Suffolk County Democratic Committee chairman Rich Schaffer recently celebrated two decades of service in 2020.
During his time as chairman, he has seen over 275 candidates elected and more than 550 elections won overall. Under his leadership, sheriff Errol Toulon became the first countywide non-judicial African-American elected official; presiding officer DuWayne Gregory became the first African-American to serve as presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature; presiding officer Bill Lindsay II served a record eight terms as presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature; and Legis. Al Krupski was elected, giving Democrats a historic supermajority in the legislature.
Schaffer, 57, also served in the legislature himself, elected in 1987, 1989 and 1991. He resigned and then became the supervisor of the Town of Babylon in 1992, where he served until 2001. When the position became vacant once again in 2011, he was unanimously appointed. He continues as the supervisor today.
He graduated from North Babylon High School in 1981, attended SUNY Albany earning a B.A. in political science, and then attended Brooklyn Law School and passed the New York State Bar Examination in 1992.
“It’s no surprise that the members of our organization have consistently and continuously supported Rich Schaffer to be our leader for the past 20 years,” wrote the SCDC staff regarding Schaffer celebrating his 20th year as chairman. “His common-sense approach and down-to-earth style are uncommon in the political world. Not only is he the masterful political strategist that the world knows him as, but he is also an incredibly kind, wise, and all-around decent person who, through his own example, inspires us each day to do our very best to work together to realize his vision of a better Suffolk County. Working alongside chairman Schaffer to elect Democrats up and down the ballot is truly an honor, and we look forward to the continued victories to come under his tireless leadership.”
The LONG ISLAND ADVANCE spoke with Schaffer about his accomplishments over the past 20 years.
LIA: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
RS: I am very proud of the diverse group of candidates, including the first African-American presiding officer in the county's history, the first African-American non-judicial countywide elected official [sheriff Toulon] that our party has helped elect over the past 20 years. I am excited by the advances we have made in technology use for grassroots campaigning as well as modernizing our fundraising efforts for our party and candidates. We have held the majority on the Suffolk County Legislature since 2005, which has allowed our legislators to advance many laws and initiatives to protect our quality of life in Suffolk County.
LIA: Could you have ever imagined reaching 20 years when you first started as chairman?
RS: I never thought I would still be serving in this position, although I have only reached half of the time period that my predecessor, Dominic Baranello, served as our chairman for 40 years from 1960 to 2000.
LIA: What is it about the job that you love so much?
RS: I love serving as a mentor for younger candidates as I have experience as a candidate, running in 11 elections myself. I love the thrill and strategy of the political races. I also appreciate and relish the changes that we have seen over the years, which require advance thinking to be able to tackle them.
LIA: What are your future goals and goals for the Democratic party?
RS: Continue to seek young, diverse, well-versed candidates who are funded to seek the various levels of positions in the county. Continue to use the technological advances that will help us target our base and swing/persuadable voters. Continue to recruit local committee people to help us get back to grassroots work once COVID subsides.
LIA: Anything you are looking forward to?
RS: Being able to gather once again. Have in-person meetings, fundraisers and campaigning door to door.
It has been an honor and I am grateful to our committee for having their trust and faith in me to serve as their leader. They know I will never ask them to do anything I would not do, including going door to door, collecting petitions and helping raise/donate money for candidates.