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New Castle Incumbents’ Farmers Market Campaigning Sparks Spat

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A New Castle Democrat criticized the Team New Castle slate last week for recently campaigning inside the Chappaqua Farmers Market, ignoring a tradition that has been in place since the market’s inception.

Millwood resident Jane Silverman, a member of the town’s Democratic Committee and a district leader, called out Supervisor Robert Greenstein and council members Lisa Katz and Adam Brodsky for giving away reusable bags at the market on Sept. 8. Silverman said it was the first time anyone can recall candidates using the venue for a blatantly political activity. The market, which runs on Saturdays from spring to fall, was launched in 2010.

Silverman said it has been standard practice for candidates of both major parties to remain outside the confines of the market if they want to campaign and greet potential voters.

“The farmers market is a community gathering place, brings people from New Castle and beyond to our historic downtown,” said Silverman, who confronted Greenstein on the issue during the Sept. 12 town board meeting. “The longstanding custom of keeping electioneering at the entrance should be respected.”

In the days following the three candidates’ appearance, Silverman said she had heard from shoppers who thought their presence was inappropriate. Furthermore, there was a comment made by one of the candidates that the market could be in jeopardy if the Republicans aren’t re-elected, touching off an argument with a member of the market’s board of directors, she said.

Greenstein responded that there’s no policy forcing candidates to refrain from campaigning inside the market. All candidates have a right to choose that venue to interact with the public if they wish, he said.

“The bottom line is we have a First Amendment right, and if you don’t choose to exercise that, that’s your right,” Greenstein said. “But rest assured if we’re exercising our First Amendment right, we’re going to do so in a courteous way, and we clearly wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think it could help and be appreciated. If we thought residents didn’t like it, you could be sure we wouldn’t do it.”

Greenstein, whose slate is endorsed by the Republican Committee despite it consisting of two Democrats and an independent, added that he and his running mates had curses and threats directed at them during their market visit.

Katz said the market’s boards of directors met last Monday and confirmed that they were within their right to campaign at the market.

David Perlmutter, interim chairman of the market’s board of directors, said there is no policy restricting candidates from that activity although the board would like to see candidates campaign elsewhere.

“We do request any candidate remain outside the entrance of the market,” Perlmutter said. “We want to have the focus be on the famers and the vendors to sell their produce.”

A statement put out last week by Stronger New Castle, the Democratic slate comprised of supervisor candidate Kristen Browde and running mates Ivy Pool and Gail Markels, said they have continued to respect the wishes of market staff and will remain outside.

Furthermore, shoppers should not be disturbed with political activity when they shop, and as a nonprofit entity, the market should be free from campaigning.

“We’re disappointed that the Republican slate chose to disregard the market’s rules and invaded the market’s space this past weekend, and we’re even more disappointed that a shouting match ensued involving the Republicans and at least one market board member after what was interpreted as a threat by one of the Republican slate that the market would be shut down unless the Republicans won,” Silverman said.

However, Greenstein said he has photos showing that Democrats had people carrying petitions for them inside the market earlier this year.

“If you’re going to come here and say that one side doesn’t appreciate what the other side is doing, what I would say to you is both sides should apply by that same rule,” he said.

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