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Gearing up for November 8

Political clubs prepare for 58th quadrennial presidential election

Created date

October 14th, 2016
Larry Katz, leader of the Conservative Club at Seabrook, spent about 35 years in politics in Staten Island, N.Y.

Larry Katz, leader of the Conservative Club at Seabrook, spent about 35 years in politics in Staten Island, N.Y.

Regardless of their political differences, one thing both the Conservative Club and Liberal/Progressive Club of Seabrook have in common is that they encourage people of all ages to vote. 

The community of about 1,800 residents is its own precinct. On-site voter registration and polling adds a higher level of convenience to living (and working) at the Tinton Falls, N.J., Erickson Living community.

Exercise your voice

“If you don’t vote, you don’t have a voice,” says Progressive Club leader Joan Leonard.

Joan has lived at Seabrook for two years and assumed leadership of the club last April. 

She assists with voter registration for her peers and neighbors, as well as the high school students who work in Seabrook’s three on-site restaurants. On-site registration and voting for every election has been a big positive for Joan, who uses a wheelchair.

“Having voting registration that I’ve been involved in, and having the on-site voting has been wonderful. I’m so grateful for having it here,” she says. 

Political activity at Seabrook has been a pleasant surprise, says Joan, who has been passionate about politics since the Rosenberg Trial during the Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower presidencies in the 1950s. 

“I remember my dad knew the Rosenbergs at the time. It was a really difficult time, and that’s when I got really interested and have been passionate ever since,” Joan says.

She’s also involved in Great Decisions, the Humanist Society, painting classes, a jazz group, and the pet club. 

“I’m very busy; it’s just been amazing. I knew there was a lot to offer, but I didn’t realize how quickly I’d get involved,” she says of life at Seabrook.

Promoting progressive ideas, candidates

The Progressive Club, which has about 25 members, aims to promote progressive ideas and legislation, as well as to encourage voting on campus. 

The club invites Democratic candidates to speak at their meetings. In April, Assemblywoman Joann Downey visited Seabrook. In September, Monmouth County Democratic candidate for New Jersey’s fourth congressional district, Lorna Phillipson, spoke to the group.

“We’re trying to get interesting people and learn what’s going on to stay informed. Maybe we’ll get someone from the Hillary faction at some point,” says Joan, adding that because Seabrook has such a large population of seniors—a constituency that typically has high voter turnout—candidates jump at the chance to visit and speak to their voters. 

Offering conservative perspectives

The Conservative Club, lead by resident Larry Katz, also promotes voter registration and voting while aiming to educate residents about Republican ideas and candidates. 

At their monthly meetings, “We discuss issues in the news pertaining to politics. A good portion is devoted to presidential politics and how people feel about different issues in the campaign,” says Larry, who spent about 35 years in politics in Staten Island, N.Y. 

In 1962, he cofounded the New York State Conservative Party, and he eventually became secretary of the Staten Island Republican Party. Continuing his political activity at Seabrook has been one of many highlights since moving there. 

“I enjoy being able to participate. Since I was active all my life in politics, I would feel a loss if I wasn’t participating in some way, and this gives me an opportunity to discuss politics. I’ve met some really wonderful people who stay abreast of the news and are very articulate,” Larry says.

Leading up to the presidential election, the club watched both national conventions. 

Prior to each meeting, which runs an hour and a half, Larry prepares an outline for discussion, which he says he typically revises a dozen times due to changing circumstances and issues in the political arena. 

“I look forward to it each month,” he says. 

The group started with eight members. Today, they boast a roster of 90. Typically, about one-third attend the monthly meetings but with the upcoming election, attendance and participation have spiked. 

“In the beginning, people were hesitant about discussions, but now people are articulate and responsive so it’s become very, very interesting,” says Larry.