Vescera Makes a Power Move for Control of the Democratic Committee
September 12th 2012 · 0 Comments
Utica, NY – Although most voters don’t realize there’s an election this week, there will be important primaries across Utica for control of the Democratic Party. This comes as Councilman Frank Vescera has helped lead an effort to challenge many longtime Democratic committeemen in the first and fifth wards.
Vescera’s group has been actively fighting to takeout rank and file members of the party in a move that many say is a play for power. Some say that Vescera is looking to run for City Comptroller as incumbent Mike Cerminaro is term limited out at the end of next year.
One source said they’ve had conversations with Vescera about the possibility. “Frank has always had his sights set on higher office, and he sees an opening in next year’s open Comptrollers race,” the source said under the agreement of anonymity.
Party Committee members screen and endorse candidates, and help out with campaigns, including the laborious petition gathering process. They also put signs on lawns, talk up candidates to their friends and families, and even go door to door for candidates.
Although times have changed from the days when the Party Committees acted as the machine behind who gets elected and who doesn’t, they still hold a very important function: endorsements and election of the County and City Chairmen. If someone was eyeing a future run for office, it’s likely they would need the support of the Committee to get the endorsement and have help with petitions and fundraising activities.
This year’s primaries have become rather contentious due to the nature in which Vescera’s group has gone about the process. First, Vescera’s own brother-in-law, Darrell L. Sprinstead, a former resident of Florida, until moving to Utica a of couple years ago, filed challenges to several Committee members’ petitions.
Among those challenges was lifelong Democrat Fran Marino, the mother of one of Vescera’s fellow Councilmen, Joe Marino.
Also subject to Vescera’s challenges were Joseph Johnson, former Democratic County Legislator and staff member of former Congressman Mike Arcuri, and his wife Jeannine. Vescera is personally challenging Johnson and his wife in Ward 1, District 7. Springstead also attempted to challenge the petitions of the Johnsons.
In Ward 1 District 4, Springstead and Vescera’s son, Matthew B. Vescera, are challenging Santia Torres and Regina Bonacci.
Councilman Vescera has tried to shrug off his involvement in this coup, but we’ll leave it for readers to decide based on the names and family relations, along with who challenged whom and gathered the petitions.
In total, there are six Districts in Utica being challenged. Voters of the Democratic Party may select two committeemen per District. In Ward 1, Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 have challenges.
In Ward 5 there will be a challenge in District 6. Lifelong Democrats Frances and Kendra Frazier are being challenged. Mrs. Frazier and her daughter, Kendra, were big supporters of Mayor Palmieri’s campaign last year and have worked on many Democratic campaigns over the years.
Those being challenged say they were never contacted by Vescera, or any of his people, before the election. It seems to them that he is just striking out with a broad brush in a move to gain control of the Party or seek revenge on those who may not have supported him in the past, said one member.
They point to the numbers. In Utica there are 104 committee seats available for the Democrats. However, petitions were filed for only 81 of those seats. This means there will be 23 seats with no candidates or Committeemen at all. This brings credence to the question of whether Vescera is truly trying to strengthen the Party, or if he is making a unveiled move for power.
One thing is for sure, challenging petitions for a simple Committee seat of your colleagues and their families certainly won’t gain you any political capital, which is exactly what the First Ward Councilman needs right now, having been formally censured by the very body he wishes to influence.
Helping to fill the empty 23 seats would have strengthened the Party and been viewed as a selfless act. But that’s a characteristic Vescera has never been known for.
Democratic Elections Commissioner, Carolann Cardone, says this is the most committee primaries that she’s seen in her years with the Board. Cardone estimated that the cost of the elections will be roughly $20,000 or more. That money comes from the taxpayers.
Frank Vescera refused to respond to the Phoenix after several attempts to seek a comment.
As of the publishing of this article, results are unknown for the election. The primary will be held on Thursday, September 13.
Update: In Ward 1, District 3, longtime Democratic committee members and party workers, Alexis and Ashley Torres are also being challenged for their committee seats by this group. Their ballot position is 1A and 2A respectively. In district 5, incumbent Jean Sevilla is being challenged by Vescera’s sister-in-law and another candidate.
All of the contested races can be viewed at this link.