After the male district leader for the 43rd Assembly District abruptly resigned, leaders of the Brooklyn Democratic Party rushed to appoint a new man to fill the post on May 6 without any input from the public — angering reformers, who accused the party of bypassing the democratic process.
“It is absolutely an issue of transparency,” said Jessica Thurston, of the New Kings Democrats. “It is an issue of party leadership — the machine — exploiting the rules that they themselves control to keep constituents in the dark.”
Geoffrey Davis, the former male district leader of the Crown Heights and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens assembly district, formally stepped down from the low-level elected position the same night, paving the way for the party to appoint assembly staffer Edu Hermelyn as his replacement with no formal input from voters or community members.
The Brooklyn Democratic Party declined to answer questions about the appointment process — but pointed to Hermelyn’s record as an organizer in the district.
“From his tenant activism to his years of work with local elected officials and in government policy, Edu has already hit the ground running helping residents of the district he grew up in to cope with the current crisis and beyond as we build a more inclusive and progressive Brooklyn,” party spokesman Bob Liff said in a statement.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Kings County Democrat County Executive Committee for nominating and voting me to be the District Leader for the 43rd Assembly District @CityAndStateNY @KingsCountyPols pic.twitter.com/oR6rsU5HWx
— Edu Hermelyn (@Edu_Hermelyn) May 7, 2020
Just weeks before his resignation, Davis fought to get a primary challenger — activist Akel Williams — off the ballot for the district leader position by challenging his petition signatures before the Board of Elections. Williams was booted from the ballot by the board after Davis objected to a small number of the roughly 200 signatures Williams collected. When Williams’ lawyer tried to challenge the board’s ruling, the State Supreme Court allegedly refused to hear his case because the proper documents were not served on time due to a lack of overnight mail service.
Soon after Williams was off the ballot, Davis tendered his resignation.
The county’s executive committee rules allow district leaders to resign and for the party to appoint their successors if there is no upcoming election. The elimination of Williams as a primary challenger made that appointment possible.
“To do that and then resign — it’s just gross,” Thurston said.
Williams said he suspects the ordeal was a calculated move to fill the position with someone who would support the new party boss, Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, as she attempts to insert more loyalists into positions in central Brooklyn. Bichotte’s cousin and close ally, Josue Pierre, is already the male District Leader in the neighboring 42nd Assembly District, where Bichotte is the female district leader and assemblywoman.
“Looking back, it’s clear in my head now that all of this was planned,” Williams said. “It’s just completely usurping the entire democratic process.”
Davis and Hermelyn did not return requests for comment.