Who's in Charge? - A June 1st Update

As expected, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court has overturned Judge Malone's April 26th decision, and restored Frank MacKay as the legitimate Chair of the Independence Party in time for the June 5th Senate nominating convention and the June 6th start of the petitioning period. Ousted former Chair Jack Essenberg may still appeal to the State Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, but it's doubtful the court would even take the case, much less overturn the Appellate Division's unanimous decision.

April 27, 2000

Who's in Charge?

The following unofficial statement is provided independently by the webmaster for the benefit of visitors to this site who are unfamiliar with the internal politics of this party. It is not to be construed in any way as an official statement of the Independence Party, nor of any faction thereof.

Due to a decision yesterday in State Supreme Court in Albany, the leadership of the Independence Party has been placed in doubt.

The full State Committee, which is the basic governing body of the party, met on February 4, 2000, in Albany, where they recalled Jack Essenberg as Chairman by an overwhelming majority and elected Frank MacKay to replace him. Essenberg has publicly admitted that he doesn't have the votes to stay in power1, but has argued in court that party rules allow him to set the agenda for all meetings of the State Committee, in effect allowing him to veto moves for his own ouster. This is the argument that the State Supreme Court upheld yesterday2. The decision will be appealed, where it is very likely to be overturned, although there is some concern that the appeal may not be decided before the final date set by state election law for holding a Senate nominating convention - June 6th - and more importantly, before the reinstated Executive Committee can issue "Wilson-Pakula" certificates authorizing non-members to run on the Independence Party line in November.

In simplified terms, the State Committee can be described as consisting of three main factions. The largest faction, controlling around 50% of the weighted vote on the State Committee, is the most loosely organized, consisting of reformers of various political leanings and unaligned individuals concerned with local issues. It includes a number of members who were involved with the party's founding. As of the State Committee meeeting of February 4, 2000, this group controls seven of the nine seats on the party's State Executive Committee, including the Chairmanship. Prior to that, it controlled only one seat: that of the party Secretary, Laureen Oliver. This group supports Frank MacKay as Chairman.

A second faction supports Jack Essenberg for Chairman. This group controls about 25% of the weighted vote of the State Committee. Prior to February 4th, this group had six of the nine seats on the State Executive Committee, including the Chairmanship. After that date they had none. Essenberg, along with five other members, was removed at the State Committee meeting on February 4th. This is the action that they appealed to Supreme Court, where they were successfully reinstated yesterday.

The third major faction is generally associated with Lenora Fulani. This block controls just over 20% of the weighted vote. This group was aligned with the Essenberg faction at the State Committee meeting in September 1998 when Essenberg was barely reelected as Chairman. Several months later they became realigned with the anti-Essenberg group and now support Frank MacKay for Chairman. This faction has two seats on the nine-member Executive Committee, both before and after the February 4th meeting.

Support for Presidential candidates is a secondary issue for all three factions. In general, the Fulani faction supports Pat Buchanan, while the Essenberg faction opposes Bucahnan. The remainder of the party is split or has no preference.

So, while the Supreme Court has reinstated Jack Essenberg as legal party Chairman, it is safe to say the the majority of the State Committee continue to support Frank MacKay. The State Committee will decide whom to support for Senate at a meeting before June 6th, although only 25% of the vote is required for a candidate to appear on the ballot in a party primary. Jack Essenberg has stated that he will support whomever the State Committee selects3, implying that there will be a convention.

1"Morano Vision", SICTV, April 8, 2000
2New York Law Journal, April 27, 2000
3"Morano Vision", SICTV, April 8, 2000


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