By LIZ BUTTON
Former City Council candidate Meg Cameron has been selected to lead the city’s Democratic Party after committee chairman Rodney Brown announced his resignation at the committee’s Feb. 4 meeting.
Rye Democrats are hoping that Cameron’s leadership will help jumpstart the political party, which was trounced by Republican opposition in the 2013 City Council election, in which Democrats failed to run a mayoral candidate or fill out a full ticket, and has been largely unsuccessful in winning seats for close to a decade.
Brown, 64, cited his lengthy seven-year tenure as chairman, the demands of his position as partner in the New York City law firm of Brown & Whalen, and his desire to spend more time with his family as the reasons for his departure.
A 27-year Rye resident, Cameron, 59, ran for Rye City Council in November 2013 on a Democratic ticket with fellow political newcomer Shari Punyon. The pair was defeated by the Joe Sack-led Rye United Republican ticket in a sweep, in which each Rye United candidate garnered more than 2,000 votes.
The City Council is now all Republican with the exception of Councilwoman Kirstin Bucci, a Democrat who ran on Mayor Sack’s Republican ticket, and recently appointed Councilman Richard Slack, who is unaffiliated. Prior to county Legislator Catherine Parker’s re-election to the Rye City Council in 2011, the last time the Democrats were successful in securing a council seat in a contested election was 2005.
Under its new leadership, the Democrats plan to continue working on expanding membership and are currently completing construction on a website that will enable members to communicate with registered voters, Brown said. The party considered making some of these changes after the 2011 election, but few of these objectives were implemented in the intervening time before the 2013 race.
“We’re also going to try to put more structure into subcommittees,” Brown said, to make sure policy positions are developed and communicated. He added the committee is also interested in increasing the number of representatives in its 14 electoral districts.
Brown thought about stepping down for a while, was looking for a replacement and asked her if she was interested, Cameron said.
Cameron said running a campaign got her more interested in taking an active part in local politics, even though she was not successful in her bid.
“[Running] was a very interesting thing to do, and I felt, and I still feel, that [it’s not ideal] if one party has all the seats on the City Council,” Cameron said. “Even if it was my party, I would feel that was the case. There needs to be a variety of viewpoints.”
Cameron has been a member of the Democratic committee and a district leader for about year.
Cameron really stepped up through hard work and gaining a deep understanding of the issues, Brown said. He noted that Cameron’s 1,721 votes in the 2013 election are more than Parker received when she won her seat in 2011.
“From my point of view, [Cameron] is an ideal person to take over and I think being chairperson will give her a podium from which to address community issues,” Brown said. “I view her as a very solid and competent person.”
Brown said he is confident that, as Cameron’s new leadership takes hold and the committee’s membership expands, the party will establish more of a political foothold in the future, a task that will involve spending more time and energy and money at the local level especially since, historically, Rye Republicans have been much better funded than Rye Democrats.
There is also the fact that Rye voted the party line in last November’s county executive race, in which 65 percent of Rye voters supported incumbent Republican Rob Astorino.
Brown said he believes in the candidates that the Democrats party has put up at the local level, and said more people might want to reconsider voting down the party line in the future.
“In retrospect, in light of the problems that the French administration had, one has to at least wonder whether people, in retrospect, might have made a different selection,” said Brown, referring to the administration of former Republican Mayor Douglas French that spanned 2009 to 2013.
Cameron will lead the committee until the positions of chairperson and district leaders come up for a vote next spring. The 17 district leaders who make up the committee are elected by voters in their assigned electoral districts and tasked with identifying candidates to run on the party’s ticket during election years.
Brown, who said he believes he is the second-longest running Democratic committee chairman in Rye City history, said he will remain on the committee and work with Cameron during this transitional period.
Cameron and her husband, Jim Glickenhaus, have children who attended Rye City schools and she currently serves as an officer on the Board of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. She holds a masters degree in immunology/molecular biology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and has also supported and volunteered for Milton School, Meals-on-Wheels, Literacy Volunteers of America and Open Door Medical Center.
Rye Republican Committee chairman Tony Piscionere said he welcomes working cooperatively with [Cameron] in the
“She seems like a nice person and she seems like she cares about Rye,” he said.
However, Piscionere said he has never met or spoken to Brown in the 10 years he has been Republican chairman and in the seven years Brown has been chairman of the city Democrats.
That is a shame, Piscionere said.
“I think that is important to have these different relationships with the other side,” he said.
But Brown said that the two met at least once at a party.
In the 2011 election cycle, the Democrats filed a complaint against the local Republicans for their failure to disclose the campaign finances of its three candidates. This is not something, Brown said, that would have endeared him to the Republican chairman or induced him to reach out in friendship.