkers on the familiar, yet somewhat challenging Saw Mill River Parkway.
As I arrived, the crowd was starting to coalesce in front of the entranceway to the auditorium. The air was thick with moisture. Expectations were non-existent despite the fact that last night’s convention was poised to elect the next County Party Chair.
Political luminaries abounded. Alan Hevesi, running for Comptroller was in attendance, as were Westchester County Executive Andy Spano and Congresswoman Nita Lowey.
Some took their seats in the rows designated for their specific city or village. Others awaited the soft drinks being displayed in the hallway entrance to the auditorium. The mood was nonchalant. Unassuming. Somewhat staid.
The Minister Arrives
Being a student of observation and enthralled at human behaviorial
paradigms, I was intrigued at the electricity that seemed to gravitate
toward one man as he leisurely took his time to move about the hallway, slowing maneuvering his way toward the auditorium doorway entrance.
Calm, collected, engrossed, he seemed in no rush, was cajoled by no
inner clock to move on. He was however engrossed. Not in self, but
rather in the people that milled about him. I surmised he was a cleric,
ministering to his flock.
How odd, I thought. In the midst of a political convention a lone shepherd was focused on each individual with whom he had eye contact. Never did he veer away. His eyes transfixed upon the person whose admiration was so evident. Neither woman nor man
seemed to monopolize his time more. Each wanted his or her moment with the “minister.”
Man with a Different Style.
How inspiring I thought. Just 15 minutes earlier I bumped into a political contender. Initiating a conversation, he became easily distracted from one person to another so that within 1 minutes time, he was “involved” with 3 different people.
He never did return to me despite my waiting his moment to do so. He was working the room.
Literally kissing everyone’s behind, yet I dare say, getting a shallow response. If you guessed he lost his challenge for political office, you are correct.
The “minister,” however was in his element.
I decided I would enter the auditorium despite the heat and stuffiness.
Some of the Yonkers delegation already found their seats. Not wanting to take anyone’s place, I stood about until there seemed to be a free seat in the Yonkers section. I sat myself down.
Call to arms
Alan Hevesi opened with a comedic storyline. He could easily be a
“Stand-Up” comedian, yet he seems destined to win the New York State Comptroller seat in the November election. Afterwards, the attendees rose to “Pledge Allegiance ” to the flag.
Grave words from the County Executive
County Executive Andy Spano warned of difficult times ahead. His message was sober, almost foreboding. No reflection on him or his positive demeanor, but I admit I was simply in a stupor of, “Is that All There Is?” Peggy Lee sang the song.
Even though I came to the convention without pre-conceptions, I wanted something different. Even refreshing. Trite perhaps, but I can dream can’t I?
Nita Lowey takes a star turn
When Congresswoman Nita Lowey took the lectern, the audience cheered.
They literally rose to their feet and cheered. They were more familiar
with the Congresswoman than I. And she did not disappoint. She redeemed their expectations and stirred them to be “proud” to be Democrats. She admonished the audience to be proud of being labelled “Democrats” in the tradition of Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, John Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson and Bill Clinton.
The first lightning bolt was thrown this night. The crowd was charged. The crowd begged to be moved.
Latimer Given the Reins
When George Latimer was nominated to be the Westchester County
Democratic Chair, and then seconded, he opened up a panoply of ideas and concepts long lost to the history of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
You guessed it. The “minister” is George Latimer, Westchester County Democratic Chair!
This unassuming man cast a large shadow over the auditorium. He
transcended the “the negative imagery of the politician” we have long
been weaned upon. Today he declared for all who could hear, for all who would read, for all who could see, that this man was a pragmatist.
The Minister’s Sermon
He knew human shortcomings, yet strove for working at passionate speeds. He demanded of self, allowing others to emulate at their own speed and without condescension. Yes, George Latimer was a leader.
He gathered his folk, imbued in them a resurgent desire to get out the vote, to listen to the constituency, to follow up on their request, to give what they could to being a Democrat.
Born Again Democrat
Latimer brought an exaltation to the term “Democrat.” Gave it meaning
long lost. He rekindled the political flame. Shone light upon a darkness
strewn by political ingrates and politicians of hubris and corruption
and encapsulated a vision derived from compassion for the human
condition. He may have postulated it best when he said,
” Reagan was wrong, and we are right!”
“To help and protect”
“Government is a tool,” he said. “Some have used it to corrupt. Democrats will forge government to help and protect. The Party that
brought the first Catholic to office; the first Jew to office; the first woman to office; the first African-American to office; and the first Hispanic to office is the true party of Westchester County. We believe that there is a role for government. Not for deal making, but for something better,” he continued.
Calls for Westchester County to have its own vision.
Chairman Latimer noted that while he would incorporate the National and State vision, Westchester County must have its own vision.
Latimer said this must be a vision relevant to the single mother desperate to feed her child; the senior citizen who must choose between prescription drugs and the meal for that day; for the firefighter who has yet to recover from the atrocity of 9-11; for the student who needs a secure environment in which to study yet cannot find comfort in the crowded classroom.
Latimer’s mantra: The agenda is to make politics and government relevant to the constituency.
George Latimer delivered his sermon. What he verbalized the attendees could attest to – they were personal witnesses to his political service.
No promises were made. The Westchester County Chairman had a record of delivery, bar none.
The position carries no salary.
Everybody Loves a Winner. Bradley Brings Down House.
Adam Bradley was called upon on the floor to make a nomination for a vice – chairmanship, I gathered. The purpose for which he was called upon was lost upon me by the crescendo of hand clapping for the winner of the Assembly seat Adam Bradley won over a 10 year incumbent, Naomi Matusow.
“Poster Boy of Success”
Adam Bradley captured a Democratic seat and for the minion in attendance, he became the poster boy of success. They were most proud, almost
adulatory in their cheers and kudos. The crowd caused Bradley to be brought to the lectern.
His words where lost upon me as I was mesmerized by the cheers. Here was a native son who did well. He accomplished his mission with the help of Maureen Keating and Gary Brennan, among other volunteers.
They had learned the lesson Latimer espoused. They had carried the prize past the finish line. The task of election won, the task of service to begin.