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Democrat Schiliro Endorses North Castle Republican Ticket

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North Castle Supervisor Michael Schiliro endorsed the town’s Republican candidates Barbara DiGiacinto for supervisor and Larry Ruisi and Mel Orellana for Town Board for the upcoming Nov. 7 election.

Michael Schiliro, the outgoing Democratic North Castle supervisor, shook up next month’s town election when he endorsed the entire Republican ticket late last week.

Schiliro, who announced last October he would not run for a sixth term leading the town, threw his support behind Barbara DiGiacinto for supervisor and council candidates Larry Ruisi and Mel Orellana.

The North Castle Democratic Committee tabbed Joe Rende, the committee’s co-chair, and incumbent councilmen Jose Berra and Saleem Hussain earlier this year. Schiliro ran with Berra and Hussain in 2019 when they faced no opposition.

“Throughout my career in town, I’ve been very consistent of keeping the town first, and if that means putting politics aside, then that’s what I do,” Schiliro said. “I’ve supported and run with people from all parties, and some people that are not affiliated, and that’s always my beacon, that’s what I follow.”

He lauded the attributes of each one of the candidates he endorsed. DiGiacinto, who is completing her 10th year as councilwoman, “does the deepest study on every issue than anybody that I’ve ever seen,” Schiliro said.

Having selected DiGiacinto as his deputy supervisor nearly two years ago, Schiliro also said that she’s prepared to be supervisor and can step into the role immediately.

Schiliro said Ruisi, a current Planning Board member who previously served on the town’s Budget and Finance Advisory Committee, has one of the most impressive resumes of anyone who has run for town office. In addition to high-level corporate financial work professionally, Ruisi helped the town immensely in advising officials to borrow money at low interest rates to accelerate its road paving program.

The supervisor said he sees a lot of himself in Orellana when he first was elected in 2007. Orellana, a current Architectural Review Board member, represents the growing demographic of families with younger children in town. He also has been highly successful in business and believes Orellana will be able to transfer his talents from the private sector to the public sector, Schiliro explained.

“When I look at everybody that’s running, in my opinion, these are the three best people to take the town forward in this election,” Schiliro said.

DiGiacinto said the endorsement of her and her running mates is important given Schiliro’s popularity in town and the respect he’s afforded. She also praised him for making what was likely a difficult decision.

“He certainly knew that there was going to be fallout,” DiGiacinto said.

“(But) people were so impressed that our supervisor, a Democrat, would endorse a Republican slate,” she added. “It speaks volumes.”

With the appointment of DiGiacinto as his deputy and having had periodic verbal tussles with Berra during board meetings over various issues during the past two years, it didn’t come as a major surprise to some politicos in town that Schiliro opted for the Republicans.

Reached last weekend, Rende said he had spoken with Schiliro recently who informed him of his decision before he went public. Given the political dynamics, Rende knew that Schiliro faced a difficult choice and understands that he and DiGiacinto have worked well together.

“I would like to believe optimistically that he made (his decision) because he truly believes in it, not because of some personal issues that may have arisen over the last two years,” Rende said.

In a town with a history of cross-endorsements, Rende said he wasn’t sure what impact Schiliro’s endorsement might have. He also pointed out that County Executive George Latimer, state Sen. Shelley Mayer and Assemblyman Chris Burdick endorsed him, Berra and Hussain, which could be a boost to their campaign.

Democratic Committee Co-chair Linda Fernberg said there have been out-of-the ordinary alliances in some recent town races that might seem impossible to consider elsewhere, but happens often enough in North Castle where it’s not a shock. She pointed to the 2011 election that had the Democratic Committee endorse Republican William Weaver for supervisor, while Schiliro backed former Republican councilman Stephen D’Angelo that same year.

Schiliro also publicly supported DiGiacinto in her Town Board re-election two years ago.

Meanwhile, Berra endorsed first-term Councilman Matt Milim, who ran on the Republican line in 2021, but received no help from the party’s committee. Milim is now an independent.

“I am disappointed but not surprised at Mike’s endorsement of the Republican slate,” Fernberg said.

“This goes against the prevailing winds of strict partisanship we find ourselves in at this time,” she also stated. “But I certainly understand the concept.”

Hussain said he was hoping to speak to Schiliro about his decision and that he has great admiration for him. But he was curious rather than offended about what may have been the deciding factors.

As of Saturday, they had not spoken about the endorsement, Hussain said.

“I know that Mike had agreed a lot with Barbara’s decisions, so that’s one thing I’m curious to talk to him about,” he said. “Is it about specific decisions or is it about approach? The thing that I’m trying to make sure to carry to our residents is that they don’t necessarily have to agree with the position that you take, but rather the approach and fairness and how people go about looking at these different items.”

Berra said that he wasn’t surprised at the announcement because Schiliro and DiGiacinto have spoken “with one voice for such a long time.” As someone who has opposed much of the development in town, Berra said he doesn’t believe that Schiliro was happy with many of his positions.

Schiliro said he only contacted Rende about his decision because he was the only one of the three Democrats that asked him for his support. It would have been presumptuous to assume support from fellow Democrats without them asking.

“I absolutely considered all six candidates,” Schiliro said. “But only four asked for my endorsement, which is why I corresponded with only those four when I made my decision. And as I stated, I’ve never presumed support from anyone or any party, primarily the town Democratic Party, during any election, which is why I always specifically asked for their support.”

Meanwhile, Milim said last weekend that he expects to endorse the Democratic slate later this week. He views Rende as someone who has strong leadership qualities and has been successful in business. While there are four strong candidates for the council seats, he sees Berra and Hussain as strong independent thinkers.

“If I want to convince them to vote with me on something, I have to use logic to persuade them,” Milim said. “It’s not because I say so.”


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