This story was updated on September 19 to include unofficial election results.
2007 gives a new meaning to the term “off year” election, and the
primary looks especially sleepy. Many New Yorkers â€“ even those voters in
good standing registered with one of the major parties â€“ will simply
have nothing to vote for on Tuesday, Sept. 18.
The big action will occur in Brooklyn where there are three spirited contests
for judgeships. Elsewhere, many of the contested offices are for internal party
posts followed by only the most ardent political aficionado.
Perhaps the most notable thing about this election may be when it takes place.
Instead of occurring on the second Tuesday of September â€“ the usual primary
day â€“ it is being held on the third. The second Tuesday fell on 9/11 â€“ the
sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks -- and officials felt it was improper
to vote that day. That decision prompted Clyde Haberman of the New York Times
scoff, “We can shop, and go to a ballgame, and make money. But allow our
democracy to function normally? Nope. That is somehow incompatible with Sept.
Voters despairing on the lack of political action can look to the future though.
A general election in November may feature some races not on the primary ballot. And
after that it is only three months to February â€“ and the presidential primary.
In the meantime, here is a guide for the September 18 votes:
--Delegates to Judicial Convention
--How to vote
--Problems at the polls
Beginning Tuesday night, Gotham Gazette will provide results of the election
as they become available.
Perhaps more notable than the contests that will take place this week are those
that will not.
Three of the city’s five district attorneys are up for re-election in 2007:
Robert Johnson in the
Bronx, Richard Brown in
Queens and Dennis Donovan in
Staten Island. None of them faces a primary challenge, even though Brown just
a controversial year fueled by the police shooting of
Sean Bell and the indictments that eventually followed, while Donovan, the one
Republican among the city’s DAs, is only finishing his first term.
The next full-scale City Council election is not scheduled until 2009 when citywide
offices and borough presidents also will face the voters, but two council members
are up for re-election this fall. The two â€“ Mathieu
Eugene of Brooklyn’s 40th district and
Ignizio of Staten Island’s 51st -- were elected in special elections
to fill vacancies earlier this year. (Actually Eugene went through
Given the large number of candidates who ran in the 40th and the controversy
surrounding his residency, many observers expected Eugene to face some opposition.
But at least for the primary, Eugene, like Ignizio, is unopposed.
If there’s a marquee race on Tuesday, it’s the Brooklyn contest to
elect a judge for the
Surrogate Court. Either of the candidates in the Democratic primary, Diana Johnson and ShawnDya Simpson, could have been Brooklyn’s first
black surrogate. In the end, Johnson won with about 59 percent of the vote. She will face Republican candidate Theodore Alatsas in November, in Brooklyn a Democrat is usually the runaway favorite.
Although it had the potential to further crack the glass ceiling â€“ Brooklyn’s
other surrogate is Margarita Lopez Torres â€“ and break racial barriers,
the race was mired in court challenges and politics, prompting some to refrain
from wholeheartedly endorsing either candidate in the
closest and only competitive race in the 2007 primary, according to some
A court that some view as inconsequential and unnecessary, the Surrogate Court
estates and adoptions. The judges can appoint attorneys as guardians, allowing
them to collect lucrative fees. This has led to charges of cronyism
and corruption, as political party bosses use their influence to get their candidates
elected, expecting that their judges will return the favor in guardianship appointments.
That issue is particularly volatile in Brooklyn, where critics charge the
of judges has been particularly corrupt.
The state government created a second Surrogate Court judge for Brooklyn two
years ago (Manhattan has two; the other boroughs each have one) allegedly to
create a job for then outgoing Assemblymember Frank Seddio. But Seddio resigned
earlier this year
only 18 months on the job because he was reportedly under investigation
by a judicial conduct commission.
This election is to fill that vacancy for a 14-year term. Both candidates have
ties to party bosses â€“ one to the current leaders, the other to the former,
and convicted, party chief.
Johnson ran for the Surrogate Court two years ago at the urging of
Norman, the former Brooklyn Democratic leader who was convicted on three
felony counts for accepting illegal campaign contributions. She lost to Torres,
who was generally seen as a reform candidate.
Simpson has the backing of the current Democratic leader, State Assemblymember
Adding to the controversy, Simpson’s Brooklyn residency has been questioned.
In a court challenge, Johnson claimed Simpson’s primary residence was not
Kings County, but New Jersey, where her husband and children reside. The challenge
out by an appellate court.
Both candidates have
approval from the New York City Bar Association. Simpson received an
endorsement, albeit a
half-hearted one, from The
New York Times and full-fledged support from
support from Brooklyn’s reform-oriented political clubs, like
Brooklyn Independent Democrats and the Independent
Johnson has also received endorsements from the Rev. Al Sharpton, Congresswoman
Yvette Clarke, City Council members Letitia James, Albert Vann, Mathieu Eugene and Charles Barron as well as numerous State Senate and Assembly members.
Although it expressed concern over both candidates' connections to party politics, good-government group Citizens Union, the sister
organization of Gotham Gazette’s publisher, ultimately endorsed Johnson in the race based on her experience.
Johnson has served as a justice on the state Supreme Court in Brooklyn since
2001 and has sat behind the bench in general since 1991. In a
Citizens Union, Johnson identifies several
problems in the court system she would like to tackle if elected. Specifically
she hopes to incorporate both “uniform standards” to move cases along
more swiftly and a resource center for those who represent themselves.
Simpson has served as a Manhattan Criminal Court judge since 2003 and is a former
assistant district attorney in Kings County. She aligned her campaign with
a reform agenda â€“ one that hopes to weed out the surrogate’s notorious
cronyism, which she identified as one of its biggest problems in Citizens Union’s
questionnaire. She also suggests implementing time frames for court decisions.
When asked if they supported less party affiliation for judgeships, both candidates
said they favored a more transparent selection system. Johnson and Simpson also
stated they would support public financing of judicial elections.
On Tuesday there will be two primaries in the entire city for the Civil Court,
both in Brooklyn.
The Civil Court, which has jurisdiction over civil cases involving amounts up
to $25,000 and other civil matters referred to it by the state Supreme Court,
includes a small claims court for matters less than $5,000 and a housing court
that handles landlord-tenant matters and housing code violations. Each year,
over 625,000 civil cases are filed in Civil Court in New York City. In total,
120 Civil Court Judges are elected to serve in the court, making New York City
the largest civil jurisdiction court by volume in the United States.
Civil Court Judges are elected and serve terms of 10 years. Of the 120 Civil
Court Judges, approximately 50 sit in the Civil Court. The rest sit in various
other courts, including Criminal Court and Family Court. Many judges sit as acting
Supreme Court justices. A judge elected in one county may also be assigned to
sit in another county.
This year’s Democratic primary in District 6, which covers Flatbush, Park
Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect-Lefferts, Midwood and parts of Crown Heights,
featured a low-key race between Katherine Levine, a senior attorney with the
statewide teachers union and Sharen Hudson, a former law clerk to Diana Johnson
(the candidate for Surrogate Court judge), who works for the Red Hook Community
Justice Center. Levine won.
The Democratic primary in the 5th Municipal District, encompassing parts or all
of Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, Sunset
Park and Parkville., though, raised some eyebrows. Frontrunner
Dear has the support of Brooklyn political boss Vito Lopez and Borough
President Marty Markowitz and a clear advantage in fundraising. In the election, he defeated
Yellen, getting about 60 percent of the vote.
Dear also has an array of critics. First elected to the City Council in 1983,
Dear, a Democrat from Borough Park, served on the council for 18 years until he
was displaced by term limits. He has failed in two runs apiece for Congress and
the State Senate.
While still on the City Council, Dear drew the ire of his colleagues when he
organized a trip for council members to South Africa, then ruled by the white
minority apartheid government, and failed to tell them in a timely manner that
the junket was funded by the whites-only Johannesburg City Council.
Dear has also had legal troubles. The attorney general substantiated a claim
that he was improperly using funds from a nonprofit he founded to pay for personal
expenses, such as travel as well as home and car phone service.
For his Civil Court race this year, Dear has raised over $147,000, roughly half
of it from taxi corporations. A member of the Taxi and Limousine Commission since
2001, Dear is permitted to accept corporate funds - which would be prohibited if he were seeking city office - because Civil Court is a state position and regulated by the more
lax state campaign finance laws.
Yellen, though lesser known in Brooklyn politics, has made a name for herself,
largely as a witness for the prosecution in the trial of former political kingpin
Clarence Norman. Yellen alleged that Norman forced her to dole out dollars allegedly
to pay for campaign services for her 2001 race for reelection at the civil court
-- services that Yellen has claimed she never received.
Having served on the bench for 10 years, Yellen finished third in the 2002 primary
after her falling out with Norman, and she currently serves as a referee in Family
The New York City Bar Association
gave Yellen a rating of “approved” in
their evaluation of judicial candidates. Dear, however, was not approved. The
bar cited his “failure to affirmatively demonstrate that he possesses the
requisite qualifications for the court for which he is a candidate.” In
on the race, the New York Times reached a similar conclusion. It said
that Dear’s “volatile personality and indifference to conflicts-of-interest
makes him utterly unsuited for the bench.”
All 10 district leader contests this year are in Manhattan and they are all for
Democrats. Six involve male district leaders and four are for female district
District leaders are intermediaries between the major political parties and the
community in which they are elected. Together they form the governing bodies
of the Democratic and Republican parties within their respective counties. The
position is often seen as a stepping stone to higher office, and many times is
held by members of the State Assembly or City Council. Former New York City Mayor
Ed Koch started his political career as a district leader.
Each district elects a male and female representative. District leaders are elected
to four-year terms, are not paid and work within the political parties. “The
way to think of them is not as a â€block captain,’ but as a â€neighborhood
captain,’” says Alex Carabelli, deputy director of
a non-profit organization
that helps community members get elected to local office. “They help coordinate
petitioning and local campaigns, and anything else the parties are doing in the
District leaders select poll inspectors, clerks, supervisors and translators
to fill the various poll worker positions on Election Day. They also serve as
ex-officio members of the County Committee Executive Board.
On Tuesday, Democrats in Washington Heights and Upper Manhattan will elect their
District Leaders. Assemblymember Adam Clayton Powell IV and incumbent Evette
Zayas ran as a team in the
Assembly District, Part A. Powell defeated three other candidates
-- Eduardo Franco, Edward Gibbs and Johnny Rivera -- for the male district leader
position. But his running mate did not fare as well, losing out to Diane Green.
In District 72, Part A incumbents
Mayra Linares and Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat successfully beat back a challenge from Judith Amaro and Kevin Campbell.
The most heated race for the district leader was for the female district leader
in Assembly District 72, Part B in Washington Heights. Incumbent Maria Morillo,
supported by Espaillat, faced three opponents. Her main competitor was Albania
Lopez, the running mate of Councilmember Miguel Martinez, an the race between Morillo and Lopez reflected the conflict between their male running
Espaillat and Martinez, who were once political allies and friends, had a falling
out. Martinez left Espaillat’s political club, the Northern Manhattan Democrats
for Change, and formed his own, the Democrats in the Heights. Also running for
the female district leader position were Yocasta Sosa and Francia Rodriguez. Morillo defeated all of them to hold on to her post, but Martinez was elected male district leader.
Other races include male district leaders in the 68th Assembly District, Part
B, which Manuel Onativia won, and District 70 Part A, where William Allen proved victorious, as well as
male and female district leaders in the 68th Assembly District, Part C, won by John Ruiz and Marion Bell respectively.
There are more than 100 races for seats on county committees in Manhattan, the
Bronx and Queens in both the Republican and Democratic parties. The Board of Elections does ot expectto have unoffical results of these contests until September 21.
Part of the political party machinery, members of a county committee act
as representatives for their political party on a very low scale. Usually their
territory is only a few blocks and covers approximately 1,000 registered voters.
Members of a county committee help select and endorse candidates for higher office.
In New York City thousands of these positions are often left vacant, according
to the Grassroots Initiative.
In this week's primary, nearly 50 races are contested for Manhattan's Democratic
county committee, one seat is contested for the Bronx Republican county committee
and nearly 75 races are contested for the Queens Republican county committee.
One race in Queens includes none other than indicted City Councilmember Dennis
Gallagher, who is appearing for the first time on the ballot since he was charged
with several counts of rape and assault. Interestingly, Gallagher temporarily
vacated his positions on several City Council committees and his role as minority
whip after he was charged, although he remains in the City Council.
According to the New
York City Conflicts of Interest Board, council members can
hold positions on county committees as long as they are not in a leadership
Republicans in Queens also got to choose delegates to their state committee in several Assembly Districts. Voters choose a male and a female committee member.
Judicial Convention Delegates
A number of candidates on Tuesday are seeking election to posts that some New
Yorkers want to eliminate. There are several contests for delegates and alternatives
delegates to state judicial conventions. Those elected will attend a meeting
to vote on their party’s candidates for state Supreme Court - New York’s
main trial court. Their action at these meetings tend to be “a formality
because the bosses have usually picked the nominees beforehand,” wroteCarol DeMare in the Albany Times Union.
Formality or not, a lot of people want to go. In one Manhattan district, 24 candidates
appear on the ballot seeking one of eight seats at the convention.
Democratic primaries for delegates to the convention will take place in the
75th Assembly districts, all in Manhattan. Democrats in the 72nd and 75th districts
can also choose alternate delegates.
In Queens, it’s Republicans who get to vote for delegates to the convention.
There will be GOP primaries for delegates and alternate delegates in the
28th, 31st and
32nd districts. Dennis Gallagher, the Queens City Council member currently facing rape charges, also sought one of these posts (along with a seat on the county committee) but lost. Gallagher reportedly came in last among a field of six candidates seeking three seats.
Meanwhile, a federal district court and a U.S. appeals court have ruled that
the entire convention system is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled
to hear arguments on the issue early next month.
BEFORE YOU GO TO THE POLLS
Where and When Do I Vote?
The election will be this Tuesday, September 18, with polls open from 6 a.m.
to 9 p.m. Only registered voters who have registered at least 25 days before
the election can vote. Since this is a primary, only registered members of parties
with contests can cast ballots.
You should have received a notice in the mail telling you where to vote, but
if you do not have it, you can go to the
Board of Election's poll site locator or call 1 866 VOTE-NYC. This number can
provide you with other information as well, including registration deadlines.
On its Web site, the Board of Elections also has
instructions on how to work the voting machine.
Absentee ballot applications can be obtained by calling the Board of Elections
at 1-866-VOTE-NYC or e-mailing a request to
Those who wish to vote by absentee ballot have two choices. If you choose to
vote by mail, an absentee ballot must be postmarked the day before the primary
and reach the Board of Elections no more than seven days after the election.
Or you can drop off an absentee ballot at one of the Board of Elections borough
offices by 9:00 p.m. on Election Day.
If the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot by mail has passed and you
cannot appear at the polls on Election Day because of an accident or sudden illness,
you may send a representative with an authorized letter to receive an Absentee
Ballot Application and Absentee Ballot and return both to the Board of Elections
by 9 P.M. on Election Day at your borough office.
What Is a Super Poll Site and Where Can I Find Mine?
If you are disabled and cannot vote independently or privately using New York’s
Shoup lever machines, or if you are interested in new voting technology, you
can vote at your borough’s
Poll Site. These sites are equipped with ballot marking devices (BMDs)
that function as an electronic pen to mark a voters choices on a paper ballot.
The machines feature a screen that displays the ballot to the voter, and are
equipped with audio recordings of the ballot, compatibility with sip and puff
devices, rocker paddles with foot controls, large font displays and voice activated,
voice output technology, all designed to allow disabled voters to cast their
own votes without assistance.
If you would like to locate your Super Poll Site click below for a map:
Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Bronx , Staten
You can also find detailed directions and information about the Super Poll Sites,
poll site accessibility and disability voting rights issues at the
Center for Independence of the
Disabled, 212 674-2300
What Are My Voting Rights?
The New York Voter's Bill of Rights guarantees the right to:
. Vote: The right to vote includes voting for candidates and questions on the
. Have your vote count: Vote on a voting system that is in working condition
and that will allow votes to be accurately counted.
. Secrecy in voting: Secrecy in voting will be preserved for all elections.
. Freedom in voting: Cast your vote, free from coercion or intimidation by poll
workers or any other person.
. Permanent registration: Once registered to vote, you continue to remain qualified
to vote from an address within your county or city.
. Accessible elections: Non-discriminatory equal access to the election system
for all voters, including the elderly, disabled, alternative language minorities,
military and overseas citizens, as required by federal and state laws.
. Assistance in voting: You may ask for help in voting because of blindness,
disability, or inability to read or write.
. A ballot in another language: Voters anywhere in New York City are entitled
to a ballot in Spanish. Voters in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens have the right
to a ballot in Chinese, and Queens voters must be able to obtain a ballot in
. Instructions: You can view a sample ballot in your polling place prior to voting,
and before entering the machine, you may request help in how to operate the machine.
. Absentee voting: If you will be out of your county of residence on Election
Day or are unable to go to your polling place due to illness or physical disability,
you may cast an absentee ballot.
. Affidavit voting: Whenever your name does not appear in the official poll book,
you will be offered an affidavit ballot.
New Yorkers who registered to vote for the first time via mail, may be asked
to provide identification, such as a driver's license, when they arrive at the
Voters without a driver's license can also offer a copy of one of the following:
. valid photo ID
. current utility bill
. bank statement
. government check or other government document that shows the voter's name and
Those who do not have any form of identification or decline to supply one will
be allowed to vote by paper ballot, not in the machines, according to the Board
of Elections. Those votes will be counted only if they are verified to match
The new rules are part of the federal Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed
after the turmoil in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.
What If You Encounter Problems at the Polls?
If a poll worker says you are not on the list, ask an inspector to verify that
you are at the correct Election and Assembly District for your address. If you
believe that you are eligible to vote, you can ask for a paper or affidavit ballot.
After the election, the Board of Elections will check its records and your vote
will be counted if you are deemed eligible to vote and were at the correct polling
The Board of Elections says that it has increased efforts to make polling places
accessible for senior citizens and handicapped voters, but they admit there are
still problems at some sites. Voters who feel that their polling site is inaccessible
should call the Voter Registration Unit of their local borough office for information.
If you encounter problems at the polls, call one of the following places:
- New York Public Interest Research Group: 212 822-0282
- League of Women Voters Election hotline: 212 725-3541.
- New York Civil Liberties Union: 212 607-3300
For assistance in Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Hindi, Khmer and English, call the
Asian American Legal Defense Fund at 800 966-5946.
Candidates List from The New York City's Board of Election
- Democratic Candidates for District Leader
- Democratic Delegates to the Judicial Convention
- Democratic Candidates for County Committee
- Republican County Committee Candidates
- Democratic Candidates for Surrogate and Civil Court Judges
- Republican Candidates for State Committee
- Republican Delegates to Judicial Convention
- Republican Candidates for County Committee
Reporting for this story was done by Courtney Gross, Doug Israel, Gail Robinson
and Andrea Senteno.Â