When the two Village of Great Neck trustee hopefuls running with James Wu were dropped and replaced at the last moment, it prompted some letter writers to denounce the action as an unethical “bait and switch.”
This was not the first time a candidate declined to run and was replaced though, let alone in the Village of Great Neck. In fact, documents submitted to the village show, a candidate swap happened in 2015 with now-Mayor Pedram Bral’s Voice of the Village party slate.
Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar, the chair of the Voice of the Village party who managed the 2015 campaign, made copies of the documents available to the Great Neck News upon request.
The Voice of the Village party originally had Bral running for mayor with now-Trustee Anne Mendelson and Christine Campbell. But Campbell submitted a form to decline to run, and a committee tapped Ray Plakstis Jr. to run as a trustee in her place.
A vacancy committee, as was the case with Wu, also signed off on the substitution.
Bral said the difference at that time was Campbell dropped out earlier in the process and “everybody knew” about the switch in candidate.
“I think the question that I’m hearing was that this happened and immediately they had somebody the next day before they even sent in the declination,” Bral said, referring to the Wu campaign.
Wu said both William Groel and Eric Beerman, the candidates originally on his slate, initially committed to running for trustee, but that the campaign had been interviewing other possible candidates in the event Groel dropped out.
“They weren’t the only people I had considered for candidates,” Wu said.
With Groel, it became clear over time after talks with his wife that he would not be able to make the time commitment given his other responsibilities, Wu said, while it became apparent with Beerman, as his business commitments increased, that being a trustee was “completely and totally untenable.”
The campaign ultimately decided on Julia Shields, a housing specialist and longtime community activist, and Harold Citron, a private investor active in coaching and Temple Israel, to challenge incumbent Trustees Anne Mendelson and Steven Hope.
The deadline to submit a petition was Tuesday, May 14, under state election law. Nominated candidates had until May 17 to decline and May 20 was the last day to substitute a candidate.
“It’s not unethical. It’s full established in law and this is what’s done,” Wu said at the time.