Opinion: The end of my political career at the Brooklyn Democratic Party

Nick Rizzo celebrating his 2014 primary election victory at Teddy’s bar in Williamsburg.
File photo by Stefano Giovannini

There are a few different ways political careers in New York end.

More end by roughly the politician’s choice — a term limit or retirement or a resignation to take a new job — than by probably any other way, though it’s not a majority. Some die in office and others lose their re-election campaign to an opponent. Some get indicted and resign. Some get convicted and are removed from office. I’m the first politician in this state that I know of whose career (so far) has ended in a different manner than any of the ways I’ve previously laid out.

I was removed from the ballot without facing an opponent, because of objections to the petitions I gathered during the early days of the coronavirus outbreak. My position is technically vacant, to be filled by appointment in a month, but the new female district leader has made it clear she will not be appointing me, because I supported her opponent for election. Supporting her opponent, my colleague of the last six years who I generally do not agree with ideologically, turned out to be an enormous mistake on my part. Everyone in my political base feels totally betrayed by me, and it also turns out that my former colleague would have betrayed me even had she won.

I’m a particular sucker because my elected career was confined to Democratic Party politics, and as a result I was never paid for any of the positions I’ve held in the last decade. My title for another few weeks is both male Democratic District Leader and Democratic State Committeeman for the 50th Assembly District.

When I first ran six years ago, I faced four opponents in sequence. I never faced another opponent for the next six years, and as a result my name after 2014 never appeared on the ballot as a candidate for district leader. So it’s a bit of a misnomer to say I was removed from the ballot this year, since due to my opponent-less status I was never going to be appearing on the ballot in the first place. After I was removed, my supporters didn’t even have anywhere on the ballot to write me in.

For six years I tried to stand up for the grassroots of the party, and I feel I received very little support. The former boss of the county party, Frank Seddio, was more outwardly hostile to me than to any other district leader. He repeatedly threatened to challenge my petitions, as eventually happened — and I believe the challenge to my petitions could not have succeeded without the support of Seddio’s consigliere, county law chair and prominent Brooklyn attorney Frank Carone.

But I felt mostly hostility from “my” side, as well. I’ve been a member of New Kings Democrats for 12 years and Democratic Socialists of America for four; I’ve never felt well-supported by either organization. Politics is petty; I’ve recently lost a number of friends.

Two years ago, I was the sole “no” vote against Frank Seddio continuing as county chair. “My vote will make anyone ‘they’ run against me easy to label a machine stooge,” I thought to myself at the time. “That’s a hard sell in my district, so they can’t get rid of me for a while.”

If only I hadn’t been so mistaken about the need for elections.

Nick Rizzo is a Democratic District Leader representing the 50th Assembly District and a political consultant who lives in Greenpoint. Follow him on Twitter @NickRizzo.