Katz, Unite New Castle Ticket to Force Democratic Primary

New Castle Councilwoman Lisa Katz
Councilwoman Lisa Katz said she and her three running mates on the independent Unite New Castle line are planning to challenge the Democratic-endorsed slate for the party’s nomination.

The independent slate that announced last month it is running a full ticket in this year’s New Castle town election is collecting signatures to force a Democratic primary.

Current Councilwoman Lisa Katz, who is heading the four-candidate Unite New Castle ticket as the candidate for supervisor, confirmed they are looking to collect enough signatures from registered Democrats to gain entry on the June primary ballot.

Katz told The Examiner that although she and two of her running mates appeared before the Democrats’ Nominating Committee, there were fundamental differences between their philosophies and that of the party.

Katz is running with Andrea Sanseverino Galan, Tara McAdam Kassel and Jennifer Louis-Jeune. If there is a primary, they would be taking on the Democratic-endorsed lineup of Holly McCall for supervisor and council candidates Lori Morton, Michael Weinberg and Jennifer Bounds. Bounds and Louis-Jeune would be competing for the two-year term in the general election.

She said the Unite New Castle slate believes that all residents’ voices should be valued and respected and a collaborative approach to responsible development in town is essential. All four candidates are registered Democrats.

A key part of the challenge appears to be the sharp disagreement over the Form Based Code.

“We chose to withdraw ourselves from consideration for the (New Castle Democratic Committee) Nominating Committee endorsement because we did not feel our values were aligned,” Katz said. “The democratic process affords residents an important opportunity to participate in a primary and to select candidates for the Town Board that best reflect their views and ideals. Given the Form-Based Code and other important issues currently facing the Town, ensuring voters have choices in a primary is more important than ever.”

Democratic Committee Co-chair Jane Silverman, however, offered a different version when contacted. Silverman said that Katz, Galan and Louis-Jeune appeared before the Nominating Committee earlier this winter but a day later issued an ultimatum to the full committee to back all three of them or expect a challenge.

“The day they would have come to speak to our full committee they pulled out of the process after threatening to run a primary if all three of them were not endorsed,” Silverman said.

Silverman also said the committee never had a litmus test for the candidates it was considering regarding the Form Based Code because there is a wide range of opinions among Democrats on the issue.

Even if the full trio was not recommended by the seven-member Nominating Committee, Silverman said they were all invited to appear before the full committee, which has up to 32 elected district leaders, to state why they were the best candidates to represent the party.

Silverman said she “was shocked” that they withdrew from consideration.

“I probably shouldn’t have been (shocked) because it was clear with the Nominating Committee that we were not going to recommend them,” she said. “We felt blindsided as a Nominating Committee. We felt blindsided and we felt it was a threat and it was all or nothing, you do as we say or none of us are with you.”

Katz dismissed Silverman’s explanation, saying that the Democratic Committee isn’t concerned about opening the nominating process to all Democrats, but that “actually is how democracy works.”

“We believe all Democrats have the right to be heard, not just a select few on the Democratic Committee,” Katz continued. “The primary election on June 22 will provide an opportunity for approximately 7,000 residents to nominate the Democratic candidates who best reflect the shared vision for the town we all want to live in.”

Meanwhile, Silverman said that if there is a primary there is no guarantee that all members of either ticket would win their races, opening the possibility of a mixed ticket. If that occurred, she questioned whether the victorious Unite New Castle members would accept the nomination.

She said a bigger concern is that if the challengers are successful in a primary it will disenfranchise New Castle voters who aren’t Democrats. None of the Democratic candidates would appear on any other ballot lines, she said.

“If they knock us off in a primary, then there is no general election, which is the more important point,” Silverman said. “If they don’t knock us off, if we win and they lose, and the run on their third-party line, it’s the same election again (in November), so there’s all that money that’s got to be spent on elections.”