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Political infighting nothing new

John Conway
Posted 9/22/23

It was late September in 1965, and the Sullivan County Democratic Committee was in complete disarray.

As the party prepared for its reorganizational meeting at the Hotel Lenape in Liberty on …

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Political infighting nothing new


It was late September in 1965, and the Sullivan County Democratic Committee was in complete disarray.

As the party prepared for its reorganizational meeting at the Hotel Lenape in Liberty on September 30 that year, there were multiple power struggles underway, and they all played out in the local press.

For one thing, just two days before the reorganization meeting, the party’s longtime associate county chair, Ida “Skippy” Frankel of Liberty abruptly resigned, and took a major swipe at the party leadership in doing so.

“A feud of longstanding in the top echelon of the Democratic Party finally spilled over and erupted in full fury this week when Ida “Skippy” Frankel of Liberty, for eight years associate chairman of the Sullivan County Democratic committee, resigned from that position two days before the county committee was scheduled to meet to reorganize,” the Liberty Register reported on the front page of its September 30, 1965 edition.  

“In her statement, she made it clear that she was resigning at this time, as she put it, ‘because I have waited, perhaps far too long, to see some of the obvious wrongs righted, and because I want this week’s county committee meet to be completely free of any obligation to elect me as associate chairman, a position I cannot, in fairness to myself and to the party, fill as matters now stand, with no effort of any kind to make our party an instrument for good government,’” the Register article continued.

But Frankel’s resignation was just the tip of the iceberg. County Highway Superintendent John J.J. McGough of Barryville was mounting a serious challenge for the party chairmanship, aggressively denouncing the leadership of Francis “Stretch” Hanofee of White Sulphur Springs in a series of statements calling for a change.

In what was its typical editorial approach at the time, the Register reported on the battle between the two men in a seemingly objective manner, but left little doubt that it favored McGough, whom the paper described as “one of the most popular public personalities in the county, whose friends are legion regardless of political affiliation.”

“Although he has been a lifelong Democrat, McGough is one of those individuals known for his discretion, not inclined to become engaged in controversy, with hosts of friends and no enemies,” the paper continued.

In announcing his challenge, McGough said he had been asked by several “loyal Democrats” to seek the chairmanship in the interest of party unity, and in order to “revitalize it and restore it to its former high estate in this county.”

Another, separate, groundswell of opposition to Hanofee came from the town of Fallsburg, where party officials felt they had been ignored and ostracized by the county chairman in every undertaking, apparently as punishment for a challenge to his leadership four years earlier by Fallsburg town chair Milton Levine, a challenge Hanofee was able to withstand only by the narrowest of margins. Fully 25 percent of the Democrats in Sullivan County at that time were registered in Fallsburg, and town officials felt they were entitled to a fairer representation when appointments were made on the county level.

In addition to voicing their unhappiness in the press, the Fallsburg committee went even further, as Woodridge attorney Monroe Davis, chairman of the town executive committee, announced that he had filed a lawsuit in an attempt to force the county chairman to provide Fallsburg with adequate representation.

Hanofee, for his part, did not stand idly by while McGough and his allies launched their attacks. In an exclusive report by WVOS radio newsman Bill Lang, identified by the Register as Hanofee’s personal public relations man, the chairman was quoted as claiming that it was a readily accepted fact among those in the know that McGough was simply a straw man, and fully intended to turn the county chairmanship over to someone else once he was elected. Lang—or Hanofee-- did not name the “someone else.”

McGough supporters were incensed at Hanofee’s accusation, and McGough himself called the chairman’s assertion about his intentions, “childish.”

In the end, despite all of the dissension and uproar, Hanofee was able to hold on to his post as county chair in one of the longest reorganization meetings on record. With nearly all of the 104 county committee members voting, Hanofee came out on top by a 62-40 margin over McGough. Davis, who had also declared his candidacy for chairman, and spoke forcefully and eloquently in the early stages of the meeting about his own vision and ability to carry it out, eventually dropped out just before the final vote was taken.

Sullivan County Republicans, meanwhile, who had been expected to produce their own fireworks as longtime county chairman Harold “Hud” Cole of Hurleyville had been under attack from Monticello Mayor Luis deHoyos II and his followers, had a fairly quiet reorganization in which Cole was easily returned to power.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian and a founder and president of The Delaware Company. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com.  


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