Bethlehem Town Supervisor John Clarkson spoke out in favor of the newly formed Bethlehem Reform Democrats group during an informational meeting held on Tuesday, May 22.
The group, which is legally a political action committee, was formed in April by several residents claiming to be frustrated with how the town committee functions. Clarkson said he feels encouraging people to get involved with local politics and become better informed about those who represent the community is “wonderful.”
“I think the party is in need of invigoration,” he said. “It’s hard to get people to come and be involved (in the committee) and stay. If there was a more engaging process, people would be interested. This group is proof that people do care about getting involved in their party.”
Clarkson said the party should be about more than “carrying petitions and ratifying decisions made by the party leaders.” He said the party should be more engaged with the public and he doesn’t feel that is happening.
Bethlehem Democratic Committee Chairman Matt Clyne, who said he could not attend the meeting because of other obligations with the County Legislature, said Clarkson had ulterior motives for lending his support.
“He is the one instigating it, so it’s hardly a surprise that he is in favor of it,” he said. “He is recruiting these people and agitating it, so it’s hardly surprising. See, this is all about ensuring John Clarkson is re-elected. Just like his proposed ward system in the town and extending the terms to four years. It’s about ensuring he is ensconced in the supervisor’s office, and as much removed from public scrutiny and accountability as possible.”
Clarkson is a Democrat, but he won office after successfully challenging Councilman Kyle Kotary, the party’s endorsed candidate, in a primary last September.
At Tuesday’s meeting, group spokesperson Ted Smith said after the previous election cycle many Democrats in town felt the Democratic Committee to be “out of touch with the electorate” and that more grassroots level participation was needed.