In 1992 Rich Schaffer became, at the age of 29, the youngest Town Supervisor in the Town of Babylon’s history. Today, he is in his sixth term as Chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee. He was very gracious to give Dan’s Papers an exclusive interview on his thoughts on the 2011 Suffolk County elections.
As Chairmen since the year 2000, Schaffer has rebuilt the Suffolk County Democratic Party to a point that he believes is competitive with the Republicans, who still hold the registration edge of 303,698 Republicans vs. 295,134 Democrats. He is proud of the great infrastructure the Democrats have put together in terms of getting out the vote and has diversified the party’s mix in age, sex and other demographics. When I asked him why it is important that Steve Bellone get elected as County Executive he said, “It is important because he brings a record of fiscal responsibility under which he has cut the debt every year in Babylon, cut spending and cut taxes in Babylon by $4.3 million this year. Steve has reached across party lines to accomplish all of this plus develop an economic development agenda that focuses on cutting red tape in government to create jobs, target specific industries with tax credits and create the next Research Triangle right here in Suffolk.”
Schaffer is proud of the $2 million already collected by the Democrats to finance the campaign for the
open Suffolk County Executive seat.
I asked him what dollar amount he believes it will take to win the election. Schaffer replied that it won’t be money alone but also an electable candidate like Bellone, however, on the money issue he stated, “The Suffolk Democrats are targeted to raise $3.2 million for Steve’s campaign plus our county legislative races in all 18 districts with a particular focus on Districts 5 (Kara Hahn), 6 (Sarah Anker), 7 (Rob Calarco), 16 (Steve Stern) and 18 (Dr. William Spencer).” He said he anticipates that the Democrats will still hold the majority of seats in the Suffolk County Legislature after the election. He explained that there are two countywide races, “County Executive [Bellone] and County Court Judge, in which we are supporting Rich Ambro.”
Schaffer is proud to say he was born in North Babylon, lives there now, and he has spent most of his life there. He noted that Suffolk County is facing many challenges now including a loss of jobs and tax base because of the recession. He noted a $180 million county structural deficit, a rise in gun and gang violence in the various hamlets and villages and the need to address aging infrastructure in the county. That is why he believes this election is pivotal, especially after the national economic downturn. Schaffer said, “Steve Bellone is a winner who gets things done; that is why people from all parties vote for him…in his last election he pulled in 70% of the vote for Babylon Supervisor.”
Schaffer believes the smart money is backing Bellone because, as he said, “they think he will win, they know he is up to the job, he is a proven leader and I am proud to be in his corner…Steve Bellone is the best candidate.”