By Nathan Mayberg
CALLICOON September 27, 2005 In the course of an evening, Sullivan Countys Republican Party celebrated but also began a transition, as some of its top figures moved on or announced they were moving on from their longtime leadership posts.
The local GOPs annual dinner, held at the Villa Roma in Callicoon on Friday, was the usual gathering of top Republicans from throughout the county, but it also signaled a potential new era in local politics.
Lungens Final Chapter . . . or Not
The news began with Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen Lungen announcing that his upcoming term will be his last. Lungen is currently running unopposed for at least the fourth time for his position as top county prosecutor. He first ran and won in 1981.
I couldnt have been around this long without the support of the Republican and Conservative Party, Lungen said.
He also has been backed by many Democrats and Independents, he added.
This is a public trust. . . . Ive tried to run this office in the highest ethical and moral standards. . . . This is the last time I am going to stand here and ask for your support.
However, Lungen left the door open by stating that he might return to the county in another capacity sometime in the future.
Sullivan County Republican Party Chairman Greg Goldstein said that Lungen is one of the most respected DAs in the state.
Goldstein called Lungen tireless. The money he earns does not equate into the large amount of hours he puts into the job, stated the party chairman.
Whoever replaces him will have very large shoes to fill, he added.
Out of the Frying Pan . . .
Friday night was also Goldsteins last time in charge of running the annual dinner, after 20 years of doing so and 17 years of running the party.
This party, despite what some may say, has come a long way in a county that is heavily Democratic, said Goldstein.
The dinners themselves have been a lot of fun for Goldstein and others, he said, from the days at the Concord to the Pines and most recently at the Villa Roma.
The party chairman announced in June that he will be stepping down, in addition to giving up his seat on the Sullivan County Legislature, in order to run for Town of Neversink Supervisor, after current Supervisor Georgianna Lepke announced her intent not to run.
Goldstein will be replaced as party chairman in an election between Town of Lumberland Supervisor John LiGreci and Town of Thompson Republican Party member Raymond Nargizian. Goldstein will be replaced on the Legislature through an appointment by the legislators, which has yet to be decided.
Goldstein said the county was fortunate to have had New York State Governor George Pataki visit five times. He was also proud to have helped people find jobs, but he said it was time to move on.
Seventeen years is a long time, said Goldstein, who plans on putting more of his energy into the Misner Agency, an insurance firm which he runs, as well as spending more time with his family.
Sullivan County Sheriff candidate and Republican Mike Schiff said Goldstein has been a dear friend of mine. He has been great to me. His tenure as chairman has moved the party ahead. I, for one, am going to miss him greatly.
R&R for Parlow
Also in attendance was retiring Sullivan County Treasurer and Republican Olga Parlow, who has served the last five years in that capacity. Before that, she served 17 years as deputy county treasurer under former County Treasurer (and fellow Republican) Dan Briggs.
It feels funny and strange, said Parlow of her upcoming retirement. Ive enjoyed it.
She plans on relaxing more and vacationing with her husband Richard while maintaining her home in Forestburgh.
When asked what advice she had for either Republican Leni Binder or Democrat Ira Cohen, who are running to replace her, she said, They will probably be surprised at the scope of work they need to do.
Senatorial Candidate Speaks
With all of those longtime faces moving on, the party welcomed a Westchester County Republican who has hopes of defeating United States Senator Hillary Clinton in 2006.
Jeanine Pirro, the Westchester County District Attorney, gave a speech in which she blasted away at Clinton while focusing on her own work of putting criminals behind bars particularly sexual predators.
Pirro was introduced by Lungen, who noted her work in providing expert analysis on criminal law on television. She also served as Westchester County Judge.
Pirro said she fought for people who never chose to be victims. Every five seconds in this country, people are victims of a violent crime.
She said she started the first domestic violence unit in New York.
Of why she is running, she explained, I believe New York needs a New Yorker who is interested in fighting for New Yorkers.
But much of her time was spent on what she believes are necessary laws to prevent sexual predators from being released from prison. She does not think they can change or be rehabilitated. She thanked New York State Senator John Bonacic for supporting a bill that would relegate sexual predators to civil confinement.
As for other national political issues, Pirro said she favored the Bush tax cuts, which total more than one trillion dollars, since he took office in 2001. The DA is also a proponent of charter schools and vouchers for families who want to move their students into different schools.
The Senate hopeful wants to eliminate the 18-cent federal excise tax on gas in order to give Americans more relief from skyrocketing fuel costs.
Pirro also took potshots at liberals who stay up at night, worrying about the library provisions of the Patriot Act. I am worried about fighting organized crime, she said.
The Elmira native made it clear where she stood on other decisive issues. On health care, she preferred going after trial lawyers who she blames for the rise of health care costs.
On gun control, she absolved gun manufacturers of any responsibility for whose who choose to kill. . . . They are no more responsible than [Chrysler] is for drunk drivers.
Guest Speaker #2: Roy Innis
The other guest speaker of the night was Roy Innis, director of the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, an organization which was once one of the most important civil rights groups in the country.
Led by the late Dr. James Farmer, the group was instrumental in desegregating the South and earning the right to vote. Farmer, Dr. Martin Luther King, NAACP President Roy Wilkins, and Urban League Director Andrew Young were considered the big four who met with President Lyndon Johnson and helped influence the drafting of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In 1968, Innis took over CORE as chairman and CEO. Since then, he has helped draft the Community Self-Determination Bill of 1968 in Congress, but his group has largely taken on a more conservative role under his leadership.
Innis speech was spent mostly defending United States President George W. Bush and his response to Hurricane Katrina. He said the blame lay with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin for not doing enough to protect the local citizens and for being incompetent.
He also attacked United States Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer for working against Bush. He said they should work with the president to get things done for their state.
Afterwards, Innis spoke about the civil rights revolution and how peaceful it was. He decried the violence among African-Americans today in inner city neighborhoods and said that black leaders need to stop ignoring crimes and start placing their sympathies with the victims, rather than the criminals.
He said struggling African-Americans should stop blaming racism for their problems, claiming that such actions only stagnate and polarize positive momentum.
Innis used the killing of his own two sons to make the point. They were not killed by the KKK or any other racist organization, but by members of their own race.
Goldstein said he hopes that Innis will help bridge the gap between the perception that the party does not care enough about African-Americans or poor people.
And One More . . .
Finally, after a wide array of raffle prizes had been handed out, William Brenner often an unwelcome guest at Republican functions announced that he too, will be seeking to run for U.S. Senator against Clinton. He said he wants to keep jobs from being exported out of the country and blamed Clinton for allowing that to happen.
When asked if Bush and the Republican-dominated Congress were also responsible, Brenner avoided answering.