Vincent Finizia becomes first Democrat on the Chester town board since 2011

Chester. Finizia is appointed after losing two elections. He doesn't rule out switching parties as he tells Democrats who don't turn out to vote: 'I don’t know if I’m going to carry the water for you any longer.'


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Photos



  • Vincent and Geraldine Finizia (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Vincent Finizia (second from left) said he would never forget the kindness of the three board members who told him he would be good for the town board: Supervisor Robert Valentine is pictured to the left, Councilman Orlando Perez is next to Finizia, and Councilman Ryan Wensley is on the right. Councilwoman Cindy Smith, who objected to Finizia's appointment, declined to be included in the photo. (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)



“There’s some rumors going around that I may change parties. I don’t know. But I will tell you this. We’re not a better place where the Democrats don’t vote. The system of checks and balances is important. However, we should vote for the person who we think is going to do well. And, if I should ever be something of the GOP, I would be the Grand Old Proctologist, and those that know me know exactly what I mean.”
Vincent Finizia


By Frances Ruth Harris

The Chester town board appointed Vincent Finizia to fill a vacancy, making him the first Democrat to serve on the board in eight years.

One board member opposed the appointment.

Cindy Smith said "no” even before Supervisor Robert Valentine called for a vote at the May 8 town board meeting. Then she said "no" again.

"We had agreed not to put anybody on the board until after whatever the election was," Smith said. "That’s just kind of going against what we had agreed upon.”

Finizia pushed back. He took to the podium after he was sworn in, to applause, by town clerk Linda Zappala.

"I read a text that this was a spur-of-the-moment decision to put me on the board, that Robert Valentine decided to boost up his campaign," Finizia said. "This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have been vying for this and interviewing for six months, and have worked my tail off. So this is no rabbit out of the hat. This is a well-thought situation, and I applaud the decision of the three members. I will work very hard."

Switching parties to get votes

The last Democrat to serve on the board was Robert Moran, who lost his re-election bid in 2011. Smith herself was a Democrat until 2011, when she switched parties just before the election, which she won. She had lost as a Democratic incumbent in 2009, then returned four years later after winning as a Republican.

Finizia will be on the ballot for the third time this November. He ran unsuccessfully in 2015 and 2016.

He hasn't ruled out switching parties because of the apathy among Democratic voters in town.

"Those Democrats that haven’t voted in eight, nine elections, ten, fifteen years," he said from the podium. "I don’t know if I’m going to carry the water for you any longer.

"There’s some rumors going around that I may change parties. I don’t know. But I will tell you this. We’re not a better place where the Democrats don’t vote. The system of checks and balances is important. However, we should vote for the person who we think is going to do well. And, if I should ever be something of the GOP, I would be the Grand Old Proctologist, and those that know me know exactly what I mean."

The town board has been solidly Republican for eight years, even though the town has more register Democrats, 2,823 to 2,533, according to the Orange County Board of Elections website. The problem is also countywide: there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in Orange County, 81,657 to 69,901, but the legislature has for decades been chaired by Republicans.

Sue Bahren, a Democrat running against Valentine for supervisor, told The Chronicle she was glad about Finizia's appointment.

Bahren is a former longtime county elections commissioner. She said Finizia is free to switch parties at any time, but that it's too late for him to run this year as anything but a Democrat. If he becomes a Republican before the election, he can let others know, she said, but it would not be made public by the board of elections until seven days after election day.

Stephen Keahon, who is running for a four-year term on the town board on the SAM line and has been endorsed by the Chester Democratic Committee, said Finizia's appointment was "nothing more than a political move to try and show the rest of the town the town board is bipartisan."

Keahon said he was interviewed for one of the open positions but was "removed from consideration because I refused to change my party to Republican. They saved this for the campaign season, otherwise they would have appointed him months ago when they interviewed him. Vinny is a good man and will do a good job, but he should be very careful."

Democrat Tom Becker is also running for town board.

Three seats open up

Three seats on the town board became vacant over the past year. The former supervisor, Alex Jamieson was obliged to resign in November as part of a plea deal in a workman's compensation fraud case. Valentine made the move from councilman to supervisor to fill the vacancy and is up for election in November.

Councilmember Ryan Wensley, who made the motion to appoint Finizia, recently announced he will not run for re-election. Brendan Medican, who as a newcomer to politics beat Finizia in 2016, resigned last fall, saying he is moving out of the area.

Orlando Perez was appointed in February to fill one of the open seats. Valentine said at the time the town had no plan or mandate to fill more seats.

Smith said the only reason why she had agreed to appoint Perez was to assure the board had the quorum it needed to conduct town business.

Finizia blasted Smith from the podium.

“Sorry Cindy, I’m not a political suicide, and I’m not a cancer to anybody," he said. "I despise those words, and I’ll expound on them at another time."

Smith denied ever using the word "cancer" to describe Finizia.

"No, I didn’t say what Vinnie implied I said," she told The Chronicle. "I’ve always been nice to Vinnie, and he’s been nice to me. I think he’s wrong. We agreed the board wouldn’t appoint anyone, and I don’t like to appoint because it gives a person a free ride. I like it when people are elected."

Finizia stepped down earlier this month from chairing the town's zoning board of appeals.

Valentine noted that Finizia was coming to the board as others historically came, from chairing zoning or planning boards.

Finizia said he would never forget the kindness of the three board members who told him he would be very good for the town board.

“The three men on the board beat down the pundits big time," he said.





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