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Dem splinter group wants change

Bethlehem reformers cite transparency, recent election performances

— A group of Bethlehem Democrats are hoping to change the direction of the party within the town.

The Bethlehem Reform Democrats group was formed this year out of frustration with the current party and its nomination process. Members say the point is “not to form a new party, but to be proud of and participate in” the current Democratic Party in Bethlehem.

Resident Ted Smith, a Democrat and the group’s spokesperson, said the group’s creation was four years in the making, starting with the election of former Supervisor Sam Messina.

“We were upset by the outcome of the supervisor’s race at a time when the candidate lost to someone who isn’t really a Republican,” said Smith. “Heads spin again two years later when the Democratic primary challenger put forward is rejected. It raised eyebrows though the neighborhood.”

Messina, an Independent endorsed on the Republican line, won the election against former Supervisor Jack Cunningham in 2009. The party also lost in 2011, when Councilman Kyle Kotary lost a primary and then the general election to current Supervisor John Clarkson. Some Democrats were discouraged by a Republican endorsement of Kotary.

According to the Reform group, some feel the party is disconnected from the town’s actual Democratic residents. Smith said with elections coming up, more town residents began talking about what they wanted out of the party this year. At the initial meeting of the Bethlehem Reform Democrats, more than 50 people were in attendance.

“We took the plunge,” said Smith. “I think we hit a nerve.”

Smith said the group has no interest other than being loyal Bethlehem Democrats and they are not looking to form their own political party or create a separate line on the ballot. Group members want more say in the current party and a more transparent process.

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