Issue of the Week

Special Elections

11 February 02

A switch in State Senate or Assembly seats is rare. Incumbents almost always win and rarely retire. Now, though, there are four vacancies in the city's delegation to Albany that will be filled in a special election on February 12. The Manhattan and Staten Island races feature spirited, competitive contests.

Party organizations chose candidates for these special elections so there are no primaries.

State Senate District 26 (Manhattan): If you have seen campaign commercials the last week or so on late night television and wondered why, this race on the East Side is the reason. Republican Roy Goodman resigned after 33 years in the Senate to become president of the UN Development Corp. His departure has set off a spirited contest between Liz Krueger (Democrat, Green, Working Families), who lost to Goodman by only 200 votes in 2000, and John Ravitz, (Republican, Liberal) a state assemblyman who seems to share many of Goodman's moderate views. Krueger and Ravitz have clashed over who could be more effective in Albany and whether a Democrat or Republican would better serve the district. Libertarian Jon Karako and Reform Party candidate Michael Zumbluskas also appear on the ballot.

State Assembly District 60 (Staten Island): This mid-island seat became vacant when Democrat Eric Vitaliano was elected to Civil Court. The race among James Hart (Democrat, Working Families), a plumbers union official; businessman Matthew Mirones (Republican, Conservative, Right to Life) and bus driver Vincent Serapiglia (Independence) has focused on transportation, development and education with a few personal attacks thrown in. Hart has called for limits on cars, while Mirones argues that automobiles are "central to the American dream." Mirones and Serapiglia endorse eliminating the central board of education while Hart has doubts.

State Senate District 20 (Brooklyn) Marty Markowitz held this Central Brooklyn seat before moving on to the borough presidency in November. Now Carl Andrews, a long-time Democratic Party and community activist who has worked for the state attorney general, has the Democratic, Independence and Working Families Party endorsement to take Markowitz's place. Opposing him is Frances Purcell, a realtor who founded a community financial services firm. She previously sought office as a Democrat.

State Assembly District 56 (Brooklyn): Welcome to musical chairs, Brooklyn style. This seat representing parts of Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights became vacant because Al Vann, who had held it for 26 years, decided to seek the city council seat that had been held by term-limited council member Annette Robinson. Vann won his election in November, and now Robinson is seeking Vann's old job as the Democratic and Independence candidate. Running against her are Richard Taylor (Liberal) who argues that incumbent politicians have failed the district, Arthur Bramwell (Republican) who has been running for office for more than 30 years, and Sam Sloan, a Libertarian who has lived in a series of neighborhood abandoned buildings as his company renovates them.

See "Albany Rules" by Gail Robinson

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