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“Mike Parietti runs for elected office on his principles of good government and anti-corruption. He’s made his case to voters six times since 2007, falling short at the polls each time.
Now, the West Point graduate and former Suffern High School wrestling champion eyes Congress, running on a minor party line for the seat of retiring Nita Lowey representing Rockland and portions of Westchester County in the 17th Congressional District.
Parietti doesn’t have illusions of being the favorite to win the seat as he takes on progressive Democrat Mondaire Jones, a former Obama administration attorney raised in Spring Valley, and Republican Maureen McArdle-Schulman, a retired New York City firefighter. Parietti’s name will be found on the Serve America Movement SAM line on the lower end of the Nov. 3 ballot.
Despite the long odds, Parietti said he believes he can become a moderate voice in Congress, which he contends is polarized and dysfunctional by left and right partisanship rather than working for the people.
He said he opposes the big money that fuels political campaigns and won’t take donations from special interests or people who live outside the congressional district.
“I am really concerned about the corruption on the local level and dysfunction in the federal government,” Parietti said. “We need someone in Congress well-versed on local issues. If I win we can establish a beachhead of moderation and inspire other people of moderate, less partisan views.”
Much of Parietti’s platform stems from his experiences and political battles in Ramapo, focusing on the power of the Hasidic Jewish community voting bloc, which determines elections in Ramapo and potentially across the county.
His vocal opposition to zoning issues and voting trends among the Orthodox communities have won him, friends and detractors.
- Overdevelopment and housing discrimination.
- Abuse of social service benefits.
- Equitable representation in local governments and school boards, and curriculum equivalency between public and private schools. Private schools seeking federal funds must certify to the U.S. Department of Education that they are teaching a curriculum that meets their respective state standards for the public schools.
- RLUIPA: Revamp or rescind the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. RLUIPA, he says, creates a power imbalance between religious congregations and ethnically diverse neighborhoods.
- Campaign Finance Reform, including opposition to the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United that empowered big money self-serving special interests over the public.
- Health care: A government-sponsored public option that would compete with private health insurance plans.
Parietti said he cut his teeth on Ramapo politics in 2003 when residents attempted to establish a ward system of election districts for representatives on the Town Board, to dilute the bloc vote.
He had been working in the pharmaceutical industry in Pennsylvania, returning to his parents’ house on weekends. His father told him about a petition drive for a ward voting system. He grew up in Ramapo.
“I figured I would carry petitions, have a vote and I’d move on,” Parietti said, laughing at what started his political odyssey. “I found it exciting. In the end, I was naive to the political corruption on the local level. We put the petitions in and got no response for a couple of months before the town threw them out.”
The delays and rejection of a public vote “really struck a chord deep inside of me,” he said.
The experience kicked off a bitter and contentious relationship with the town hierarchy, especially then-Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence. More than a decade later, Parietti and others would celebrate St. Lawrence being convicted of federal charges involving wire fraud and borrowing money involving the financing of the baseball stadium and sentenced to 30 months in prison.
The town’s response emboldened Parietti to change the system by winning office or helping residents of like mind get elected. He’s run as a Democrat, Republican, and on the Preserve Ramapo line.
In 2012, voters backed a ward system and adding a sixth Town Board member but write-in ballots of non-registered voters provided the margin of defeat. Parietti and fellow activist Bob Romanowski went to state court and contended the town quietly allowed non-registered voters to cast ballots, which is allowed in special elections. Parietti and Romanowski argued the case on appeal but after two years they lost.
Parietti became one of the original organizers in 2003 of Preserve Ramapo, a grassroots group that garnered a reputation for being anti-Hasidim, and then the Preserve Ramapo Independent Party line in 2005 and Preserve Rockland movement in 2015.
Michael Castelluccio of Preserve Ramapo said Parietti, a friend and co-activist for two decades, has worked on behalf of homeowners and schools against special interests and corruption in local politics.
He said Parietti is “neither a machine politician nor someone seeking office for his own advancement.”
Parietti “is one of the most principled and steadfast persons that I have ever known. He has an analytical mind and the tenacity to get things done,” Casteluccio said.
Romanowski said he and Parietti were drawn together by their fight against Town Hall and a desire for a ward voting system.
“Mike is not controlled by special interests,” Romanowski said. “He is an independent thinker and a tireless worker that is dedicated to the cause of fair and open government for all.”
Parietti said he’s trying to stand up for what he believes in his sense of duty, cobbled from being a platoon leader and executive officer in the 10th Mountain Division. A qualified airborne ranger, he retired as a captain after more than five years of active duty.
Parietti has a biotechnology degree from Penn State University and has been a Rockland County Planning Board member for six years. He is a caregiver for his mother.
“In Ramapo, I’ve run against long odds,” he said. “I never thought I had a great chance of winning. I am not a political soldier of fortune tilting at windmills. Maybe it’s my West Point attitude or being a wrestler, but this situation in Ramapo came to me. I didn’t seek it out.”
Read the complete Journal News article here.