Ramapo Supervisor Christopher P. St. Lawrence Wins Big
By: Daniel Friedman
The crowd that had gathered at the victory celebration party of Supervisor St. Lawrence on Tuesday night seemed to mirror all the voters in the town of Ramapo. When Supervisor St. Lawrence entered the room with his running mates after being declared the clear winner in the election, the people in the room were a clear representation of the over 13,500 Ramapo voters who went out to vote for Supervisor St. Lawrence over the course of the day.
Winning by a margin of nearly two to one, St. Lawrence carried areas all over Ramapo in an election that featured lower voter turnout than there was two years ago. In 2007, over 26,000 residents voted in the Ramapo Supervisor race, while this year about 21,000 people voted.
Despite the lower turnout, St. Lawrence won by a grater margin of victory than ever since his first election. Unofficial results have him receiving 13,505 votes, and Bruce Levine, his Preserve Ramapo opponent, receiving 7,672 votes, making the margin of victory 5,833 votes.
St. Lawrence’s running mates, David Stein and Yitzy Ullman, also easily won their elections to keep their seats on the town board. Stein received 11,787 votes, and Ullman received 11,391. They faced opposition from two Preserve Ramapo candidates, one of whom was given 5,540 votes, and the other 5,260. Two Republican candidates, Frank Dailey and Joseph Gravagna, obtained 3,157 and 2,689 votes respectively.
The margin of St. Lawrence’s victory is worth looking at. In 2007, St. Lawrence won by 4,512 votes, and in 2005, he won by 4,295 votes. In 2003, St. Lawrence’s margin of victory was 5,066, and in 2001, in his first election as supervisor, St. Lawrence won by 8,269 votes against little opposition.
St. Lawrence’s margin of victory was the greatest since the start of Preserve Ramapo’s serious efforts to elect their leaders to public office. The supervisor’s margin of victory has increased consistently during the last three elections for town supervisor against the Preserve Ramapo organization.
The campaign for town supervisor had its moments, all detailed in this publication. On May 15th, The Advocate published interviews with Bruce Levine and Supervisor St. Lawrence, after Levine had announced he was interested in seeking the supervisor’s office. That interview came at the same time that East Ramapo held its school board elections.
During that campaign, Preserve Ramapo leaders targeted East Ramapo board seats, and got involved in the campaign. One of the candidates had referred to Jews as “narrow-minded,” and “religious fundamentalists,” and did so in statements, legal papers, and in campaign materials. When asked about those comments, Levine said, “I will not comment on what certain people allegedly said.” While Levine said that such statements were not anti-Semitic, and that he would still seek the support of those who made them, Supervisor St. Lawrence openly criticized those who were dividing the town.
Three weeks later, Bruce Levine announced his candidacy in the parking lot of Ramapo Town Hall, surrounded by Preserve Ramapo leaders, including Joe Meyers, who would come to be the elected official who was the most ardent supporter of Levine’s campaign. Levine called on those in attendance to elect him so that he could “deliver fairness, justice and sanity” to Ramapo.
When Joe Meyers introduced Levine, he mentioned a number of elected officials that he claimed had endorsed Levine. Upon hearing that their names were listed as supporters of Levine, several officials called The Advocate to adamantly declare that they were not.
In the beginning of June, as Christopher St. Lawrence was awarded the endorsement of the Ramapo Republican Committee without his knowledge, building up his campaign, Bruce Levine faced the most serious challenge in his position as village attorney in Spring Valley. A check for approximately $200,000 that was to be given to a village resident for the village’s purchase of his property, was not delivered.
Instead, the check sat on Levine’s desk at village hall for weeks, until the Rockland County Sherriff’s office stepped in and froze the bank accounts of the village until the check was delivered. Mayor Darden and members of the board faulted Levine for the incident, and two trustees drafted a resolution to fire him from his position.
Looking back, perhaps the breaking point of the campaign came when Levine sent out a campaign mailing which attacked the process of shechitah, the ritual process of kosher animal slaughtering. On June 26th, The Advocate ran a cover story detailing the mailings, and the community’s response to it.
Rabbi Meshulem Nussen Spiegel of New Hempstead, who has years of experience as a kashrus supervisor of shochetim for national and international organizations, saw the mailing as an attack on shechitah and those who practice it. “Shechitah was always a way of attacking religious people and activities,” he explained. “It has been a vehicle for anti-Semitism for generations.”
Supervisor St. Lawrence also responded to the mailing. “It is despicable that my opponent is using smear and fear tactics to divide our town,” he said, adding, “This is the most deplorable campaign tactic of a desperate person who is a municipal attorney looking for another job after a failed record in the Village of Spring Valley.”
In July, petitions were submitted by both candidates to appear on the ballot. Supervisor St. Lawrence submitted about 4,000 signatures, making him the most signed-for candidate in any race in Rockland besides the countywide elections, and Bruce Levine submitted approximately 2,500 signatures.
In August, the village of Spring Valley filed a lawsuit against Ramapo for its affordable housing project. The lawsuit, signed off by Bruce Levine in his role as village attorney, questioned the environmental and traffic impact of the proposal, which had been reviewed by the town and professional contractors. Public hearings had been held, and the town made changes to the project to resolve all the issues, but the village maintained that the issues remained.
The tumultuous campaign reached a crescendo with the September 15th primary, when Christopher P. St. Lawrence defeated Bruce Levine in the Democratic Primary, and beat Robert Romanowski, another Preserve Ramapo leader, in the Republican primary. Since that election, the campaign essentially stalled, with no major announcements or campaigning on the part of the Preserve Ramapo organization.
On the morning after the election, Supervisor St. Lawrence was in his office at Town Hall, early as always, working on new economic development plans for the town. “Jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said of the goal of those plans. “I’m hitting the ground running. There’s a lot of work to do as always, and I’ll get to it all.”