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Sunday, June 30, 2024

Charlestown voters will face a confusing municipal election ballot in November

Battle lines between the CRU and CCA blurred by tactical maneuver

By Will Collette

November 5 will be different than any Charlestown election I’ve seen since 2000 largely because of our town’s unusual politics. In most municipalities, elections are waged by Democrats and Republicans.

Even in towns where municipal office is non-partisan, you know who the D’s and R’s are because they are picked, endorsed and campaigned for by town party committees.

Not so in Charlestown. Starting in 2008 and continuing today, Charlestown has been governed by one of two Political Action Committees (PACs) that have superseded traditional political parties in town.

In 2008, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA PAC) took power when they defeated Jim Mageau, a DINO who ran the Town Council for one term and managed to alienate just about everyone in town.

The CCA initially formed for the sole purpose of taking Mageau out. That was a broadly popular idea; even I supported dumping Mageau.

But the CCA quickly broadened its agenda to include helping its friends (especially wealthy non-resident property owners) and blocking out anyone they didn’t like (especially those who failed to contribute to their campaign fund). They were flexible on many issues, willing to make 180-degree flip-flops if a suitable amount of money was contributed to their coffers.

For 8 elections, the CCA called itself a strictly nonpartisan organization, eschewing political party labels so strictly that their candidates all ran as “independents.” Nonetheless, those “independents" were bound to obey the orders issued by CCA founder and town planning commissar Ruth Platner and the secretive CCA Steering Committee.

In 2022, that changed. A pro-reform PAC, Charlestown Residents United (CRU), handed the CCA its first major defeat, crushing the CCA slate for Town Council and winning a 4-1 Council majority.

The CRU is comprised of Republicans and Democrats who are not afraid to show their political affiliation, running openly as Democrats and Republicans. They have governed as a coalition.

After their 2022 beating, the CCA quietly dumped its sacred claim of independent nonpartisanship. Instead, they turned on their cloaking device - most CCA candidates are running under a party label. Like so many of its holy principles, the CCA is more than willing to cast them aside when it's expedient.

Can’t tell the players without a scorecard

That’s why the 2024 municipal ballot will call on voters to do something they generally hate to do – pay attention to detail. At a time when 91% of Americans say they're exhausted by politics, we're asking voters to engage in some "inside baseball" analysis of the candidates for office.

The CRU and CCA candidates will be intermingled on the ballot based on a lottery assignment of slots. 

There was a narrow window of time to get the party endorsement votes and neither party got its candidates endorsed before the state election deadline. That affects ballot position with the better placements given to "officially" endorsed candidates. 

After candidates filed their declarations of candidacy at last Wednesday’s deadline, we now know the slates for the two political action committees.

The Charlestown Residents United (CRU) will field a slate of two Democrats (incumbents Deb Carney and Peter Slom) and three Republicans (incumbents Rippy Serra and Steve Stokes plus Craig Marr, a new candidate but well-known for the Breachway Grill.

The CCA PAC’s slate consists of two registered Democrats (Sarah Fletcher and Peter Keating), one Republican (Angela Jalbert) and two veteran CCA politicos running as “independents.”

We’ll have lots more to say about the two PACs’ positions, histories and slates, but let’s take a look at the two CCA PAC “independents.”

Biggest surprise of the race so far

Platner, left, and Van Slyke, right
One of the two CCA independents is Ruth Platner who is giving up her Commissar-for-Life position as head of the town Planning Commission to make a first-time run for Town Council.

She takes the place of the CCA’s only Council incumbent, Susan Cooper, who isn’t running.

Platner is one of the town’s most controversial figures and she is featured in 499 Progressive Charlestown articles (CLICK HERE to see them).

She is the architect of the CCA’s shady land deals, cover-ups, phony outside threats, pay-to-play, anti-family and anti-child policies, flip-flops and favoritism toward wealthy non-resident property owners and so much more, documented in those 499 articles.

With her on the ballot as an “independent” for Town Council is Ruth’s Flying Monkey, failed former Councilor Bonnita Van Slyke. As far as I can remember, she’s never had an independent thought in her life.