A dramatic four-way race ended in the Village of Hempstead’s mayor being unseated after a series of corruption investigations rocked the locality halfway through the incumbent’s first four-year term.
Waylyn Hobbs, a Democratic village trustee, unseated incumbent Mayor Don Ryan, a Republican, in a heated election on March 16. Placing third was Herberth Flores, the former deputy director of minority affairs for Nassau County running under the People’s Party for Hempstead ticket. Coming in last was Lamont Johnson, also a current trustee.
“It is an exciting day in the Village of Hempstead,” Hobbs said during a news conference announcing his victory. “We are excited about the direction that we are about to move in.”
Hobbs received 2,012 votes, Ryan 1,325, Flores 644, and Johnson 169. The race came a year after a former village trustee was sentenced last year to prison for taking bribes and several top-ranking village police commanders were also arrested.
Trustee candidates who ran alongside Hobbs on the Democratic ticket also secured spots. They are Trustee-elect Clariona Griffith, Trustee-elect Kevin D. Boone, and Village Justice-elect Brianna A. Vaughan.
Hobbs said his primary goal after he’s sworn in on April 5 is to bring accountability and transparency to the village. He also aims to rebuild the downtown area and create jobs, as well as work more closely with Hempstead School District.
“I am the mayor of every resident in the Village of Hempstead — Black, white, Hispanic, it doesn’t make a difference,” he added. “You elected me to be your mayor. I am even willing to sit down with some of the other candidates who ran who may have some good ideas to bring to the table.”
The election was not without controversy, however. Hispanic volunteers with the People’s Party for Hempstead, Flores’ party, say they experienced or witnessed voter suppression and intimidation, as well as mishandling of ballots, during the election.
Joined by Flores, they held a news conference outside of Hempstead Village Hall to condemn the behavior that they say prevented Latinos from voting on Election Day. Group leaders, including Flores, are calling on the U.S. Attorney General office’s civil rights division and FBI to conduct a thorough investigation of the day’s events at 13 polling sites in the village.
“We have so much evidence of different irregularities that happened throughout the day,” Flores said. “We cannot focus on moving our village forward toward a better future if the majority of the residents feel like their voices haven’t been heard.”
Poll watchers alleged that poll workers told many Hispanic residents that they were not registered to vote when they actually were. The People’s Party also compiled a 30-minute video of clips taken throughout the day at several of the polling sites that show disorganization while counting votes, as well as arguments between poll watchers and poll workers.
“I know it was a long day for everyone but nothing seemed consistent except for wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible and forgoing proper procedure and protocol,” said poll watcher Rick Fuentes.
Jay Jacobs, who chairs the Nassau County and New York State Democratic committees, countered that the allegations appear as valid as former President Donald Trump’s widely debunked claims of winning the 2020 presidential election.
“That must have been the mother of all suppression efforts as Flores only garnered 16 percent of the vote – less than one-third of what the winner got and half the vote of the second place vote getter,” Jacobs said. “I know how he feels. I think the College of Cardinals suppressed the vote a few years ago or I would have been Pope.”
-With Timothy Bolger