Feld-Kolbert-Millstein Coalition Sweeps Village Election
Bialo Out After 15 Years
(March 22, 2006) The 2006 Village of Larchmont Election is one for the history books. “It’s a complete sweep for the coalition,” said Mayor Ken Bialo late Tuesday, March 21, as he announced results of the election that ended his fifteen year run on the Village Board and brought in Liz Feld as mayor along with running mates Marlene Kolbert and Jim Millstein.
“I’m ready, I feel prepared and I’m going to need everyone’s help,” said Mayor-elect. Feld, who said she intended to be calling on both supporters and opponents for their counsel, including Mr. Bialo.
It was the first time two Republicans battled for the mayoralty; and probably the first time Democrats and Republicans ran together on both sides. For the first time in Larchmont memory, there was a contested caucus for the mayor's spot. And it was the first time either the professional firefighters or the police unions endorsed a candidate (they backed Liz Feld and police officers lined up to salute her as she left Village Hall on election night).
Voter turnout, with 2007 casting ballots, was the highest in many years. The margin of victory was in the hundreds – this in a village where one vote has decided races. Ms. Kolbert, the top vote getter, outpolled her opponents by more that 500 votes. She called the victory “sweet” and the campaign “gutsy.”
Larchmont Village Clerk Election Tally
The winning candidates were the top vote getters in every district. Roughly, Districts 1 and 4 are on the south (Manor) side of the Boston Post Road, to the east and west of Beach Avenue, respectively. Districts 2 and 3 are north of the Post Road, east and west (Pine Brook side) of Larchmont Avenue, respectively.
Mayor Bialo, ousted after 11 years as trustee and 4 as mayor, conceded to the crowd packed in the court room of Village Hall, “It’s a very personal moment for me." He said, “I tried hard to get it right,” but “sooner or later you run out of shelf life.”
Supporters and opponents alike offered tribute to his years of service and joined the courtroom crowd in giving the outgoing mayor a standing ovation.
The vote sends two familiar faces back to the Larchmont Board: Marlene Kolbert will return for a third term as trustee, and Liz Feld will start a third term, her first as mayor. Only Trustee-elect Jim Millstein will be new.
However, the familiarity is deceptive. “This changes everything,” said Trustee McAndrews, a Democrat. “Not just who is mayor, but the alignment of the parties."
When the new Board takes over on April 3, the balance will shift from a 3-2 Republican majority, to a 3-2 Democrat mayority. Mayor-elect Feld is a life-long Republican, as she pointed out in her acceptance speech. “My Republican roots are long and deep, but I’m a resident first,” she said. And after losing at the Republican caucus, she may choose to align with the three Democrats. The remaining Republican, Mike Wiener, backed Mayor Bialo.
Election Night Count at Coalition Headquarters: Poll watchers call in district results to Nadine Rote, Ms. Feld's sister and campaign assistant, as (from left) Marlene Kolbert, Jim Millstein and Joel Feld keep a nervous eye on the tally.
The Feld-Kolbert alliance began on the Board, they said, as the two worked together to end an impasse over the police contract and a renovation of the professional firefighters’ kitchen and bathroom. Ms. Kolbert convinced the Democrats to support Ms. Feld and Ms. Feld convinced Jim Millstein (a Democrat, but previously reluctant to enter politics) to join the team.
The winning slate drew support from the Democratic Party, including long-term leaders, such as former Mayors Miriam Curnin and Cheryl Lewy, and newly active friends of first-time candidate Jim Millstein. They were joined by a large contingent of Republican and independent political activists who in prior years had worked on behalf of both Liz Feld and Ken Bialo. For example, former Deputy Mayor Chris Verni and former Republican trustee candidate Phil Johanson split with Mayor Bialo to work for the coalition. In his acceptance speech, Jim Millstein said he was “honored and humbled” and later acknowledged the role of more than 100 active volunteers from both sides of the coalition. “This election victory is yours.”
Mayor Bialo won the Republican caucus (162 to 93) and was backed by party leaders, including former Trustees Tom Constabile and Marian White, the chair of the party. Both Mr. Fanelli, a Democrat and life-long Larchmonter, and Mr. Bucci, an Independence Party member, brought in fresh support. However, with both trustee-candidates running for the first time, they and their backers had less experience (and apparently numbers) to contribute.
It remains to be seen if the cross-party groups will stay together, or whether the partisans – politicians and backers - will return to their roots. The division among Republicans was particularly sharp. “This has not been an easy election,” said Ms. Feld, indicating there were hard feelings over things said about her and her family during the race that will take some time to get over.
She also acknowledged the support she got from members of the police and fire unions, saying she wanted them all to feel at home in the Village, no matter where they lived . “Going forward there are going to be some tough times and some great times,” she said.