Frank Seddio will step down as the leader of the Brooklyn Democratic Party next week, saying he wants to take a less active role in county politics as he edges closer to retirement.
“I think eight years is long enough,” Seddio said. “I’m 74 years old and I want to do more with my wife and my family.”
Seddio, who was first elected as Chairman of the Kings County Democratic Party in 2012, will officially step down Monday and the party’s executive committee will choose his replacement at a closed-door meeting that same day.
Brooklyn’s top Democrat is choosing to back Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte (D—Flatbush) as his interim successor, who, if elected, would be the first woman to hold the position, which would give her significant influence over the borough’s court system and local elections.
The state lawmaker laid out a vision for transparency, fundraising, and grassroots support, saying she hoped to rally her colleagues around her leadership bid.
“I think that people need to understand that change is inevitable, and I hope that if I’m elected by my fellow district leaders that they will give me the benefit of the doubt to allow change to happen,” Bichotte said.
The sudden announcement of Seddio’s departure — coupled with the impending vote for his successor — took some Brooklyn Democrats by surprise, with reform-minded district leaders and political activists accusing the party’s chief of handpicking his replacement in a rush to ward off any serious contenders.
“I would like some assurances that the new leader was put in place because people felt that she or he has the requisite skills to rule the party and wasn’t part of some deal making behind the scenes,” said Josh Skaller, District Leader for the 52nd District, which includes Downtown and parts of brownstone Brooklyn.
Rank-and-file Democrats have only until Monday, Jan. 20, before the borough’s 42 District Leaders are asked to vote on their next county chairperson, and the only current contender is Assemblyman Walter Mosley (D–Clinton Hill).
“Brooklynites deserve to hear what Rodneyse’s vision is and for other candidates to be able to put themselves forward,” said Jessica Thurston of New Kings Democrats. “It seems predetermined by existing leadership.”
Seddio has existed as a staple of Kings County politics, particularly around Canarsie, Mill Basin, Sheepshead Bay, and Marine Park, since the 1980s, when he parlayed his career as a community liaison for local police precincts into a career as a civic leader and later as a politician.
The Canarsie native served alternatively as Community Board 18’s district manager and chairman in the late ’80s early ’90s, before being elected as an Assemblyman to represent Flatlands, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, and Canarsie from 1998–2005.
A practicing attorney, Seddio was later elected as a surrogate court judge, and in 2010 became the male Democratic District Leader for the 59th District, before taking over the helm of the party from the late Vito Lopez two years later, after his predecessor stepped down in the wake of multiple sexual assault allegations by his female staffers, to whom he offered public funds as hush money.
Seddio’s resignation comes amid concerns raised by activists about the health of the Democratic party’s finances, which have deteriorated under Seddio’s stewardship from $505,000 in 2013 to just $32,800 in July 2019, according to a NY Daily News report.
The party’s financial troubles occur as Seddio himself faces lawsuits over debts totaling $2.2 million he allegedly owes to the Kentucky-based Golden Resources LLC, which owns a Golden Corral restaurant franchise in which he invested in the Bluegrass State, the Daily News reported.
Seddio denied that his financial difficulties played into his decision to step down, and claimed that the party’s dwindling funds were due to the party refusing real estate money.
Bichotte did not commit to whether the party would continue to reject donations from large developers, saying she would have to confer with fellow leading Dems about that if she takes over the helm.
At its last twice-yearly meeting in September, the party’s full membership voted to create a finance committee to oversee the party’s ailing finances, to which Bichotte was appointed chair, a position she will relinquish to take on her new leading role.
Seddio also came under fire for using hundreds of absentee votes known as proxy cards to overpower rank-and-file members at the party’s typically raucous meetings, and one Greenpoint district leader hopes that whoever his successor is will limit that tactic.
“Regardless of who’s in charge, the party needs to get more transparent and more democratic,” said Nick Rizzo. “It’s the only way this rusty old machine can survive.”
Some district leaders have called on curtailing the absentee votes by only allowing district leaders to use the cards from people within their district, but here, again, Bichotte said did not commit to any immediate changes in the policy.
“I will have to talk to the leaders and see what we will do,” she said. “These are conversations that we will have.”