By ALINA SURIEL
After village party leadership left him off its ticket, Mamaroneck Trustee Andres Bermudez Hallstrom, a Democrat, has gathered enough signatures to qualify for the Sept. 9 primary to determine the party’s three slots on the ballot for November’s election.
Volunteers for Bermudez Hallstrom collected 361 signatures, well over the amount needed to go to a primary. In order to qualify for the Democratic primary, he needed 222, which translates to 5 percent of the 4,432 active Democrats in Mamaroneck Village.
Bermudez Hallstrom, 30, chose to seek a primary after he was not one of the three candidates the village party endorsed in late May. The nomination committee, led by village Democratic Party chairwoman Elizabeth Saenger, threw its support behind incumbent trustees Leon Potok and Ilissa Miller and political newcomer David Finch.
Bermudez Hallstrom’s success in collecting the required signatures necessary to trigger a primary means one of the four Democrats will be bounced from the party’s ticket following the Sept. 9 primary.
Bermudez Hallstrom met his signature goal on July 8, but waited until July 22 to announce it in order to clear an appeal filed by village Democratic chair Elizabeth Saenger.
Saenger said she was following the standard practice of filing a general objection to Bermudez’s signatures to ensure their validity, and had no specific objection to
When a candidate is gathering signatures to appear on the ballot in a primary election, the names of constituents may only count for one candidate. When the signatures are tallied, if a resident signs petitions for two different candidates, only the signature with the earlier date is valid, according to both Bermudez Hallstrom and Saenger.
“I think I have a lot of support,” Bermudez Hallstrom said in reference to the number of signatures he collected. “I didn’t get as many as the committee Democrats, but they had 24 people working for them and I had only six.”
Although he has completed the necessary steps to try to remain on the ballot as a Democrat, Bermudez Hallstrom has expressed interest in running as an independent candidate if he does not advance in the primary. He is currently collecting the 100 signatures necessary to qualify as an independent candidate, and would run on a local line called Mamaroneck United.
Mamaroneck United is a line being created by Bermudez Hallstrom aimed at eliminating bipartisan elections in the village. He said he would prefer to run as a Democrat, but does not believe the two-party system works for
“I’m a Democrat; I’m passionate about my democratic values,” Bermudez Hallstrom said. “But things are totally different at a local level…The system now makes it really easy for special interests to get their way.”
Although Bermudez Hallstrom has high hopes for Mamaroneck United should the line become necessary, some closely involved with the election are not so sure its inclusion on the ballot is the most appropriate course of action.
“It’s not helpful to anybody to run in a tailor-made party to advance himself,” Saenger said. “I don’t see that as a responsible or helpful thing to do, but he’s free to do it.”
When asked about Bermudez Hallstrom’s allegation of special interests holding sway in Mamaroneck in both the Village of Mamaroneck and its Democratic party, Miller said she understood his frustrations to a point.
“We have a small community, an insular community,” Miller said. “When you have a number of people who both live in and work for a community, there is always going to be the interests of certain strong-minded individuals.”
When asked about the special interests to which he referred, Bermudez Halstrom was reluctant to name names, but did acknowledge his recent problems with former village Democratic Party chairman Stuart Tiekert and Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission member Clark Neuringer.
“I think it was a mistake to give [Tiekert] $27,000,” Bermudez Hallstrom said in reference to the village’s settlement of the civil rights portion of Tiekert’s 2012 lawsuit against the village, “He’s a prominent Democrat, good friends with district leaders.”
Tiekert was the village Democratic Party chairman when Bermudez Hallstrom, Miller and Potok were nominated in 2012.
Bermudez Hallstrom has received criticism from party insiders in recent months for, among other things, his vote to make the village’s Harbor Coastal Zone Management Commission advisory.
Before the change, the commission had the power to determine whether development projects were consistent with the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, a state co-sponsored document regulating waterfront usage. Bermudez Hallstrom voted alongside Mayor Rosenblum and Trustee Louis Santoro, both Republicans, to render the harbor commission advisory, leaving LWRP consistency determinations in the hands of the Board of Trustees, which Potok has argued is not qualified to analyze consistency cases to the depth experts on the volunteer commission can.
Bermudez Hallstrom contends that only officials elected by the people should have legislative authority, which he interpreted the harbor commission’s LWRP oversight to be.
“If we give appointed officials that power, it could be used by future politicians, who would just appoint people with their own interests,” Bermudez Hallstrom said.
Bermudez Hallstrom is the first Latino trustee to ever serve in Mamaroneck Village and the youngest in 30 years. His election alongside Miller and Potok in 2012 maintained the Democratic majority on the board, but this year if even one Republican is elected to fill one of the three open seats, the board majority would swing to the right.