Longtime Democratic leader, Reggie Lafayette dropped out of a race for reelection of Westchester County Democratic Chairman. Lafayette has held the position since 2004 during a time when the party saw its registration advantage over Republicans grow to more than 2-to-1.
He will remain as the county Board of Elections Democratic commissioner – until the end of 2022 – which combined with his leadership post has made him one of the most influential people in local government and politics and Black Westchester has been critical of calling the multiple hats he wore a conflict of interest. As of now he will continue to lead the Mount Vernon Democratic committee.
LaFayette confirmed his decision with a letter to party leaders Monday he said he came to the decision after some soul-searching but would remain a “loyal Democratic soldier.”
“I am hopeful that everyone will come together and decide what is in the best interest of the Democratic Party moving forward, to ensure our future successes,” Lafayette said in the letter. “There is always room for the party to grow with input from all groups, keeping in mind that we are a partisan Democratic organization,” (see full letter below).
The longtime chairman was facing the first substantial challenge to his leadership 16 years after taking the helm by two local party leaders – Suzanne Berger, chairwoman of the Greenburgh town Democrats for the past 18 years, and William Serratore, chairman of the Mount Kisco for the last ten years – who are looking to replace county Chairman Reginald Lafayette.
Lohud reported that the potential shakeup comes after June primaries that saw big wins from non-establishment candidates and ongoing scrutiny of LaFayette’s dual role as Democratic commissioner of the county Board of Elections. Both challengers said they wouldn’t seek to become commissioner if they are elected.
Berger who thanked LaFayette for his years of service and said she felt the announcement would help her cause heading to the vote, as she is backed by county legislature Chairman Ben Boykin, Vice Chairwoman Alfreda Williams and Democratic Majority Leader Mary Jane Shimsky.
“I look forward to the next three weeks to explain to the district leaders to explain why I’m the best choice to lead the party forward,” Berger told The Journal News/lohud.
Berger faces Serratore who is confident going into the election after picking up some endorsements from high-profile local elected officials like Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, state Sen. Pete Harckham and county Legislator Damon Maher of New Rochelle, Lohud reported.
“I’m still digesting this news, but I think it’s a credit to Reggie for all of his years of service,” Serratore said.
Both challengers said they wouldn’t look to become elections commissioner if elected. There is no state law that prevents a party chair from serving as an election commissioner, but holding both posts has faced scrutiny for years from many including Black Westchester.
County party leaders will choose a new leader Sept. 17.