Letter to the Editor:Jane Devine the Political Operative
As a lifelong Democrat, a former county and state Democratic committeeman, and a strong gun control advocate, I am appalled but hardly surprised by the recent words and actions of former Suffolk County Legislator Jane Devine. In the years since leaving the legislature and becoming a member of the Huntington Town Planning Board, Jane has more than once carried less than pure water for the Huntington Democratic organization and the Petrone administration to which she is beholden.
Like Huntington Town Councilman Gene Cook, I also was a victim of a spurious politically motivated smear from Jane Devine. In 2006, she helped suppress voter turnout for me in a Democratic primary for a Huntington Town Council seat by taking a statement of mine out of context and accusing me of being a racist. I had challenged former councilwoman Glenda Jackson, who was appointed to the position earlier that year. I expressed my view – shared by a number of people in Huntington’s black community – that she was unqualified and was appointed to the town board as a “token black” to do the bidding of her puppet master, Councilman Mark Cuthbertson.
Only after Tracey Edwards, an articulate, well-informed and community-minded person, declined to challenge Ms. Jackson, did I decide to wage a primary. As a former active board member of the NAACP’s Huntington Branch, I certainly was not prejudiced (look up the word “token” in the dictionary) and enjoyed some support within the black community. Indeed, I believe that Democratic operatives were so concerned that I might win the primary that — borrowing a page from the Republican playbook during the 2004 Presidential campaign in Florida (that is being repeated by the GOP in the Sunshine State today) — they did whatever they could to suppress turnout among those community activists and other progressive Democrats most apt to vote for me. They are doing the same thing now to Gene Cook. Why else would longtime incumbents launch a negative town election campaign replete with Tea Party insinuations and character assassination?
Once again this year, Jane Devine has decided, for political reasons, to deliberately take a candidate for town office’s comments out of context. Gene Cook was joking when he made an off-the-cuff remark about guns in response to a question posed at a meeting. To her credit, Ms. Devine related Mr. Cook’s remarks to a 1979 hostage incident at Huntington Town Hall (nearly 35 years ago) and not to the more recent Newtown, Connecticut elementary school incident that occurred after his January 2012 remarks. But it’s the latter tragedy that’s most vivid in Huntington voters’ minds. And Ms. Devine obviously knew this when the news conference at which she spoke was scheduled.
I share Mr. Cook’s frustration with the Petrone administration and with the cronyism, backroom deals, and lack of transparency at town hall. For too long, developers, their attorneys and outside legal counsel to the town – all of whom contribute handsomely to the campaign coffers of Petrone and Cuthbertson — have held sway, if not called the shots, in Huntington.
There are real issues that should be discussed during this campaign, not these red herrings raised by Jane Devine and some others who fear that the Supervisor’s days may be numbered and that their appointed jobs and contracts — and/or those of their family members — may disappear with him.