Court quashes Working Families line grab • Brooklyn Paper

Court quashes Working Families line grab

Bay Ridge City Council Candidate Justin Brannan will still enjoy an uncontested spot on the Working Families Party line this September after his Republican opponent Liam McCabe’s attempt to hijack it was thwarted in court.

Despite telling this paper on Aug. 1 that Brannan would not sue to block McCabe’s Opportunity to Ballot — a maneuver that would have opened up the progressive party’s primary — attorney Sarah Steiner filed the case in Brooklyn Supreme Court that very day.

And on Aug. 15, Judge Edgar Walker threw out McCabe’s petitions, still giving Brannan an unfair free pass to get on the ballot in the November general election, said McCabe.

“They invalidated the petitions,” he said during a phone call on Aug. 15. “It’s sad that the Working Families Party will not have an opportunity, the rank and file people in this community, to really choose who represents them.”

McCabe collected 25 signatures from registered Working Families Party members, but Steiner argued, and Walker later ruled, that several either weren’t true members of the party, had signed multiple petitions, or did not even live in the district, according to court documents.

Leaders of the Working Families Party criticized McCabe for trying to snag the line in an attempt to confuse voters — but it’s really Brannan’s campaign that played dirty, McCabe said, by spending the big bucks on an election lawyer, and forcing those who signed McCabe’s petitions into court to testify against him.

“People on our side received summonses or notices Thursday or Friday. He’s summonsing people, he expects constituents — voters that might even vote for him in a general or potentially a write-in primary — he has subpoenaed to court,” McCabe said during an unrelated interview on Aug. 11. “That’s not really nice.”

And McCabe’s maneuver to give the party’s voters a choice may have been stifled, but he’s glad he took the step to stand up to what he considers to be an attempt to force on the Working Families Party Mayor DeBlasio’s handpicked successor to term-limited Councilman Vincent Gentile, he said.

“I’m proud we took the fight to Justin and the mayor. At the end of the day, we always suspected it’d be tough to try to do. We never realized how committed they were to stopping the election,” said McCabe. “It’s really just an exercise in democracy, that’s why the Opportunity to Ballot exists, when you feel it’s a very top down process. It’s a sad day for democracy in the district. I’m glad we’re beginning to bring the fight to Mayor DeBlasio, that’s what this is all about. So game on.”

But leaders of the progressive party are glad to see Brannan walk away victorious.

“We’re gratified that this attempt to steal the WFP ballot line by the Republicans has been defeated,” said Working Families Party New York State director Bill Lipton. “We look forward to doubling down on our efforts to talk to voters in the 43rd council district about Justin Brannan’s commitment to working families.”

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Reformers are hoping they’ll have a say in who the candidate will be to replace state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), instead of just leaving the decision to two party insiders, ever since he resigned from his seat too late for a nonpartisan special election.

Squadron’s district spans both Brooklyn and the distant isle of Manhattan, so both of the county’s parties have a say in his successor — although the majority of it sits in Manhattan. And in a mix of arcane, archaic, and complicated election laws coming from the state and each county party’s own bylaws, the decision to name Squadron’s likely successor essentially rests with the chairmen of the two county committees, not their several-hundred rank-and-file members.

Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Frank Seddio told the Daily News on Aug. 9 that he and Manhattan Democratic chairman Keith Wright will chose the candidate for the special election.

But members of the reform group New Kings Democrats are advocating to be heard, charging that leaving all the power with two men and keeping hundreds of county committee members in the dark is simply undemocratic.

“No official news has come out yet and we’ve seen some conflicting statements — saw Frank Seddio stated that it would be decided by himself and Keith Wright,” said president of the club Anusha Venkataraman. “The county committee members don’t have a lot of formal power, but this is one of the most significant powers that county committee members have. We should be encouraged to exercise that power and be allowed to vote.”

And Squadron, known for his fight for reforming Albany, also penned a letter to Seddio and Wright, urging them to allow all of their respective county committee members to have a say in the decision.

“I strongly urge you to make this as democratic as possible: to allow a full vote of the county committee across both Manhattan and Brooklyn, and to be bound by its results,” Squadron wrote on Aug. 9.

Executive director of the Manhattan Democratic Party Barry Weinberg said his county committee members will come to a full vote. But a spokesman for the Brooklyn Democratic Party would only say that no decision has been made yet.

“The Brooklyn and Manhattan leaders will meet in September to discuss the options for a process in the 26th,” said George Arzt.

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Endorsement round-up;

The Uniformed Firefighters Association is backing Republican Bay Ridge City Council candidate John Quaglione.

Tenants Pac threw its support behind Democratic Crown Heights City Council candidate Ede Fox.

Mayor DeBlasio endorsed both Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D–Williamsburg) and Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D–Flatbush) for re-election. The two council members also endorsed Hizzoner.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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