September 11th, 2008
In a bid for change inspired by Barack Obama, a group called the New Kings Democrats was formed earlier this year to elect a slate of new members to the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s County Committee. Their goal was to get 50 new members on the committee, which elects county bosses, among other things.
That wasn’t a difficult task, given how many seats are vacant: Of the 6,200 county seats available in the Brooklyn Democratic Party, 3,800 were vacant before the election, according to Grassroots Initiative (fixed), which helps candidates run for these seats citywide. Of those seats occupied, 1,400 simply filled out the paperwork. There wasn’t even an election since they were the only ones running. Another 900 were appointed by the party after the election.
While the group was able to find 43 candidates to run for the vacant, uncontested seats, the results for candidates who had competition was mixed. In fact, Matt Cowherd, one of the founders of New Kings, and an attorney by trade, lost in his own race in Bushwick. His running mate also lost (voters elect one male and one female for each county seat).
In 14 contested races, the group won seven, lost four and results for the other four are still unknown, Cowherd says, based on official and unofficial results. The Brooklyn Optimist, a blogger and professor, ran on the slate, but it is unknown yet whether he won. Council candidate Esteban Duran, who is vying for Diana Reyna’s term limited seat in Bushwick, ran for county committee with New Kings and won.
Others never made it to the ballot. Out of eleven challenges to New Kings’ petitions, five lost, Cowherd says. One was Oscar Muñoz of Dyker Heights, who was originally unaffiliated with a party and didn’t change his registration in time.
In his own race, Cowherd says that the Brooklyn Democratic Party made it a point to get him and his running mate. One example is the challenge he faced to his petitions, which he says didn’t even challenge enough signatures to knock his name off the ballot if they had won. “It was like an exercise in annoyance,” says Cowherd, who is also a neighborhood organizer for Brooklyn for Barack. He also points to fliers urging constituents to vote against him which were paid for in part by Assemblymember Vito Lopez, the Brooklyn Democratic Party leader.
But Lopez, who represents Bushwick, counters that Cowherd lost because he wasn’t the best candidate. He painted the race as one between “yuppie newcomers” versus lifelong Hispanic residents. The lawmaker also points out that Cowherd had inappropriately posted literature to poles, which he says carries a $500 fine.
Campaign drama aside, Lopez says he will try to work with them. “I’m willing to work with any county committee member as long as the dialogue is pro-Brooklyn,” he assures. “But I don’t have time to deal with people who are in constant conflict.”
The New Kings, for their part, will be meeting tonight to plan what comes next.By Mike Muller on September 11, 2008, 4:03 pm
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