Robert Sylvia Takes Up Call to Unite Middletown Democrats
In hopes of ending a four-year rift between two factions, the Democratic Town Committee has chosen Robert Sylvia as chairman, succeeding the late David Lavine.
The new face of Middletown’s Democratic Town Committee is a familiar face — one that party loyalists hope will unite and reinvigorate the fractured local base in time for the 2012 election.
Former Town Councilor Robert Sylvia, who did not seek re-election in November after serving two terms, was elected as the new Middletown Town Committee chairman during a reorganizational meeting held Thursday, Jan. 27. He succeeds the late David Lavine, who died on Dec. 13 following a long-term illness.
The newly reorganized Middletown Democratic Town Committee also includes: 1st Vice Chairperson and Treasurer Gladys Lavine, 2nd Vice Chairperson state Sen. Lou DiPalma, and Secretary Kellie E. DiPalma.
Sylvia's uncontested appointment to lead the town’s Democrats signals a first step in healing the rift between the town’s “endorsed Democrats” and “unendorsed Democrats” that has cast a shadow over the town party for the last four years. The "unendorsed Democrats" referred to those Democrats who did not belong to the town's Democratic Town Committee and sought office as "independent Democrats."
In his own two terms on the Middletown Town Council, Sylvia successfully ran and won as an “unendorsed Democrat” both times.
“I just want to give credit to both sides. Everybody is aware that in the last four years there’s been a division in the Town of Middletown (Democratic Party),” Sylvia said. “I feel honored that both sides felt that I could be the guy to help bring them together.”
After the most recent election, Sylvia said he was approached by the state Senator DiPalma to lead the town party. He felt that both the endorsed and unendorsed Democrats who have since rejoined the Democratic Town Committee along with him seemed to have welcomed his nomination enthusiastically.
Town Councilor Ed Silveira, who had also run as an unendorsed Democrat in recent elections, has also returned to the town's Democratic Committe as a member and supported Sylvia's appointment.
"Fractures, due to a small group of people that have controlled and manipulated this party for their own good for many years is detrimental to good democracy and to a good strong functioning town," Silveira said. "Mr. Sylvia and Senator DiPalma, who is serving as vice-chair, bring both experience and leadership back to the committee."
Gladys Lavine, widow to the late David Lavine, said no other candidates from the endorsed Democrats fought or contested Sylvia's appointment.
"I think that reflected the mood of what’s been happening," said Lavine. "We all want to strengthen the Democrats and we’re willing to work together and see what we can do."
She added, "I think Bob will be a very strong chairman. He’ll be very active and it’ll be very good for all of us in the party."
Sylvia knows that bringing the two groups together will be one of his immediate challenges and said he intends to lead the town’s party using "a team concept."
“For the last four years, there were two groups that did very well independently of each other for some time,” Sylvia said. “And the sky’s the limit as to what we can do now as a group working together.”
Elderly issues, jobs and producing strong candidates for 2012 are top priorities, he said.
“We’re going to make our message loud and clear and articulately,” Sylvia said. “It will be professional, above board, with no mud slinging. It won’t be done behind masks or with anonymous emails and letters.”
Silveira agreed. "I believe this group can now move forward in a respectful and decent manor," he said. "Now more than ever, we need our party to be united and to work together through these very challenging times, for the good of the people, not just a few.”