Hello, I am Roderick Watson, a winner of the Republican primary for the Glen Cove City Council election on Nov. 3. I want to discuss my thoughts regarding this year’s upcoming election and my experience running for the Glen Cove City Council with the Republican Party.
At times I have questioned why Glen Cove’s GOP does everything it can to dishonor the people’s choice and ignore my primary victory on Sept. 10. In April 2015, Tony Gallo asked me to run for city council on his Team Gallo slate. Prior to going into the race (and even now), Tony was the only Republican running for mayor and was not given any support by the GOP. At the time, I was worried about how I would be treated as a black Republican, because we don’t see too many people of color in the party running locally. Nevertheless, I appreciated the opportunity and agreed to run. I am a specialist in medical social work for veterans and my decision flowed naturally from my commitment to service and to those who have served this country under the most difficult challenges. I was glad to support all of Team Gallo on a platform promoting the real change we need to make Glen Cove great again.
I never could have imagined the obstacles placed in front of Team Gallo to run for public office. We went through the tedious process of successfully collecting petition signatures required by the Nassau County Board of Elections to run on the Republican Party ballot for the primary. However, our valid petition signatures were challenged in court by Glen Cove GOP executive leader David Zatlin and the Glen Cove Republican machine. This forced members of Team Gallo and I to seek legal counsel who went to court for us, and the judge ruled in Team Gallo’s favor, noting the signatures as being valid. The Glen Cove and Nassau County Republican parties then continued to do all they could to delegitimize us, even telling Councilman Gallo not to attend their meetings. This disrespected not only us as candidates, but also the Republican voters of Glen Cove, who were entitled to a democratic forum to meet all the candidates they would have the opportunity to vote for on primary day. To make matters worse, we were excluded in favor of candidates who were not even registered Republicans: Mayor Spinello (Independence Party member), Nick Dileo Jr. (non-party affiliated), Tab Hauser (Independence Party member) and Danielle Willis (non-party affiliated).
The peculiar behavior of the Glen Cove GOP machine did not end on primary night. Even though I was declared the primary winner on Sept. 10, Zatlin challenged the absentee ballots of those voting for me, only to later withdraw his petition against me. I never received any acknowledgment or congratulations from him—or from anyone on behalf of the Nassau County Republican Committee. It was suspicious that the Republican signs placed around the City of Glen Cove did not have my name on it, but continued to have the names of Hauser and Willis, the two candidates who lost the Republican primary.
On one occasion prior to the primary, I saw a photo taken at a Nassau County Republican function with a caption claiming I never showed up to their event. I was appalled at this claim, because I was never invited to any Glen Cove or Nassau County Republican Party function.
My suspicions of the worst were confirmed when I saw the Glen Cove GOP state on its Facebook page that the party would not support me or Efraim Spagnoletti, the other member of Team Gallo who won the Republican primary. They replied “Absolutely not” to a voter who asked if they would hand out a bumper sticker for Spagnoletti or me. The newspaper ads they are running still depict the two candidates who lost the primary. Adding insult to injury, those candidates are not even registered Republicans. Of course, endorsing them does not make it likely they will win—they will only be on the Conservative line (despite not being registered Conservatives)—but is a clear effort to take enough votes away from me and Spagnoletti that the Democratic incumbents running against us will win.
If elected on Nov. 3, I will become the first African-American Republican candidate elected in the 21st century to political (i.e. non-judicial) office not only in Glen Cove, but also in Nassau County. Earlier, I hoped that the local or county party bosses would have made some effort to support me—even a modest gesture to wish me good luck or congratulate me on my victory. I even thought the local Republican Party might take advantage of an opportunity to do more to embrace more people of color. Now I face the nightmare of my own party treating me, a registered Republican since I was 18 years of age and now the winner of a Republican primary election, as if I were their enemy. Sadly, this behavior only confirms it is the party bosses who have lost their way.
My family and I would like to thank everyone who supported and continues to support my teammates and me. I am disappointed by the poor treatment I have received by the GOP machine, but I draw comfort knowing that I am in the same boat as my Glen Cove neighbors, who have also been let down by party bosses who are dismissive of the well being of those who are not part of their small circle of insiders. Rest assured, Glen Cove, my team and I are undaunted, and we will continue to work hard to make our city great again. We hope you all (Republicans, Democrats, non-affiliated, everyone) will make it to the polls on Nov. 3 and vote for Tony Gallo, the entire Glen Cove United line and me.