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BETHEL TOWN BOARD seats are hard to come by, and with Denise Frangipane, a Democrat, getting the nomination to run, and then Ted Yeomans, also a Democrat, throwing in his hat, the two have stepped into political turmoil.
Ted Yeomans enters race for Board seat
By Jeanne Sager
WHITE LAKE Democrat Ted Yeomans considers it his obligation to run for the seat he holds on Bethel’s town board.
Fellow Democrat Denise Frangipane, meanwhile, wonders where her party leaders’ support went.
Some of Bethel’s top Democrats apparently don’t plan on supporting the Democratic candidate for town board this November.
In fact, Bethel Democratic Committeewoman and Town Councilwoman Vicky Vassmer-Simpson and Democratic Town Councilman Bob Blais have carried around petitions to put Yeomans on the ballot. They’ve been joined in that effort by the wives of two other party committeemen, Allan Abramson and Town Supervisor Dan Sturm.
As a result of the approximately 120 signatures of both Democrats and Republicans on those petitions, Yeomans who is himself a committeeman is running on the Let’s Keep Ted line against Frangipane and Republican contender Margaret Hazen.
Despite the fact that the winner will only hold the position for a year, the race is already generating passionate conversations throughout the township.
In January, Yeomans was appointed by the town board to fill in for former Councilman Sturm, who had just been elected supervisor. Election law stipulated that Yeomans had to run for the position in November to serve the remainder of Sturm’s original tenure, which would have lasted until December 2009.
In July, however, Yeomans lost the Democratic nomination for the seat to Frangipane 90-81. He subsequently told the Sullivan County Democrat he would support Frangipane and not run.
He’s since changed his mind, due, he says, to a host of locals who saw that article and urged him to run.
“I find myself in a very awkward position,” he acknowledged, admitting he does not want to be seen as a race “spoiler.” “But there has to be an alternative for the people in the town.”
Dozens of those people, he said, want a Democrat but not Frangipane, whom he termed an “obstructionist.”
Yeomans feels he brings common sense and flexibility to planning and zoning issues that are currently on the town board’s plate.
“We cannot five-acre this town to death,” he remarked of a group of people he believes want a “shadow government” that signs off on issues before town officials do.
“Input? Yes. Good input? Yes,” he said. “But at some point you have to do something.”
Frangipane said she agrees with that concept.
“Ted is right: we don’t need a shadow government,” she said. “... But we elect [officials] to represent the entire public.”
She does not consider her efforts to be “obstructionist” but to be inclusive of the public in a township struggling with growth and prominence.
“I’ve worked for economic development in the town,” she said, noting her volunteerism with Bethel First, her job with Sullivan Renaissance and her efforts to bring businesses to downtown Kauneonga Lake. “... I am not a person who sits on the sidelines and says, ‘No, no, no.’
“I support development for the town in a way that is smart, appropriate and in response to what the community needs.”
Having made an unsuccessful independent bid for the town board last year, Frangipane said she doesn’t begrudge Yeomans his desire to serve on the council.
“I question the behavior of the [Bethel Democratic] Committee,” she remarked. “... I was told after this caucus that the committee would work with and support me, and I have not seen that.”
Ironically, however, no one feels or, perhaps, is willing to acknowledge that a split exists in the local Democratic Party.
“I don’t think so,” commented Colleen Cunningham, chair of the Bethel Democratic Committee. “... It’s an indication or a reflection of the vote at the caucus, which was not a blowout.
“... There are some unhappy feelings ... but I think Democrats traditionally find their way back to one another.”
“I wouldn’t call it a division more like a discussion,” agreed Supervisor Sturm. “A family discussion.”
He wouldn’t say who he’s supporting, but so long as a Democrat captures the seat in the fall, “I’ll be very pleased.”
Cunningham acknowledged she will support Frangipane but added that she will not challenge Yeomans’ petition, just as she did not challenge Frangipane’s last year.
“Let the people decide,” she said.
Sullivan County Democratic Party Chair Jim Greier was of the same mind.
“Personally, I feel it’s a town issue,” he said, though he expected it to be an item of discussion at an upcoming party meeting. “... It’s something that will have to pass.”
Bethel Highway Superintendent and Democratic Committeeman Lynden Lilley agreed, saying the party has successfully overcome such schisms in the past.
He supports Yeomans but said he’ll work with Frangipane if she’s elected.
“Do I dislike Denise? No, I don’t,” he said. “Philosophically, I feel I’m closer to Ted’s philosophy than Denise’s. ... And you’re talking about somebody who has carried the Democratic banner with pride for 50 years.”
Lilley credits Yeomans with aiding the highway department and creating a town park, but he said he will follow his obligation to the Democratic Committee to aid the Democratic candidate, as well.
Frangipane expects to hear more about that in an upcoming committee meeting Cunningham invited her to. Regardless of its outcome, she said she will not focus her campaign on the issue but on development, finances, and quality of life in Bethel.
“I think the people will decide,” she noted, asking residents who have questions or comments to contact her at denise4bethel@aol .com. “The behavior of the committee does not reflect the interests or opinions of the community as a whole.”
Yeomans also is willing to let the community decide.
“They convinced me [to run],” he remarked. “Now it’s up to them.”