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Oct 7, 2009 1:21 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Thiele leaves Republicans, joins Independence Party

Oct 7, 2009 1:21 PM

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor officially left the Republican Party last week and has enrolled as a member of the New York State Independence Party.

In a statement issued Thursday, October 1, Mr. Thiele said the change of party does not reflect a change in his core political beliefs. Instead, he said, it is a confirmation of them.

“I remain motivated by the same desire that caused me to run for public office more than two decades ago. The values instilled in me still inspire me to serve my community and region,” the assemblyman is quoted as saying in a press release he issued. “I am the same fiercely independent voice that puts the public good over partisan party politics.”

The change comes after months of speculation that Mr. Thiele was planning to leave the Republican Party. He had long been at odds with many Republican leaders over the future of the party and in June he endorsed Southampton Town supervisor candidate Anna Throne-Holst, a Democratic Party nominee, and he became one of only five Republicans in the Assembly to back a bill that would allow gay couples to marry.

In July, Mr. Thiele confirmed that he was seriously considering joining the Democratic Party, but held off on making a final decision.

“I am really an Independent by voting record and philosophy, especially in Albany. Neither major party is responding to our needs,” he said in an e-mail last week. “I was 127 out of 150 voting with [Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, a Democrat] ... the Assembly Republican leader voted with the Speaker more than I did in 2009.”

Mr. Thiele has been a member of the Assembly since 1996. Before that he was the Southampton Town attorney from 1982 to 1987 and town supervisor from 1988 to 1995.

“Why enroll as an Independent now? It is my belief that the State Independence Party represents the best chance to fight for the changes and reforms that I think average New Yorkers long to see from their state government,” Mr. Thiele said in his statement. “State government has become an embarrassment. Voters are fed up. The time is ripe for real reform.

“In the State Assembly, the Republican Party could have been that voice for change. However, the number of Republican Assembly members has dwindled from 58 to 40 in little more than a decade. Every month registered voters are abandoning the Republican Party in droves. Why? The Republican Party in the Assembly no longer speaks to the pocketbook issues everyday people care about.”

The assemblyman went on to say that his decision would allow him to continue to be an independent voice in the state government “without fear of being called disloyal by party leaders.”

In making the party switch, Mr. Thiele joins 13 other public officials in Suffolk County, and just one other member of the State Assembly, Tim Gordon of the Albany area, as a member of the Independence Party. There are no Independence Party members in the State Senate.

His move comes just months after Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who had also been a Republican, received cross-endorsements from both Democrats and Republicans. He joined the Independence Party in 2008. Mr. Schneiderman is now running unopposed.

Frank MacKay, who is one of the party’s founders and who serves as the chairman of both the Suffolk County and New York State Independence parties, said that he believed the possibility of similar cross-endorsements wasn’t critical to Mr. Thiele’s decision.

“I don’t know that that even played into Fred’s thinking,” he said. “He’s always been an independent. He was an Independent on the Southampton ticket for town supervisor, even before we were a party.”

Mr. MacKay said that he met several weeks ago with Mr. Thiele and another party member, Gary Melius, at a power lunch at Mr. Melius’s Oheka Castle hotel and estate in Huntington.

“We stay in touch in general,” he said of his relationship with Mr. Thiele. “I’m not sure who reached out to who, but it was great. It’s very exciting for us.”

The Independence Party was formed in Suffolk County in 1995 and Mr. MacKay said that the county party, with 412,000 members, is the largest in his organization. He said that the party has delegates in all 50 states and has active organizations in 12 states.

“We would like to develop a third major party in the country, which will take no stand on social issues and give a vehicle to presidential and vice presidential candidates who will be allowed to speak directly to the American public without party bosses interfering,” he said. “Fred’s never been the type to be swayed by special interests.”

East Hampton Independence Party Chair Elaine Jones was equally thrilled by Mr. Thiele’s decision.

“I’m very happy, that’s all I can say,” she said as she watched Mr. Thiele endorse a group of Republican candidates running for East Hampton Town Board on Monday afternoon. “They just got endorsed by an independent. ... People vote for people. They don’t care about major parties any more, on the local level especially.

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Hoping to avoid losing his seat in the anti-republican backlash that is sweeping the country ...
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 2, 09 11:32 AM
Who is Fred Thiele kidding!? I am sure this switch is made solely to further his political career in some way and iis related to his own personal agenda.
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Oct 2, 09 11:35 AM
1 member liked this comment
I can't blame him. As badly as the Democratic party has performed nationally, no one wants to be identified as a Republican! HAH!
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Oct 2, 09 11:40 AM
Looks like a two-way street here, Fred Thiele coming in to the Independence Party, and Alex Gregor going out, at least as Southampton chairman. A casual observer might call this a net gain for the party, considering Fred's wattage, but it's puzzling -- why would Fred Thiele join a party that has just repudiated its local leadership in a back-room deal that was unusually cynical, even for politicians?

Here's what went down: Gregor was Independence chair, running for Southampton Highway ...more
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on Oct 2, 09 11:45 AM
2 members liked this comment
Ah, democracy in action.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 2, 09 11:51 AM
Look there is one absolute when it comes to Thiele -- Thiele is Always for Thiele, plain and simple. This nonsense he has perpetrated for all his political life that he is "independent" is cow dung. There is nothing magical or special about this guy. He is an insecure, judgmental and antagonistic person. Ask those who dare to question his votes (like the one undermining the sanctity of marriage), his actions (bad-mouthing Behan), his public stances and they will tell you of letters and phone calls ...more
By JimmyKBond (156), Hampton Bays on Oct 2, 09 4:12 PM
what a joke! make a deal Thiele
By farmlocal (83), Southampton on Oct 2, 09 3:00 PM
Fidelis -- Greggor is far from a stand up guy, do your research!
By farmlocal (83), Southampton on Oct 2, 09 3:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
Nah... it is none of the above. People aren't remembering their political history. Fred Thiele started the Southampton Party and won with it. Fred has always been sympathetic to third parties. Jay Schneiderman beat Supervisor Kathy Lester as a Green Party candidate with Republican backing. Frank MacKay, the Independent Party leader is as bright a powerful leader as the Democratic Party's Rich Schaefer. This is not a surprising move. Frank offered a better deal. Rick lost Fred.
By Scratch (26), Sag Harbor on Oct 2, 09 4:07 PM
The Muppet has landed.
By Uncle Fester (61), Southampton on Oct 2, 09 5:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
Who cares?
By HB90 (164), southampton on Oct 2, 09 11:32 PM
Hopefully now the pettism i Albany can stop and we can start getting are fair share of appropriations. Brookhaven gets way more federal and state dollars. We need money for our roads and someone with political will to get it.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Oct 3, 09 7:01 AM
Question to fidelis -- is it true Alex Greggor got fired from the town cause he never showed up to work...
By farmlocal (83), Southampton on Oct 3, 09 10:08 AM
Answer: No, that's a total fabrication, and those who employ the dishonest tactic of asking the question in order to spread the myth are part of the problem.
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on Oct 4, 09 9:42 AM
For you to term the charge "a total fabrication," Fidelis, is more dishonest than the way you are suggesting that the original question way posed.

Alex Gregor's poor work ethic (I'm being polite here) with the Highway Department is a matter of record, and far from "the myth" you are attempting to portray it as.

Look, Mr. Gregor is a very personable fellow, but look at his track record -- and better yet, talk to anyone who was on the Highway job at the same (short) time he was. ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Oct 4, 09 11:59 AM
You clearly have something personal against the entire Gregor family so why don't you run against him?
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Oct 4, 09 5:30 PM
Mr. Frank Wheeler, you're wrong. You call Alex Gregor's alleged misconduct "a matter of record". Any record that exists will show a proven, documented respiratory illness at the core of the matter. Also contrary to what you say, other knowledgable Highway Department personnel will confirm that For you to try to transform this into a case of unjustified absence is character assassination.
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on Oct 7, 09 4:00 PM
Question for Anna Throne Holst - is this somehow related to all those sitings of you and Fred Thiele being uncharacteristically close for opposing party pols?
By foxnfowl (17), Southampton on Oct 3, 09 11:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
ATH was also behind George Guldi's demise and Southampton's budget crisis as well as the UN oil for for food scandal and 9/11.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 3, 09 12:09 PM
foxnfowl this is a question that have been on more than a few minds. Hard to know rumor from fact but one has to wonder.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Oct 8, 09 10:35 PM
One theory is Fred is interested in Congress. Can he win as an Independence Party member? Quickest shot Fred has to run is as an Independence party candidate. He would not get the Republican nod because he is not well liked in Brookhaven, which controls the nomination. And who knows when Bishop will pack it in. Can Fred steal enough Southampton votes from Bishop, win big in East hampton, Riverhead and Southold, then get what he needs in eastern Brookhaven to pull it out? Maybe.
By truthinbonac (46), Amagansett on Oct 3, 09 12:11 PM
Without Brookhaven, Thiele is toast in any future run for Congress. Bishop is a lock for as long as he remains in office. Freddy, ironically, by switching parties ensured he will never succeed Lavalle in the Senate.
By JimmyKBond (156), Hampton Bays on Oct 3, 09 5:32 PM
Nice going, Fred...so did I! The Independent Party will be the answer to the partisan BS that both the republicans and Democrats can't let go of.
By michael daly (12), Sag Harbor on Oct 3, 09 12:16 PM
This is a cowardly lion baby step toward an eventual switch to the democratic party. He continues to sit on the fence and read polls to decide what he is and what he stands for. Votesmart.org has a "political courage test" revealing that make a deal thiele:
1) does not support fnancial punishment for those who knowingly employ illegal immigrants.
2) now supports same sex marriage even though he voted against it less than two years ago.
3) his rating by the NY Civil Liberties Union ...more
By SamIAm (36), hampton bays on Oct 3, 09 12:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
Good. Speaking as a democrat, we'll welcome anyone who fits the description you've laid out.
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Oct 3, 09 1:49 PM
Thank you for openly articulating exactly what the local Democrats are all about, fcmcmann. You've got George Guldi and his many indictments, "No-Show" Alex Gregor who'll run for any public office he can get enough signatures for (better he had some actual experience to qualify for one of those jobs), and what looks to be the entire East Hampton Town Democratic apparat.

Are these really the people you embrace? Do you really mean "anyone?"

I remember a time no so long ago when -- ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Oct 4, 09 12:13 PM
Mr. Wheeler, it is clear you troll these boards looking to knock the democratic party. I agree with fcmcmann. The FOUR POINTS specifically noted that she was responding to were: 1) is for immigration reform 2) supports same sex marriage 3) NY civil liberties union likes him 4) supports term limits. What does any of that have to do with your rant? How many democrats do you know that are supporting Guldi?
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Oct 4, 09 5:27 PM
Frankie -- where are you getting this stuff? Guldi is a private citizen and no elected Democrat at the time of his alleged malfeasance; Gregor -- aside from unsubstantiated "blogger" dillusions, the same and the EH Democrats -- why not throw in the kitchen sink in your crazy, illogical indictment of Democrats (writing as you are as a partisan Republican).

Next you'll say the likes of US Senator John Ensign (R-NV), Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), ex-Rep Mark Foley (R-FL) are stellar examples of ...more
By JimmyKBond (156), Hampton Bays on Oct 5, 09 1:57 PM
Right on!
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Oct 6, 09 5:09 PM
How can anything be "clear" to a fuzzy-headed Liberal, P1st? You are almost as one-note as a Conservative talk radio host!

And in answer to your question, while I don't know many if any of them, less than a month ago at least 163 registered Democrats supported George Guldi!

But then a whole slew of regsitered Democrats supported Mario Biaggi's run to regain his Congressional seat after he got out of jail.

Seems to be a "Democratic thing."

"Troll" indeed!

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Oct 11, 09 1:11 AM
Frankie -- you don't really want to go down that road now do you? No party has a lock on ethics ... we could play political ping pong all day long on the many "bad apples" on both sides who brought shame to themselves and the party who backed them for office ... Look how many people elected Linda Kabot for example ...
By JimmyKBond (156), Hampton Bays on Oct 11, 09 4:03 PM
Linda Kabot has been convicted in no court save that of public opionion, it seems, so your using her as an example is both inappropriate here, and a pretty fair indication that your are sitting on that particular court.

And admittedly, she weakened her own case by refusing her roadside DWI exam. The law, however, makes a provision for that decision, and that's why the woman will be hoofing it for the next 11 months.

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Oct 11, 09 5:50 PM
fcmcmann: Are you saying Anna Throne Holst supports illegal immigration because she is a democrat? or because she was born and raised in Sweden?
By SamIAm (36), hampton bays on Oct 3, 09 2:51 PM
Oct 2, 09 11:32 AM
Noah way "Hoping to avoid losing his seat in the anti-republican backlash that is sweeping the country "

I don't think so, many of us vote for him as a person not because of his party!!!!!
By Bel (86), southampton on Oct 3, 09 6:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
Good for him -- any one who merely votes the party vs. the person, in my opinion, is too dogmatic to make practical, reasonable, equitable choices because the "choice" will always be determined by a party's agenda vs. what that individual really believes . . . you can vote for the person for what they say, or what they do - and only hope that they say what they mean and do what they say. Fred has my vote.
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Oct 4, 09 12:37 AM
2 members liked this comment
Your headline is disturbingly innaccurate. Fred is not an "Independent," which most people assume means no affiliation. He is a member of the "Independence Party." The Independence Party has made a living off the confusion between Independence Party and Independents. Don't help them maintain the intentional deception.
By noted (8), quogue on Oct 5, 09 3:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
Perhaps the beginning of change?
It’s just a thought but the Know Nothings joined and became the American Party, while attracting many members of the Whig Party, which turned into today’s Republican Party.
The Anti- Federalist Party Became the Democratic- Republican Party. Once the Federalist Party disbanded, during the election of 1912 with Andrew Jackson, the party divided into two…republicans and democrats.
Now it looks like neither party...Clearly understands…the importance of change ...more
By freesia (1), Mattituck on Oct 6, 09 12:51 AM
Thank you freesia - well said!
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Oct 6, 09 11:13 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By foxnfowl (17), Southampton on Oct 8, 09 5:03 PM
Fred Theile is one of the reasons the Republican Party has fallen on hard times . I believe Fred has always been an opportunist... if the Democratic Party was the party to belong to in 1996, he would have run for office under their banner. The voters can no longer tell the difference between the two major parties it's elected officials like Fred Theile who have always put themselves before their respective party platforms and principles. What principles will he now subscribe to as an idependent ...more
By blue duck (8), southold on Oct 8, 09 6:35 PM
Even staunch Republicans can't stand themselves anymore.....lmao.
By MaryMac (43), Riverhead on Oct 9, 09 10:39 AM
Fred and "staunch" Republican in the same sentence?
By Terry (380), Southampton on Oct 12, 09 6:46 PM