Call it Colton’s revenge!
Assemblyman Bill Colton (D–Bensonhurst) is pushing ex-mayoral candidate and evangelical minister Erick Salgado to run as a Democrat for the seat of Rep. Michael Grimm (R–Bay Ridge) — forcing a primary against former Coney Island councilman Domenic Recchia, one of Colton’s most hated enemies.
Salgado tweeted a photo of himself and Colton on March 10 thanking the pol for helping him set up his exploratory committee.
Salgado lives on the north shore of Staten Island — the borough that makes up the bulk of Grimm’s district — where he has a congregation of 200. He also has satellite churches on 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst and W. Seventh Street in Gravesend. The minister said Colton offered his support for a congressional run on March 5.
“He’s willing to work with me very strongly,” Salgado said.
Colton did not respond to requests for comment, but sources suggested that he may not be serious about getting Salgado elected, and is instead trying to force Recchia to ask for his support.
“Colton wants people to think he is important, and what he wants is for Domenic and his people to come to him and say ‘Oh, how can we make this right?’ ” a source told us.
For his part, Salgado blasted Recchia as too left-wing to win the votes of Staten Island’s old-fashioned Reagan Democrats.
“The people in Staten Island don’t want to be represented by an ultra liberal,” Salgado said. “They would like to be represented by a real Democrat with some conservative views.”
Recchia’s campaign declined to comment.
Salgado’s mayoral run drew strong support from Russian media mogul Gregory Davidzon, widely seen as a kingmaker in southern Brooklyn’s growing community of Russian emigres. Records show that the minister paid Davidzon almost $50,000 for advertising on his Russian-language radio station during last year’s mayoral primary, and that the campaign still owes the media tycoon nearly $5,000 for consulting services and office rent.
Salgado said that Davidzon was enthusiastic when told of his plans to run for Grimm’s seat.
“He was very excited when I talked to him and mentioned that I was thinking to jump in,” the minister said.
A spokesman for Davidzon said that he has yet to decide who he wants to win the seat.
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The Kings County Democratic machine is the weakest it has been in years, but there is still one lever it has kept in its grip — New York Supreme Court judgeships.
Instead of facing open primaries like civil court judges do, justices on the Supreme Court — the lowest level of trial court in the state — get elected purely through the machinations of the Democratic Party. And even insiders say the system is rigged.
“It’s a question of sucking up. And the person who does that best seems to get elected,” said Chris Olechowski, a former Democratic Party district leader from Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
When positions on the Supreme Court open up, district leaders — unpaid, low-level party officials elected to represent the borough’s Assembly seats in the county machine — help pick delegates to a judicial convention in the fall, which is supposed to select the county’s nominees.
Olechowski, who served as a district leader in 2013, said he was inundated with calls from more than 20 civil court judges hoping for one of the five open seats on the Supreme Court.
“They were calling me constantly at home and at work,” he said.
Shortly before the judicial convention last September, Brooklyn’s 42 district leaders held a meeting that Olechowski was unable to attend — but that he realized later was where they selected an official slate of five judicial candidates.
When he went to the convention, he saw party operatives handing out pre-written statements of support for just five of the candidates, which the delegates dutifully read.
Olechowski was shocked, comparing the system to that in Communist countries.
“I looked at my wife, and she said this reminded her of what happened in Poland during the ’60s and ’70s, when the Politburo rubber-stamped whatever candidates they wanted,” Olechowski said.
Olechowski noted that since Brooklyn is basically a one-party state, the party’s official picks nearly always end up on the bench — for terms of 14 years.
“You’re dealing with a local system here that is a one-party system that controls the apparatus and the policy making. And that can lead to corrupt practices, or undemocratic practices,” he said.
Others confirmed Olechowski’s account.
“Every convention is scripted. There is a slate brought before the convention, and the delegates vote for the slate,” said Joanne Simon, a district leader from Brooklyn Heights, who attended the meeting that Olechowski missed, and confirmed that the district leaders picked out the candidates.
She noted that theoretically someone not on the district leaders’ slate could still nominate themselves from the floor of the convention, but would not only lose, but destroy any chance they ever had of getting on the Supreme Court bench.
“You have to know that you’ll never get the nomination thereafter,” Simon said. “You’re not going to make the connections you need to get County’s nod.”