Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/special-election 2018-06-22T11:20:01+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Special Election Results for 11 State Legislative Seats 2018-04-24T16:39:38+00:00 2018-04-24T16:39:38+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7634:special-election-results-for-11-state-legislative-seats Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/shelley_mayer.jpg" alt="shelley mayer" width="600" height="524" /></p> <p>Shelley Mayer (photo: @Shelley4Senate)</p> <hr /> <p>The Democratic conference in the New York State Senate will soon be one seat shy of a majority. After special election wins Tuesday night to fill two vacant Senate seats, both previously held by Democrats, the party will soon have 31 members in the 63-seat chamber. Shelley Mayer has won in Senate District 37, in Westchester, and Luis Sepulveda has won in Senate District 32, in the Bronx. Both are currently members of the Assembly, seats they will vacate to move to the Senate.</p> <p>Democrats hold an overwhelming majority in the Assembly, and are in control of all the statewide elected seats (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General, and two United States Senators). The state Senate is Republicans' only stronghold of statewide power at this time.</p> <p>In part, the new Senate Democratic conference size is due to the recent reunification of the mainline Democratic conference and the Independent Democratic Conference, which had been eight breakaway members, led by State Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx that formed a coalition with the Senate Republican conference. That Republican conference holds 32 seats, including Brooklyn Senator Simcha Felder, elected repeatedly as a Democrat and, in 2016, on the Democratic and Republican ballot lines, who said on Tuesday that no matter the results of the special elections he would remain in the GOP conference for the rest of this year's legislative session, which runs until mid-June.</p> <p>The special election wins give Democrats a new chance to woo Felder, or at least to set the stage for winning additional seats this fall, when there will be elections for all 213 seats in the state Legislature -- 150 in the Assembly and 63 in the Senate -- including those that held special elections Tuesday. The special elections also included nine seats in the Assembly.</p> <p>The following results occurred Tuesday night across the state - projected winners, with a note if the seat has changed party hands - results will be updated:</p> <p>Senate District 32 - Bronx<br />Luis Sepulveda, Democrat</p> <p>Senate District 37 - Westchester<br />Shelley Mayer, Democrat</p> <p>Assembly District 5 - Suffolk<br />Doug Smith, Republican</p> <p>Assembly District 10 - Suffolk<br />Steve Stern, Democrat<br />(seat previously held by Republicans)</p> <p>Assembly District 17<br />TBD</p> <p>Assembly District 39 - Queens<br />Aridia Espinal, Democrat</p> <p>Assembly District 74 - Manhattan<br />Harvey Epstein, Democrat</p> <p>Assembly District 80 - Bronx<br />Nathalia Fernandez, Democrat</p> <p>Assembly District 102 - Delaware<br />Christopher Tague, Republican - not an official result</p> <p>Assembly District 107 -&nbsp;Rensselaer<br />Jacob Ashby, Republican</p> <p>Assembly District 142 - Erie<br />Erik Bohen (party TBD)</p> <p>Several of the vacancies occurred because the prior officeholder had won election to a different office, including Ruben Diaz, Sr., who had vacated his Bronx Senate seat to become a City Council member, and George Latimer, who had vacated his Westchester Senate seat to become county executive.</p> <p>Diaz Sr. and Latimer will both be replaced by sitting Assembly members who will have to vacate their seats in the lower house of the state Legislature. Diaz Sr. will be replaced by Sepulveda and Latimer will be replaced by Mayer. Intrigue over control of the Senate is unlikely to dissipate despite Felder's announcement, in part given is known openness to cutting deals and with the fall elections looming.&nbsp;</p> <p>"The Governor's position is clear: the Democrats must unify to take back the majority," said Dani Lever, a spokesperson for Gov. Cuomo, in reaction to Felder's announcement. "This conversation will continue in the morning.”</p> <p>Even if Felder were to change conferences this year, there are questions about whether Democrats can alter control of the Senate given rules that have been adopted for the two-year session ending at the end of this year. If the Democratic conference has 32 members, it still may struggle to push bills to the floor for votes. There may also be struggles to garner full 32-member support for some of controversial pieces of legislation that are not necessarily supported by Felder or current members of the Democratic conference.</p> <p>“The voters have spoken, and we again have 32 Democrats in the State Senate," said Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, in a statement Tuesday night. "I congratulate my friend and colleague, Senator-elect Shelley Mayer, on her victory and look forward to welcoming her to the Senate Chamber as soon as possible. Senator-Elect Luis Sepulveda also won a resounding victory tonight and I look forward to him continuing his public service as a State Senator. These electoral wins are part of the ‘blue wave’ sweeping our state and nation which will help even more Senate Democratic candidates win in the upcoming General Election. Now is the time for all Senators elected as Democrats to work together and achieve the functional Democratic Majority that New York voters elected this past November, and again tonight.”</p> <p>The Senate Republicans had a different reaction, as outlined by spokesperson Scott Reif in a statement:</p> <blockquote> <p>"The 37th district state Senate seat in Westchester County contains twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, and has been held by the Democrats for decades. They were supposed to win this race. Despite going up against political history and voter enrollment, our candidate ran a strong race. There are a number of Democrat held seats that present better opportunities for us in November.</p> <p>"The New York City politicians who think it will be easy to flip the State Senate and impose their radical agenda on the people of New York should take heed. Our Majority represents the checks and balances, and the real accountability that hardworking taxpayers need and deserve. Without us it’s one party rule, higher taxes, runaway spending and New Yorkers will be less safe.</p> <p>"Governor Cuomo, Bill de Blasio and others will say and do anything to hold onto or accumulate more power, and their agenda is far out of step with the priorities and values of middle class families throughout this state. We are ready for this fight and fully expect to retain our Majority in November."</p> </blockquote> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/shelley_mayer.jpg" alt="shelley mayer" width="600" height="524" /></p> <p>Shelley Mayer (photo: @Shelley4Senate)</p> <hr /> <p>The Democratic conference in the New York State Senate will soon be one seat shy of a majority. After special election wins Tuesday night to fill two vacant Senate seats, both previously held by Democrats, the party will soon have 31 members in the 63-seat chamber. Shelley Mayer has won in Senate District 37, in Westchester, and Luis Sepulveda has won in Senate District 32, in the Bronx. Both are currently members of the Assembly, seats they will vacate to move to the Senate.</p> <p>Democrats hold an overwhelming majority in the Assembly, and are in control of all the statewide elected seats (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General, and two United States Senators). The state Senate is Republicans' only stronghold of statewide power at this time.</p> <p>In part, the new Senate Democratic conference size is due to the recent reunification of the mainline Democratic conference and the Independent Democratic Conference, which had been eight breakaway members, led by State Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx that formed a coalition with the Senate Republican conference. That Republican conference holds 32 seats, including Brooklyn Senator Simcha Felder, elected repeatedly as a Democrat and, in 2016, on the Democratic and Republican ballot lines, who said on Tuesday that no matter the results of the special elections he would remain in the GOP conference for the rest of this year's legislative session, which runs until mid-June.</p> <p>The special election wins give Democrats a new chance to woo Felder, or at least to set the stage for winning additional seats this fall, when there will be elections for all 213 seats in the state Legislature -- 150 in the Assembly and 63 in the Senate -- including those that held special elections Tuesday. The special elections also included nine seats in the Assembly.</p> <p>The following results occurred Tuesday night across the state - projected winners, with a note if the seat has changed party hands - results will be updated:</p> <p>Senate District 32 - Bronx<br />Luis Sepulveda, Democrat</p> <p>Senate District 37 - Westchester<br />Shelley Mayer, Democrat</p> <p>Assembly District 5 - Suffolk<br />Doug Smith, Republican</p> <p>Assembly District 10 - Suffolk<br />Steve Stern, Democrat<br />(seat previously held by Republicans)</p> <p>Assembly District 17<br />TBD</p> <p>Assembly District 39 - Queens<br />Aridia Espinal, Democrat</p> <p>Assembly District 74 - Manhattan<br />Harvey Epstein, Democrat</p> <p>Assembly District 80 - Bronx<br />Nathalia Fernandez, Democrat</p> <p>Assembly District 102 - Delaware<br />Christopher Tague, Republican - not an official result</p> <p>Assembly District 107 -&nbsp;Rensselaer<br />Jacob Ashby, Republican</p> <p>Assembly District 142 - Erie<br />Erik Bohen (party TBD)</p> <p>Several of the vacancies occurred because the prior officeholder had won election to a different office, including Ruben Diaz, Sr., who had vacated his Bronx Senate seat to become a City Council member, and George Latimer, who had vacated his Westchester Senate seat to become county executive.</p> <p>Diaz Sr. and Latimer will both be replaced by sitting Assembly members who will have to vacate their seats in the lower house of the state Legislature. Diaz Sr. will be replaced by Sepulveda and Latimer will be replaced by Mayer. Intrigue over control of the Senate is unlikely to dissipate despite Felder's announcement, in part given is known openness to cutting deals and with the fall elections looming.&nbsp;</p> <p>"The Governor's position is clear: the Democrats must unify to take back the majority," said Dani Lever, a spokesperson for Gov. Cuomo, in reaction to Felder's announcement. "This conversation will continue in the morning.”</p> <p>Even if Felder were to change conferences this year, there are questions about whether Democrats can alter control of the Senate given rules that have been adopted for the two-year session ending at the end of this year. If the Democratic conference has 32 members, it still may struggle to push bills to the floor for votes. There may also be struggles to garner full 32-member support for some of controversial pieces of legislation that are not necessarily supported by Felder or current members of the Democratic conference.</p> <p>“The voters have spoken, and we again have 32 Democrats in the State Senate," said Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, in a statement Tuesday night. "I congratulate my friend and colleague, Senator-elect Shelley Mayer, on her victory and look forward to welcoming her to the Senate Chamber as soon as possible. Senator-Elect Luis Sepulveda also won a resounding victory tonight and I look forward to him continuing his public service as a State Senator. These electoral wins are part of the ‘blue wave’ sweeping our state and nation which will help even more Senate Democratic candidates win in the upcoming General Election. Now is the time for all Senators elected as Democrats to work together and achieve the functional Democratic Majority that New York voters elected this past November, and again tonight.”</p> <p>The Senate Republicans had a different reaction, as outlined by spokesperson Scott Reif in a statement:</p> <blockquote> <p>"The 37th district state Senate seat in Westchester County contains twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, and has been held by the Democrats for decades. They were supposed to win this race. Despite going up against political history and voter enrollment, our candidate ran a strong race. There are a number of Democrat held seats that present better opportunities for us in November.</p> <p>"The New York City politicians who think it will be easy to flip the State Senate and impose their radical agenda on the people of New York should take heed. Our Majority represents the checks and balances, and the real accountability that hardworking taxpayers need and deserve. Without us it’s one party rule, higher taxes, runaway spending and New Yorkers will be less safe.</p> <p>"Governor Cuomo, Bill de Blasio and others will say and do anything to hold onto or accumulate more power, and their agenda is far out of step with the priorities and values of middle class families throughout this state. We are ready for this fight and fully expect to retain our Majority in November."</p> </blockquote> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Cuomo Criticized for Failing to Call Special Election January 1 2018-01-02T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-02T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7399:cuomo-criticized-for-failing-to-call-special-election-january-1 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/38327452395_6411fb6775_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Flanagan Long Island" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo and John Flanagan, right (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As the legislative session kicks off this week, there are a slew of open state Senate and Assembly seats, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has not indicated when or whether he will call a special election to fill the vacancies.</p> <p>January 1 was the earliest the second-term governor could have called the election day to fill all 11 vacancies, and a growing number of critics are pressuring Cuomo to make the pronouncement as soon as possible. The election would occur 70 days after declared by Cuomo, who has not made clear if he intends to do so in time for the seats to be filled before the state budget is due, by April 1.</p> <p>On the first of this month, George Latimer officially vacated his Westchester County Senate seat to take on his new role as Westchester County Executive, which he won in the fall, and Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., of the Bronx, left his Senate seat to assume his newly won City Council position. Nine Assembly seats remain empty for a variety of reasons, including officials who have won other elected posts, like Brian Kavanagh, who moved from the Assembly to the Senate.</p> <p>If the governor calls a special election this week, 70 days would mean votes cast in the middle of March. However, Cuomo, a Democrat, has indicated that he may call the elections for a date after the budget process is concluded. Cuomo’s delay is being criticized by progressive activists and good government leaders, either because of how the Senate elections factor into majority control of the chamber, which is currently held by a narrow margin by a coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats, or because of the basic lack of representation hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are experiencing with the seats unfilled.</p> <p>The state’s $160-plus billion budget will be negotiated over the coming months by a heavily Democratic Assembly and the Senate, which has multiple party fractures and a Democratic unity deal on the table that could throw the process into disarray if the two vacant seats are filled by Democrats before April 1.</p> <p>“The governor has a responsibility to his constituents to call a special election immediately,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of good government group Common Cause NY in a statement on Tuesday. “There’s no excuse to delay.” Lerner stressed that all New Yorkers deserve their due representation in government.</p> <p>The stakes are highest for the 63-seat Senate, where Democrats are now two seats short of the 32 votes needed to pass legislation. A Democratic majority can only occur if mainline conference members are joined by the nine Democrats who caucus with Republicans, along with Democratic victories for the Latimer and Diaz, Sr. seats. Complicating the situation is a potential deal between Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/12/21/asc-unity-deal-is-cuomos-doing-for-better-or-worse-159909" target="_blank" rel="noopener">brokered by Cuomo and his allies</a>, which would reunify the Democratic conference at the end of the 2018 legislative session, provided multiple developments and guarantees.</p> <p>The vacancies have less of an impact on the 150-seat Assembly, which Democrats control handily under Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx. But leaving nine vacancies would undermine the state’s democratic budget process and leave millions of New Yorkers without representation, notes Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Group.</p> <p>According to NYPIRG’s calculation, 625,484 Senate constituents and more than 1.1 million Assembly constituents are unrepresented as the legislative session starts on Wednesday, January 3 in Albany.</p> <p>Joining the calls for a special election sooner rather than later is Kat Brezler, a public school teacher and former Bernie Sanders organizer who is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7118-progressive-activist-starts-campaign-committee-for-latimer-s-senate-seat" target="_blank" rel="noopener">seeking Latimer’s seat in the event that a special election is called</a>.</p> <p>“If you, the Governor, do not call a special election before the budget vote, you will effectively disenfranchise more than 700,000 residents in these Districts,” Brezler said in a statement. “Representation matters. The residents of District 37 deserve to have a seat at the table” during budget negotiations. “It is for this reason that a special election cannot wait,” Brezler said.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Cuomo’s office, when asked whether governor planned to call the election during the legislative session, pointed to the governor’s comments during recent press appearances, when he said he would make a decision in January.</p> <p>“There are some that want it sooner, some that want it later, there’s some who don’t,” Cuomo told reporters in December. “Some would argue politicizing the budget isn’t the best idea. It’s a decision that we have to make next year in January.”</p> <p>Bronx Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/bronx-assemblyman-run-nys-senate-article-1.3625964" target="_blank" rel="noopener">who announced</a> that he plans to run for Diaz, Sr.’s Senate seat, said in an interview with Gotham Gazette that he is confident both Senate seats will be filled by Democrats and hopes that a special election will happen in March.</p> <p>“I think one of the most pressing things in the state Legislature is to continue to push for progressive policies and progressive legislation,” said Sepulveda. “I encourage the governor to call the special election as soon as possible.”</p> <p>While the Bronx seat is virtually guaranteed to stay Democratic, the Westchester seat is less of a sure thing, though Democrats will have multiple advantages there.</p> <p>Policy changes coming out of Washington are expected to have serious implications for New York, which is facing a larger than usual budget deficit, and progressives are mounting pressure on the governor, who, like all of the Legislature, is up for reelection this year, to call the special election before budget negotiations really heat up.</p> <p>The balance of power in the state Senate will have significant influence over the final state spending plan that emerges. A number of Democratic activists insist Cuomo prefers Republican control of the Senate for as long as possible, especially during budget season, so that he can best limit state spending.</p> <p>Heastie, whose Assembly majority conference is down several members, <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/12/06/heastie-wants-a-democratic-senate-as-soon-as-possible-137436" target="_blank" rel="noopener">said in December</a> that he hopes for a Democratic majority in the Senate, but in an <a href="http://www.wcny.org/december-8-2017-assembly-speaker-carl-heastie/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">interview with WCNY’s Susan Arbetter</a> said that he would defer to the governor’s decision about the election.</p> <p>“I’ve always said, as a Democrat, I look forward to the day of a Democratic Senate. I hope they get it together as soon as possible — particularly in light of what’s happening in Washington,” Heastie told reporters during a gaggle at the Capitol in December.</p> <p>In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, wields enormous influence over how state funds are distributed. Flanagan, outlining his priorities for the coming session, struck a conciliatory note, but made clear that raising property taxes was a non-starter for addressing New York’s growing budget shortfall.</p> <p>“In Washington, Democrats and Republicans battle each other with predictable ferocity -- sometimes producing gridlock and dysfunction, and sometimes producing policies that are counterproductive for many New Yorkers. Here in New York, we’ve taken a vastly different approach,” he said in a Tuesday statement. “We’re working across the aisle to find common ground, partnering with Upstate and suburban Democrats to move our state forward.”</p> <p>Spokespersons for Heastie and Flanagan did not return requests for comment on when Cuomo should call the special election. The governor will deliver his 2018 State of the State speech on Wednesday in Albany.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/38327452395_6411fb6775_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Flanagan Long Island" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo and John Flanagan, right (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As the legislative session kicks off this week, there are a slew of open state Senate and Assembly seats, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has not indicated when or whether he will call a special election to fill the vacancies.</p> <p>January 1 was the earliest the second-term governor could have called the election day to fill all 11 vacancies, and a growing number of critics are pressuring Cuomo to make the pronouncement as soon as possible. The election would occur 70 days after declared by Cuomo, who has not made clear if he intends to do so in time for the seats to be filled before the state budget is due, by April 1.</p> <p>On the first of this month, George Latimer officially vacated his Westchester County Senate seat to take on his new role as Westchester County Executive, which he won in the fall, and Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., of the Bronx, left his Senate seat to assume his newly won City Council position. Nine Assembly seats remain empty for a variety of reasons, including officials who have won other elected posts, like Brian Kavanagh, who moved from the Assembly to the Senate.</p> <p>If the governor calls a special election this week, 70 days would mean votes cast in the middle of March. However, Cuomo, a Democrat, has indicated that he may call the elections for a date after the budget process is concluded. Cuomo’s delay is being criticized by progressive activists and good government leaders, either because of how the Senate elections factor into majority control of the chamber, which is currently held by a narrow margin by a coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats, or because of the basic lack of representation hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are experiencing with the seats unfilled.</p> <p>The state’s $160-plus billion budget will be negotiated over the coming months by a heavily Democratic Assembly and the Senate, which has multiple party fractures and a Democratic unity deal on the table that could throw the process into disarray if the two vacant seats are filled by Democrats before April 1.</p> <p>“The governor has a responsibility to his constituents to call a special election immediately,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of good government group Common Cause NY in a statement on Tuesday. “There’s no excuse to delay.” Lerner stressed that all New Yorkers deserve their due representation in government.</p> <p>The stakes are highest for the 63-seat Senate, where Democrats are now two seats short of the 32 votes needed to pass legislation. A Democratic majority can only occur if mainline conference members are joined by the nine Democrats who caucus with Republicans, along with Democratic victories for the Latimer and Diaz, Sr. seats. Complicating the situation is a potential deal between Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/12/21/asc-unity-deal-is-cuomos-doing-for-better-or-worse-159909" target="_blank" rel="noopener">brokered by Cuomo and his allies</a>, which would reunify the Democratic conference at the end of the 2018 legislative session, provided multiple developments and guarantees.</p> <p>The vacancies have less of an impact on the 150-seat Assembly, which Democrats control handily under Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx. But leaving nine vacancies would undermine the state’s democratic budget process and leave millions of New Yorkers without representation, notes Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Group.</p> <p>According to NYPIRG’s calculation, 625,484 Senate constituents and more than 1.1 million Assembly constituents are unrepresented as the legislative session starts on Wednesday, January 3 in Albany.</p> <p>Joining the calls for a special election sooner rather than later is Kat Brezler, a public school teacher and former Bernie Sanders organizer who is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7118-progressive-activist-starts-campaign-committee-for-latimer-s-senate-seat" target="_blank" rel="noopener">seeking Latimer’s seat in the event that a special election is called</a>.</p> <p>“If you, the Governor, do not call a special election before the budget vote, you will effectively disenfranchise more than 700,000 residents in these Districts,” Brezler said in a statement. “Representation matters. The residents of District 37 deserve to have a seat at the table” during budget negotiations. “It is for this reason that a special election cannot wait,” Brezler said.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Cuomo’s office, when asked whether governor planned to call the election during the legislative session, pointed to the governor’s comments during recent press appearances, when he said he would make a decision in January.</p> <p>“There are some that want it sooner, some that want it later, there’s some who don’t,” Cuomo told reporters in December. “Some would argue politicizing the budget isn’t the best idea. It’s a decision that we have to make next year in January.”</p> <p>Bronx Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/bronx-assemblyman-run-nys-senate-article-1.3625964" target="_blank" rel="noopener">who announced</a> that he plans to run for Diaz, Sr.’s Senate seat, said in an interview with Gotham Gazette that he is confident both Senate seats will be filled by Democrats and hopes that a special election will happen in March.</p> <p>“I think one of the most pressing things in the state Legislature is to continue to push for progressive policies and progressive legislation,” said Sepulveda. “I encourage the governor to call the special election as soon as possible.”</p> <p>While the Bronx seat is virtually guaranteed to stay Democratic, the Westchester seat is less of a sure thing, though Democrats will have multiple advantages there.</p> <p>Policy changes coming out of Washington are expected to have serious implications for New York, which is facing a larger than usual budget deficit, and progressives are mounting pressure on the governor, who, like all of the Legislature, is up for reelection this year, to call the special election before budget negotiations really heat up.</p> <p>The balance of power in the state Senate will have significant influence over the final state spending plan that emerges. A number of Democratic activists insist Cuomo prefers Republican control of the Senate for as long as possible, especially during budget season, so that he can best limit state spending.</p> <p>Heastie, whose Assembly majority conference is down several members, <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/12/06/heastie-wants-a-democratic-senate-as-soon-as-possible-137436" target="_blank" rel="noopener">said in December</a> that he hopes for a Democratic majority in the Senate, but in an <a href="http://www.wcny.org/december-8-2017-assembly-speaker-carl-heastie/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">interview with WCNY’s Susan Arbetter</a> said that he would defer to the governor’s decision about the election.</p> <p>“I’ve always said, as a Democrat, I look forward to the day of a Democratic Senate. I hope they get it together as soon as possible — particularly in light of what’s happening in Washington,” Heastie told reporters during a gaggle at the Capitol in December.</p> <p>In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, wields enormous influence over how state funds are distributed. Flanagan, outlining his priorities for the coming session, struck a conciliatory note, but made clear that raising property taxes was a non-starter for addressing New York’s growing budget shortfall.</p> <p>“In Washington, Democrats and Republicans battle each other with predictable ferocity -- sometimes producing gridlock and dysfunction, and sometimes producing policies that are counterproductive for many New Yorkers. Here in New York, we’ve taken a vastly different approach,” he said in a Tuesday statement. “We’re working across the aisle to find common ground, partnering with Upstate and suburban Democrats to move our state forward.”</p> <p>Spokespersons for Heastie and Flanagan did not return requests for comment on when Cuomo should call the special election. The governor will deliver his 2018 State of the State speech on Wednesday in Albany.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Special Election Shows Need for Democratization 2016-02-22T19:58:44+00:00 2016-02-22T19:58:44+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6187:special-election-shows-need-for-democratization Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/pressconf.jpg" alt="silver seat KALC" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Charles Youn, executive director of KALCA, speaks at a press conference</p> <hr /> <p>Any good democracy should reflect a society’s diversity in its leadership. The undemocratic way in which the 65th Assembly District special election is unfolding should galvanize all communities, particularly underrepresented ones, to push for reforms and encourage underrepresented New Yorkers to be more civically engaged.</p> <p dir="ltr">America does not always have accurate and inclusive representation in government. This is especially true in state legislatures. A few weeks ago<a href="http://www.newamericanleaders.org/states_of_inclusion_2016_report.html" target="_blank">, a study released by the New American Leaders Project</a> found several distressing trends. Although 38% of the U.S. population identifies themselves as people of color, only 6% of state legislators come from such a background. &nbsp;Furthermore, the New American Leaders Project’s survey of non-white legislators found that during some of their campaigns, they were actively discouraged from running by their own political party.</p> <p dir="ltr">This problem is painfully apparent in New York. For the past 40 years, Sheldon Silver ruled over the 65th Assembly District, commonly referred to as a majority-minority district. This district includes Chinatown, a neighborhood that has steadfastly served as the epicenter of growth and opportunity for many Asian immigrants since the 1900s.</p> <p dir="ltr">Silver is said to have had a vice-like grip on his seat, and only released his hold when the courts forced him to leave upon a federal corruption conviction. His departure and the subsequent special election should have given New Yorkers the opportunity to vote for new candidates who actually reflect their community. However, residents of the district were robbed of that opportunity.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since the announcement of the special election, the deck was stacked against any possible candidate outside the local political machine, one which Silver still controls. On January 30, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/voters-decide-article-1.2513169" target="_blank">despite the protests of the media</a> and good government groups such as <a href="http://thevillager.com/2015/12/31/arcane-process-to-pick-shelly-silver-successor-favors-district-leaders/" target="_blank">Common Cause New York</a>, a special election date of April 19 was announced, which was five months earlier than the strongly suggested September 13 New York State primary date. Just a few hours later, local blogs and newspapers revealed that the Democratic County Committee, a subset of the state Democratic Party, would determine the Democratic nominee for the special election in one week, effectively ending an election just seven days after its start.</p> <p dir="ltr">The candidate the local county committee selected on February 6 was Alice Cancel, the wife of the Democratic County Committeeman and political club boss of the Lower East Democrats, John Quinn. Cancel has had no qualms praising Silver.</p> <p dir="ltr">The quick and fixed process prompted one candidate, <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160208/financial-district/controversy-surrounds-democratic-candidate-chosen-for-sheldon-silvers-seat" target="_blank">Yuh-Line Niou, to refuse to be considered for the Democratic line</a>, stating that “this process is not one anyone would have chosen to reflect the diversity of our district, and to be fully democratic.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The election in April will be a farce, with only one name on the Democratic ballot line in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 8 to 1. Come fall, the Democratic pick will have an incumbent advantage, and Chinatown may once again be represented by someone who has not democratically earned the right to do so.</p> <p dir="ltr">This is a mockery of American democratic values, and we must all act to ensure it does not happen again.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are two ways we as concerned citizens can do so. First, push to adopt the policy recommendations from <a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/www/cu/site/hosting/Reports/Citizens_Union_Hidden%20from%20View_The_Undisclosed_Campaign_Activity_of_Political_Clubs.pdf" target="_blank">Citizens Union’s 2013 report on political clubs</a> to curb excess influence over institutions like the Democratic County Committee. The report found that the financial and personal ties within and among political clubs, machines, and individual politicians were suspect and strong. For example, during the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/10/nyregion/witness-says-larry-seabrook-never-sought-kickbacks.html" target="_blank">2011 federal trial of former City Council member Larry Seabrook</a>, it was discovered that he had used the Northeast Bronx Democratic Club as his personal ATM. To fix this, Citizens Union recommended that a political club’s financial activities be transparent and regulated.</p> <p dir="ltr">Citizens Union recommends, among other things, defining precisely what constitutes illegal coordination between political clubs and candidates’ campaigns.</p> <p dir="ltr">Secondly, underrepresented communities must become more civically engaged. During the midterm elections in 2014, Asian-American voter turnout was abysmal<a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/09/asian-american-voter-turnout-lags-behind-other-groups-some-non-voters-say-theyre-too-busy/" target="_blank">—only 4% of the eligible population voted</a>. We can and must do better.</p> <p dir="ltr">Civic engagement does not start or stop at the polls. Being engaged means joining a community board, voting in primaries, participating in candidate forums, reading political news, and joining organizations that advocate for people’s rights.</p> <p dir="ltr">What has happened in Chinatown proves that now is the time for our underrepresented communities to get involved and make a difference.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Serin Choi is the Advocacy Chair for the Korean American League for Civic Action, a non-partisan non-profit organization that advocates for increased Asian leadership in the public sector.</p> <p dir="ltr">

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/pressconf.jpg" alt="silver seat KALC" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Charles Youn, executive director of KALCA, speaks at a press conference</p> <hr /> <p>Any good democracy should reflect a society’s diversity in its leadership. The undemocratic way in which the 65th Assembly District special election is unfolding should galvanize all communities, particularly underrepresented ones, to push for reforms and encourage underrepresented New Yorkers to be more civically engaged.</p> <p dir="ltr">America does not always have accurate and inclusive representation in government. This is especially true in state legislatures. A few weeks ago<a href="http://www.newamericanleaders.org/states_of_inclusion_2016_report.html" target="_blank">, a study released by the New American Leaders Project</a> found several distressing trends. Although 38% of the U.S. population identifies themselves as people of color, only 6% of state legislators come from such a background. &nbsp;Furthermore, the New American Leaders Project’s survey of non-white legislators found that during some of their campaigns, they were actively discouraged from running by their own political party.</p> <p dir="ltr">This problem is painfully apparent in New York. For the past 40 years, Sheldon Silver ruled over the 65th Assembly District, commonly referred to as a majority-minority district. This district includes Chinatown, a neighborhood that has steadfastly served as the epicenter of growth and opportunity for many Asian immigrants since the 1900s.</p> <p dir="ltr">Silver is said to have had a vice-like grip on his seat, and only released his hold when the courts forced him to leave upon a federal corruption conviction. His departure and the subsequent special election should have given New Yorkers the opportunity to vote for new candidates who actually reflect their community. However, residents of the district were robbed of that opportunity.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since the announcement of the special election, the deck was stacked against any possible candidate outside the local political machine, one which Silver still controls. On January 30, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/voters-decide-article-1.2513169" target="_blank">despite the protests of the media</a> and good government groups such as <a href="http://thevillager.com/2015/12/31/arcane-process-to-pick-shelly-silver-successor-favors-district-leaders/" target="_blank">Common Cause New York</a>, a special election date of April 19 was announced, which was five months earlier than the strongly suggested September 13 New York State primary date. Just a few hours later, local blogs and newspapers revealed that the Democratic County Committee, a subset of the state Democratic Party, would determine the Democratic nominee for the special election in one week, effectively ending an election just seven days after its start.</p> <p dir="ltr">The candidate the local county committee selected on February 6 was Alice Cancel, the wife of the Democratic County Committeeman and political club boss of the Lower East Democrats, John Quinn. Cancel has had no qualms praising Silver.</p> <p dir="ltr">The quick and fixed process prompted one candidate, <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160208/financial-district/controversy-surrounds-democratic-candidate-chosen-for-sheldon-silvers-seat" target="_blank">Yuh-Line Niou, to refuse to be considered for the Democratic line</a>, stating that “this process is not one anyone would have chosen to reflect the diversity of our district, and to be fully democratic.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The election in April will be a farce, with only one name on the Democratic ballot line in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 8 to 1. Come fall, the Democratic pick will have an incumbent advantage, and Chinatown may once again be represented by someone who has not democratically earned the right to do so.</p> <p dir="ltr">This is a mockery of American democratic values, and we must all act to ensure it does not happen again.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are two ways we as concerned citizens can do so. First, push to adopt the policy recommendations from <a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/www/cu/site/hosting/Reports/Citizens_Union_Hidden%20from%20View_The_Undisclosed_Campaign_Activity_of_Political_Clubs.pdf" target="_blank">Citizens Union’s 2013 report on political clubs</a> to curb excess influence over institutions like the Democratic County Committee. The report found that the financial and personal ties within and among political clubs, machines, and individual politicians were suspect and strong. For example, during the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/10/nyregion/witness-says-larry-seabrook-never-sought-kickbacks.html" target="_blank">2011 federal trial of former City Council member Larry Seabrook</a>, it was discovered that he had used the Northeast Bronx Democratic Club as his personal ATM. To fix this, Citizens Union recommended that a political club’s financial activities be transparent and regulated.</p> <p dir="ltr">Citizens Union recommends, among other things, defining precisely what constitutes illegal coordination between political clubs and candidates’ campaigns.</p> <p dir="ltr">Secondly, underrepresented communities must become more civically engaged. During the midterm elections in 2014, Asian-American voter turnout was abysmal<a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/09/asian-american-voter-turnout-lags-behind-other-groups-some-non-voters-say-theyre-too-busy/" target="_blank">—only 4% of the eligible population voted</a>. We can and must do better.</p> <p dir="ltr">Civic engagement does not start or stop at the polls. Being engaged means joining a community board, voting in primaries, participating in candidate forums, reading political news, and joining organizations that advocate for people’s rights.</p> <p dir="ltr">What has happened in Chinatown proves that now is the time for our underrepresented communities to get involved and make a difference.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Serin Choi is the Advocacy Chair for the Korean American League for Civic Action, a non-partisan non-profit organization that advocates for increased Asian leadership in the public sector.</p> <p dir="ltr">

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
Voters to Fill Vacant Bronx Council Seat in Special Election 2016-02-22T03:24:54+00:00 2016-02-22T03:24:54+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6185:voters-to-fill-vacant-bronx-council-seat-in-special-election Carmen Russo <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/salamanca.jpg" alt="salamanca" width="600" height="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Rafael Salamanca meets voters before Tuesday's election (<a href="https://twitter.com/JohnJrBx" target="_blank">via @JohnJrBX</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>Residents of District 17 in the Bronx will vote for a new City Council Member on Tuesday in a special election to fill the vacancy left by former Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who resigned and the end of last year. As with all special elections for the City Council not held on regularly scheduled election days, it is a nonpartisan contest, meaning no candidate will appear on the major party ballot lines. Instead, each candidate had to create his or her own “party.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Voter turnout is expected to be low and the winner will likely be decided by level of institutional support - from labor unions and the Democratic Party apparatus - and access to campaign funds. The winner is all but certain to enter the Council as a Democrat - the Bronx is overwhelmingly Democratic in terms of party registration and the party identification of elected officials (every elected official representing the Bronx at all three levels of government is a Democrat).</p> <p dir="ltr">There are six candidates still in the running, down from eleven initial contenders after several were knocked from ballot contention for various mistakes. Those who will be on the ballot include small business owner George Alvarez; Marlon Molina, a community activist and banker; Joann Otero, former chief of staff for del Carmen Arroyo; Julio Pabon, an activist and entrepreneur; J. Loren Russell, a financial consultant; and Rafael Salamanca, Jr., district manager at Bronx Community Board 2.</p> <p dir="ltr">In this crowded field, Salamanca, Jr. seems to be the frontrunner, with the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6091-special-election-spotlights-machine-politics-in-the-bronx" target="_blank">backing</a> of the Bronx Democratic County Committee, support from Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and virtually all of the City Council members from the Bronx, as well as the endorsement of Maria del Carmen Arroyo’s mother, Carmen Arroyo. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Salamanca, who was also endorsed by the District Council 37 labor union, has far surpassed his opponents in raising campaign funds. He has raised $70,107 and has received $36,732 in public matching funds. Other candidates have raised $7,000-$20,000. Russell and Pabon are the closest - Russell has raised $15,795 and received $42,846 in matching funds; Pabon has raised $15,813 and received $33,432 in matching funds.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Usually the candidate with the most institutional support wins a special election,” said Jerry Skurnik of Prime NY, a political consultancy. He pointed out that the short timeframe within which special elections are held are an advantage to candidates like Salamanca, who have the local political machinery behind them. City Council special elections are usually held on the first Tuesday after a seat has been vacant for 45 days.</p> <p dir="ltr">Skurnik also said that other candidates only stand a chance if they can outspend opponents or invoke wide grassroots support. “There have been some upsets in special elections, but there’s usually some kind of special circumstance which doesn’t look like it’s happening in this Bronx special election,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">One major issue in specials is getting people out to vote. “Between 5 and 10 percent of registered voters is relatively good for a special election,” Skurnik said. The numbers bear this out.</p> <p dir="ltr">Three recent elections to City Council seats give an indication of what turnout looks like. Donovan Richards won the 31st Council District in Queens in a special election held on Feb. 19, 2013. There were 76,866 active voters <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/documents/boe/EnrollmentTotals/2012/Council%20District%20Enrollment%20Totals%202012.pdf" target="_blank">enrolled</a> in the district in 2012 (the number increased to 81,165 as of April the <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/documents/boe/EnrollmentTotals/2013/CityCouncilEnrollmentTotals_4_1_13.pdf" target="_blank">next year</a>). Of those active voters, 9,147 - or 11.89 percent - <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/results/2013/SpecialElectionQueens31CityCouncil/Queens31CityCouncil.pdf" target="_blank">cast their ballots</a> in that special election, with 2,646 voting for Richards.</p> <p dir="ltr">The other two elections, for District 51 in Staten Island and District 23 in Queens, were technically <a href="http://observer.com/2015/06/boe-no-nonpartisan-special-elections-for-open-city-council-seats/" target="_blank">not special elections</a>, in that they weren’t nonpartisan, but they were held this past year to replace two Council Members who resigned midway through their terms. A primary was held in September followed by the general election on November 3, Election Day. But the voter statistics are comparable.</p> <p dir="ltr">Held in a low-key election cycle in an off-year, turnout was low, but relatively higher than with Richards’ election. In District 23, there were 11,305 votes <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/election_results/2015/20151103General%20Election/00402100023Queens%20Member%20of%20the%20City%20Council%2023rd%20Council%20District%20Recap.pdf" target="_blank">cast</a> (13.9 percent of the 81,027 active voters in the district), with 6,156 going to the winner, Barry Grodenchik, a Democrat.</p> <p dir="ltr">In District 51, Republican Joe Borelli <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/election_results/2015/20151103General%20Election/00502100051Richmond%20Member%20of%20the%20City%20Council%2051st%20Council%20District%20Recap.pdf" target="_blank">received</a> 9,111 votes out of the 13,002 cast (14.2 percent of the 91,224 active registered <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/documents/boe/EnrollmentTotals/2015/Council%20Enrollment%20Totals%204_1_2015.pdf" target="_blank">voters</a>) even though he ran unopposed.</p> <p dir="ltr">To reach out to the 71,795 active registered voters from District 17 to get them to vote in Tuesday’s special election, the Bronx-based nonprofit Nos Quedamos Community Development Corporation partnered with the New York City Campaign Finance Board’s voter engagement arm, NYC Votes.</p> <p dir="ltr">Nos Quedamos organized a community forum last month, livestreamed by BronxNet, to inform residents of del Carmen Arroyo’s resignation and to introduce the candidates who wanted to replace her. Ten of the eleven initial candidates were present.</p> <p dir="ltr">Nos Quedamos has also been holding a voter registration drive for the last two weeks, first targeting the large concentration of homeless shelters in the district, whose residents are often overlooked when it comes to registering to vote. As election day approaches, they have been focused on reaching out to the nearly 4,000 housing units in the 19 buildings in their organization’s network.</p> <p dir="ltr">“For special elections like this, (turnout) is a concern for us because it’s not on everyone’s radar,” said Jessica Clemente, CEO and president of Nos Quedamos. She said the resignation announcement being made over the holidays meant that very few people were aware that their Council representative had resigned and Nos Quedamos had little time to tell them. “Forty-five days is a blink of an eye,” Clemente said, pointing out that grassroots door-knocking is crucial in such a short time frame to inform voters and bring them to the polls.</p> <p dir="ltr">“You are always going to have low voter turnout when a special election is held,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a good government advocacy group. “But better it’s held in an open nonpartisan way than a closed partisan way because voters at least have a choice of candidates in City Council special elections.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Citizens Union last year <a href="http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=ca0fb41d668202ba6cc542ca8&amp;id=ffb274a673&amp;e=[UNIQID]" target="_blank">called</a> for state legislature vacancies to be filled through nonpartisan elections so that they are no longer “party-controlled coronations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Dadey conceded that party support does still have a role to play in nonpartisan elections. “The major political parties still exercise a great degree of control because of their ability to pull out voters and support candidates,” he said. “But we’ve seen time and time again where the favorite candidate does not always win. So there’s an opportunity for community leaders unaffiliated with a political party to win an election.”</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6091-special-election-spotlights-machine-politics-in-the-bronx" target="_blank">Special Election Spotlights Machine Politics in the Bronx</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p dir="ltr">Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p> <p dir="ltr">Note: this article has been updated to clarify that it is Carmen Arroyo, not Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who has endorsed Salamanca; and to add campaign finance information for candidate J. Loren Russell.</p>
<p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/salamanca.jpg" alt="salamanca" width="600" height="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Rafael Salamanca meets voters before Tuesday's election (<a href="https://twitter.com/JohnJrBx" target="_blank">via @JohnJrBX</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>Residents of District 17 in the Bronx will vote for a new City Council Member on Tuesday in a special election to fill the vacancy left by former Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who resigned and the end of last year. As with all special elections for the City Council not held on regularly scheduled election days, it is a nonpartisan contest, meaning no candidate will appear on the major party ballot lines. Instead, each candidate had to create his or her own “party.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Voter turnout is expected to be low and the winner will likely be decided by level of institutional support - from labor unions and the Democratic Party apparatus - and access to campaign funds. The winner is all but certain to enter the Council as a Democrat - the Bronx is overwhelmingly Democratic in terms of party registration and the party identification of elected officials (every elected official representing the Bronx at all three levels of government is a Democrat).</p> <p dir="ltr">There are six candidates still in the running, down from eleven initial contenders after several were knocked from ballot contention for various mistakes. Those who will be on the ballot include small business owner George Alvarez; Marlon Molina, a community activist and banker; Joann Otero, former chief of staff for del Carmen Arroyo; Julio Pabon, an activist and entrepreneur; J. Loren Russell, a financial consultant; and Rafael Salamanca, Jr., district manager at Bronx Community Board 2.</p> <p dir="ltr">In this crowded field, Salamanca, Jr. seems to be the frontrunner, with the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6091-special-election-spotlights-machine-politics-in-the-bronx" target="_blank">backing</a> of the Bronx Democratic County Committee, support from Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and virtually all of the City Council members from the Bronx, as well as the endorsement of Maria del Carmen Arroyo’s mother, Carmen Arroyo. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Salamanca, who was also endorsed by the District Council 37 labor union, has far surpassed his opponents in raising campaign funds. He has raised $70,107 and has received $36,732 in public matching funds. Other candidates have raised $7,000-$20,000. Russell and Pabon are the closest - Russell has raised $15,795 and received $42,846 in matching funds; Pabon has raised $15,813 and received $33,432 in matching funds.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Usually the candidate with the most institutional support wins a special election,” said Jerry Skurnik of Prime NY, a political consultancy. He pointed out that the short timeframe within which special elections are held are an advantage to candidates like Salamanca, who have the local political machinery behind them. City Council special elections are usually held on the first Tuesday after a seat has been vacant for 45 days.</p> <p dir="ltr">Skurnik also said that other candidates only stand a chance if they can outspend opponents or invoke wide grassroots support. “There have been some upsets in special elections, but there’s usually some kind of special circumstance which doesn’t look like it’s happening in this Bronx special election,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">One major issue in specials is getting people out to vote. “Between 5 and 10 percent of registered voters is relatively good for a special election,” Skurnik said. The numbers bear this out.</p> <p dir="ltr">Three recent elections to City Council seats give an indication of what turnout looks like. Donovan Richards won the 31st Council District in Queens in a special election held on Feb. 19, 2013. There were 76,866 active voters <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/documents/boe/EnrollmentTotals/2012/Council%20District%20Enrollment%20Totals%202012.pdf" target="_blank">enrolled</a> in the district in 2012 (the number increased to 81,165 as of April the <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/documents/boe/EnrollmentTotals/2013/CityCouncilEnrollmentTotals_4_1_13.pdf" target="_blank">next year</a>). Of those active voters, 9,147 - or 11.89 percent - <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/results/2013/SpecialElectionQueens31CityCouncil/Queens31CityCouncil.pdf" target="_blank">cast their ballots</a> in that special election, with 2,646 voting for Richards.</p> <p dir="ltr">The other two elections, for District 51 in Staten Island and District 23 in Queens, were technically <a href="http://observer.com/2015/06/boe-no-nonpartisan-special-elections-for-open-city-council-seats/" target="_blank">not special elections</a>, in that they weren’t nonpartisan, but they were held this past year to replace two Council Members who resigned midway through their terms. A primary was held in September followed by the general election on November 3, Election Day. But the voter statistics are comparable.</p> <p dir="ltr">Held in a low-key election cycle in an off-year, turnout was low, but relatively higher than with Richards’ election. In District 23, there were 11,305 votes <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/election_results/2015/20151103General%20Election/00402100023Queens%20Member%20of%20the%20City%20Council%2023rd%20Council%20District%20Recap.pdf" target="_blank">cast</a> (13.9 percent of the 81,027 active voters in the district), with 6,156 going to the winner, Barry Grodenchik, a Democrat.</p> <p dir="ltr">In District 51, Republican Joe Borelli <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/election_results/2015/20151103General%20Election/00502100051Richmond%20Member%20of%20the%20City%20Council%2051st%20Council%20District%20Recap.pdf" target="_blank">received</a> 9,111 votes out of the 13,002 cast (14.2 percent of the 91,224 active registered <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/documents/boe/EnrollmentTotals/2015/Council%20Enrollment%20Totals%204_1_2015.pdf" target="_blank">voters</a>) even though he ran unopposed.</p> <p dir="ltr">To reach out to the 71,795 active registered voters from District 17 to get them to vote in Tuesday’s special election, the Bronx-based nonprofit Nos Quedamos Community Development Corporation partnered with the New York City Campaign Finance Board’s voter engagement arm, NYC Votes.</p> <p dir="ltr">Nos Quedamos organized a community forum last month, livestreamed by BronxNet, to inform residents of del Carmen Arroyo’s resignation and to introduce the candidates who wanted to replace her. Ten of the eleven initial candidates were present.</p> <p dir="ltr">Nos Quedamos has also been holding a voter registration drive for the last two weeks, first targeting the large concentration of homeless shelters in the district, whose residents are often overlooked when it comes to registering to vote. As election day approaches, they have been focused on reaching out to the nearly 4,000 housing units in the 19 buildings in their organization’s network.</p> <p dir="ltr">“For special elections like this, (turnout) is a concern for us because it’s not on everyone’s radar,” said Jessica Clemente, CEO and president of Nos Quedamos. She said the resignation announcement being made over the holidays meant that very few people were aware that their Council representative had resigned and Nos Quedamos had little time to tell them. “Forty-five days is a blink of an eye,” Clemente said, pointing out that grassroots door-knocking is crucial in such a short time frame to inform voters and bring them to the polls.</p> <p dir="ltr">“You are always going to have low voter turnout when a special election is held,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a good government advocacy group. “But better it’s held in an open nonpartisan way than a closed partisan way because voters at least have a choice of candidates in City Council special elections.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Citizens Union last year <a href="http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=ca0fb41d668202ba6cc542ca8&amp;id=ffb274a673&amp;e=[UNIQID]" target="_blank">called</a> for state legislature vacancies to be filled through nonpartisan elections so that they are no longer “party-controlled coronations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Dadey conceded that party support does still have a role to play in nonpartisan elections. “The major political parties still exercise a great degree of control because of their ability to pull out voters and support candidates,” he said. “But we’ve seen time and time again where the favorite candidate does not always win. So there’s an opportunity for community leaders unaffiliated with a political party to win an election.”</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6091-special-election-spotlights-machine-politics-in-the-bronx" target="_blank">Special Election Spotlights Machine Politics in the Bronx</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p dir="ltr">Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p> <p dir="ltr">Note: this article has been updated to clarify that it is Carmen Arroyo, not Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who has endorsed Salamanca; and to add campaign finance information for candidate J. Loren Russell.</p>
Next Steps for Two Soon-To-Be-Vacant City Council Seats 2015-05-15T16:39:01+00:00 2015-05-15T16:39:01+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5726:next-steps-for-two-soon-to-be-vacant-city-council-seats Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/weprin_ignizio.jpg" alt="weprin ignizio" width="600" height="429" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">CMs Weprin, left, &amp; Ignizio, right, are both leaving the Council (photo: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">City Council member Mark Weprin, a Democrat who represents part of Queens, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/exclusive-councilman-resign-work-gov-cuomo-article-1.2217535" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced</a> on Monday that he will step down from his seat to join Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration as Deputy Secretary of Legislative Affairs, making him <a href="http://gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5719-at-a-chaotic-time-cuomo-hires-weprin-to-assist-in-deal-making" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a key liaison</a> between the governor and the state Legislature, City Council, and others.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/weprin_ignizio.jpg" alt="weprin ignizio" width="600" height="429" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">CMs Weprin, left, &amp; Ignizio, right, are both leaving the Council (photo: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">City Council member Mark Weprin, a Democrat who represents part of Queens, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/exclusive-councilman-resign-work-gov-cuomo-article-1.2217535" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced</a> on Monday that he will step down from his seat to join Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration as Deputy Secretary of Legislative Affairs, making him <a href="http://gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5719-at-a-chaotic-time-cuomo-hires-weprin-to-assist-in-deal-making" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a key liaison</a> between the governor and the state Legislature, City Council, and others.</p>