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Jun 30, 2009 7:09 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Fred Thiele considers a party switch

Jun 30, 2009 7:09 PM

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., a long-time Republican, said this week that he is seriously considering jumping to the Democratic Party, although he stressed that he does not plan to make a formal decision until after the holiday weekend.

Mr. Thiele briefly confirmed rumors that surfaced on a daily news blog regarding his discussions with State Assembly leaders over a party shift in an e-mail to The East Hampton Press this week.

“Rumors that I am considering a change to my party registration are true. I have had several discussions with both prominent Democrats and Republicans at home and in Albany,” he said in the note.

“It is no secret that I have been at odds with some Republican leaders about the future direction of the party. It is my plan to use the holiday weekend to consider my political future,” he added.

The assemblyman’s plans did not come as a surprise to many political leaders in East Hampton, though what this means for Mr. Thiele’s endorsement of East Hampton Town Board candidates this year remains to be seen.

Mr. Thiele last month endorsed Democratic Southampton Town Supervisor candidate Anna Throne-Holst, and he came under fire from Brookhaven Republicans last year because of his willingness to participate in a forum with a Democratic member of the Suffolk County Legislature. Brookhaven Republicans refused to carry Mr. Thiele’s petitions in 2008 because of that decision. Also, Mr. Thiele last month became one of only five Republicans in the Assembly to back a bill that would allow gay couples to marry.

East Hampton Republican Party chairman John Behan said Tuesday that many of his acquaintances saw Mr. Thiele’s gay marriage vote as the first sign that the assemblyman might be considering a party switch. He said that he believes Mr. Thiele has also become disaffected with the GOP leadership in Albany, where he may not have been given a committee appointment that he’d hoped for in a government body that is comprised of 150 Democrats and just 41 Republicans.

“I don’t think Fred’s fight is with me or the East Hampton Republicans,” he said. “I think Fred’s having trouble with Republicans in Albany. It’s been the lowest minority in a long, long time. I think you can only spend so much time in the Assembly before it’s time to move on, move out and move up. I was there 18 years and the first chance I got, I took a job with the governor and that’s how Fred got the job. He wouldn’t be there except for me.”

Mr. Behan said that he was not bitter about Mr. Thiele’s potential move.

“He’s run as an independent for Southampton Town supervisor. I didn’t hold that against him then and I don’t now. I just don’t want him to be endorsing Democratic candidates for Town Board. That’s not fair.”

Mr. Thiele was the Southampton Town attorney from 1982 to 1987. He served as Southampton Town supervisor from 1988 to 1995 and has been a member of the Assembly since 1996.

East Hampton Democratic Party chairman Bill Taylor said that he would be happy to welcome Mr. Thiele to the Democratic Party.

“Fred’s ideas about the environment and things in general have always been more Democratic than Republican,” he said. “I always thought Fred was waiting in line until Ken LaValle retired or went on to become a judge. Why would anybody want to be a state senator? The Assembly is so lopsided toward the Democrats and he’s been there for quite a while. Maybe he’ll get a better committee assignment. I’ve always considered him a free agent, and Republicans don’t like that as much as Democrats.”

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who last summer switched from the Republican to the Independence party line, said he wasn’t surprised by Mr. Thiele’s interest in making a switch

“Fred’s been frustrated. I’m sure his support for Anna [Throne-Holst] is making it hard for him in Southampton as well. Fred is an extremely talented public servant. His record is outstanding. He’s the person most of us go to when we need to figure things out. He’s been a mentor for a lot of people at different levels. Fred’s’ his own person. His involvement on record has made the Republican Party proud.”

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Do it Fred. Do it now! Before the clown mask last forever!
By ride the truth wave (125), southampton on Jun 30, 09 6:32 PM
Oh, here we go again...Let;s make a deal Thiele is at it again. One doesn't have to look very far back in his career to see that this is nothing new. He has a history of sticking it to his loyal "friends and supporters"...just ask John Behan! La di da. I don't even wish Fred on the Democrats.
By nauti lady (25), Sag Harbor on Jun 30, 09 8:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
There's no room for Fred in the Democratic Party-we already have many qualified people more deserving of our support. Ask Mike Forbes about changing parties.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jun 30, 09 8:34 PM
OMFG ... Mr. Two-face has never, ever acted like a republican. I say good riddens! But to the Republicans please do not let this horses butt flip-flop again, let this be the last time. At least the Albany politicians are smart enough to see Fred for what he is. The locals glorify him, but he only cares about getting re-elected...it's never been about the people, it's about him.
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Jul 1, 09 1:18 AM
How nice!! This is simply the last hurdle to clear before Fred finally marries Rich Schaefer, the head of the County Dem Party. They have been in bed together for years.

Anything to get re-elected! Glad to see you finally came out of the closet Freddie!
By G (342), Southampton on Jul 1, 09 6:51 AM
Fred was a RINO anyway. He's just going to his ideological home. The forbes analogy won't hold unless Fred opts to run for a higher office.
By number19 (111), Westhampton on Jul 1, 09 7:52 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By poedineh (3), Village of E Hampton on Jul 1, 09 2:05 PM
Well Fred -I think you made a wise decision...you had been leaning left for awhile now...at least your honest with this. Good luck.
(Now I have some ideas for some excellent candidates for his position that will win...I'll be noteing in the papers in the future....This has made my day!)
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Jul 1, 09 6:38 PM
good news! clean 'em up and move 'em out....time for real leadership. this is nothing more than bandwagon politics...he's in for a rude awakening come 2010.
By hamptons surfer (79), southampton on Jul 2, 09 7:14 AM
In response to the few rude and inaccurate comments made above- it seems as if Fred, holding true to his ideology like a GOOD person should, has ruffled a few feathers in the lockstep set. HMMMMM..... Protesting too much maybe???

Look, the bottom line is that Fred is a great man who really does care about his constituents, the East End, and what is fair and compassionate. Anyone who knows him knows this. The naysayers just look bitter and shriveled....we are LUCKY to be getting Fred.

By eastendlocal (28), southampton on Jul 2, 09 8:31 AM
There are a lot of good men and women that are eager to run for the up coming elections...our town and villages as well need honest, caring, and willing to stand up for ideals and the laws of this country...Pandering to special interests is no longer a option for election! Therefore, Fred has made a decision and I wish him well...he has done a good job in the past, but I can not say I'm sorry he plans on changeing parties...he has chosen to play politics and go left. It's as simple as that.
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Jul 2, 09 1:57 PM
This is the least surprising "announcement" of the Summer -- Thiele coming out of the RINO closet!

He was a Republican more as a political convenience because of the registrations. When it suited him in the early 90s, he joined Doug Penny to run for the Town Board as an independent.

But, it doesn't matter... he could run on the Socialist Labor line and win. The Town GOP is in a shambles, the Democrats are on an upswing -- just know that Thiele is no one to find yourself in a lifeboat ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jul 2, 09 2:41 PM
Oh yea- well I'd be in a lifeboat with him anytime. Fred cares about issues first, party politics very second.
By eastendlocal (28), southampton on Jul 2, 09 4:02 PM
He has played this game before and won.
By BeachGal (72), Hampton Bays on Jul 4, 09 8:30 AM
Mark Twain said the following:

"In the beginning of change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot."

July 4, 2009
By SamIAm (36), hampton bays on Jul 4, 09 6:37 PM
What does not make sense is that Fred would be joining the party and caucus run by the very same people he says don't care about what happens to Long Island and the East End, namely the New York City Democrats who control the Assembly and have done nothing for us. If Fred thinks joining their ranks will put him in a position to bring something home for the East End he is either niave or stupid. Silver is a snake in the grass and Fred getting into the weeds with him will do nothing for us.

Thanks ...more
By truthinbonac (46), Amagansett on Jul 4, 09 9:02 PM
I just heard this morning that the same person running Zwirn's Dem campaign for Supervisor, who ran McGintee's ealrly campaigns, and who works for Thiele, is also running Bill Gardiner's Republican primary in East Hampton. How can you take pay from the Democrat Supervisor campaign, get paid by the Republican running a Republican primary, and be a long time consultant to the guy who is thinking about switching to Democrat. Something seems real fishy here. Would could speculate this:

Thiele ...more
By truthinbonac (46), Amagansett on Jul 5, 09 10:54 AM
Well, it looks like Fred has had enough of the Republican Machine. I bet you will get more signatures in Brookhave than you did last time around. Good Luck to you Fred, you have always been there for the South Fork.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Jul 5, 09 11:03 PM
In 2001 Republican John Behan (a Former Democrat Committeeman) along with Republican Fred Thiele (still a Republican) endorsed Republican Bill McGintee (now a Democrat) for Supervisor running on the East Hampton Party line against Former Democrat Jay Schneiderman but then registered with the Green Party and running on the Republican line both against David Gruber running on the Democrat line and using the same consultant former Registered Blank but now Republican Candidate Wilkinson is using in ...more
By veritas (7), East Hampton on Jul 6, 09 11:09 PM
To Veritas:

-- Behan in 2003 said he made a mistake in supporting McGintee (before McGintee even took office - can't remember Thiele saying it was a mistake)

-- Schneiderman, the Republican supervisor, used the same consultant that Wilkinson the Republican supervisor candidate is now using (no big surprise and what you would expect since Schneiderman has endorsed Wilkinson)

-- Wilkinson was a blank? Interesting because that would indicate Wilkinson is probably a more ...more
By truthinbonac (46), Amagansett on Jul 7, 09 7:50 PM