The Chief

November 19, 1999

PBA's Political Clout Is Shown on Long Island

By William Van Auken

A renewed political activism on the part of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association in the last election was felt not only in the labor campaign against the City Charter revisions and in City Council races, but also on Long Island, where many of the police union's active and retired members reside.

The PBA endorsed local candidates in both Nassau and Suffolk counties in a far-flung political campaign aimed not only at bettering conditions where their members reside, but also at influencing politics on a statewide basis.

A Beachhead in Suffolk

In Suffolk County, the union scored an upset, backing Republican challenger Andrew Crecca, a former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney, for the county's Legislature. PBA officials explained that Mr. Crecca also has family in the NYPD.

The get-out-the-vote drive among active and retired cops was directed from a phone bank organized in the home of PBA Second Vice President John Loud, a resident of Mount Sinai.

"We want to get on the map in Suffolk County," said Mr. Loud, who described the campaign as a "prototype" for other political initiatives that the PBA intends to undertake in suburban counties, where at least 40 percent of city cops reside. "In the past, our votes have just dissipated like steam outside the five boroughs, but this shows what we can do."

He estimated that the PBA has approximately 10,000 active and retired members living in Suffolk County, where the union also backed the successful re-election bid by County Executive Robert J. Gaffney, a Republican, against a challenge by the Democratic candidate, Sheriff Patrick A. Mahoney.

Battle of the Shields

One of the anomalies of the Suffolk County campaign was that the PBA's effort for Mr. Crecca ran counter to that of the Suffolk County PBA, which was backing the incumbent, Democrat William Holst.

"They apologized for doing that," said Suffolk County PBA President Jeffrey Frayler. "These things happen; they came in quick and wanted to get involved in things."

Mr. Frayler, who described Mr. Holst as "a guy who's been loyal" to the local police union, attributed the misunderstanding to the recent election at the city PBA, which brought an insurgent slate led by Patrick J. Lynch into office.

"They're all excited because everything's kind of new for them," he said. In the past, the Suffolk PBA leader said, the city police union seldom got involved in local races, concentrating whatever political energy it expended on Long Island on candidates for the State Legislature. "Next time I think we'll definitely be on the same page," he added.

Mr. Loud, who described the Suffolk County contest as "a huge win," indicated that he was not such a neophyte when it came to political campaigns. He said he had long served on the union's COPE committee, but had been kicked off it when he threw in his lot with the "Voice of the Blue Line" slate that ultimately won the PBA election.

Manhattan South Trustee John Flynn, who serves as co-chair of the PBA COPE, coordinated the union's efforts in Nassau County. Despite the hammering suffered by county Republicans in the election, 19 of the 21 Republican candidates backed by the PBA won their legislative races, Mr. Flynn said.

Asked why the union decided to flex its political muscle on Long Island, Mr. Flynn pointed to the union's desire to "improve conditions where you live as well as where you work."

He added, however, that the PBA saw an advantage in backing politicians who were beginning their careers on the local level. "A lot of them are going to move up later on and end up in Albany," he said. "If you make friends at this level, you can carry it on further up."

One PBA official suggested that the union's support for Republicans on Long Island also could give it some leverage with the Pataki Administration.

Mr. Flynn said that the PBA manned phone banks and did mailing campaigns in Nassau County, where he estimated there are about 7,000 active and retired members.

"We also gave them some bodies, some foot soldiers to stuff mailboxes," he said, noting that he had performed the chore himself on three weekends before the election.