Rage against the machine: ‘Progressive’ Dems slam Bklyn boss for stopping vote on Squadron replacement

Rage against the machine: ‘Progressive’ Dems slam Bklyn boss for stopping vote on Squadron replacement
Community News Group / Julianne Cuba

Some Brooklyn Democrats blasted Kings County’s Democratic Party’s chairman at the group’s fifth-annual post-primary breakfast at Junior’s Restaurant Downtown on Sept. 18, after he negotiated what they called a back-room deal to support one candidate to succeed a Brooklyn Heights state senator, instead of allowing members to vote on a nominee.

Members of New Kings Democrats and other self-proclaimed “progressive” clubs say party boss Frank Seddio alone decided who would replace Daniel Squadron in the state Senate when he didn’t give Brooklyn committee members a say and put his weight behind machine favorite Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (D–Manhattan).

“We’re tired of individuals thinking they can make decisions on behalf of all of Brooklyn,” said Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D–Williamsburg) of New Kings Democrats. “Today, Seddio and the county decided unilaterally to choose and appoint the next elected official of the 26th Senatorial District, and that is unacceptable.”

Squadron resigned from Albany’s upper house in August after an important petition-filing deadline for would-be candidates, eliminating the ability for the Brooklyn and Manhattan residents of his district elect a successor. Naming the legislator’s next-in-line instead fell to both boroughs’ county committees and, due to complicated and arcane election laws, the decision basically rested with Seddio and Manhattan Chairman Keith Wright.

On Sunday, about 100 Manhattan committee members voted overwhelmingly to back Paul Newell — a district leader from Manhattan who is considered a reformer among progressive groups in both boroughs — over Kavanagh.

Wright in turn split his vote, instead of consolidating it behind one candidate, and Seddio didn’t even give his committee’s members a say, putting Brooklyn behind Kavanagh.

The autonomous move was a departure from the idea to install a placeholder nominee that Seddio previously floated, and riled reformers who said it is pathetic that one man is still making decisions for the entire borough long after the corrupt days of late Democratic boss Vito Lopez.

“How is it that Manhattan is going to be allowed to move through a county committee process and Brooklyn is not? It’s glaringly disrespectful and an embarrassment,” said Reynoso. “All these mistakes continue to happen and it’s because people are not allowed to be part of a process.”

The Brooklyn boss sent out a press release on Sept. 17 that announced Kings County Democrats endorsed Kavanagh, who party bigwigs including Mayor DeBlasio and Gov. Cuomo also backed. But that statement could not be further from the truth considering no vote was held and that Seddio didn’t even return New Kings Democrats’ requests to discuss any of the potential seat-fillers, according to the president of the more than 400-member club, which endorsed Newell.

“For the Brooklyn Democratic Party to be respected, they need to be as democratic — as inclusive and participatory — as possible,” said Anusha Venkataraman. “There could have been a vote in the name of democracy and giving Brooklyn residents a chance to say who we think is the best person to be the next senator.”

But the party chairman maintains he is innocent, claiming he simply followed rules that were written way before he rose to power.

“The process I didn’t create, it’s been around for 50 years,” he said. “I followed the rules.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Peaceful breakfast: Brooklyn Democratic Party spokesman George Arzt munches on his breakfast as reformers protest outside.
Community News Group / Julianne Cuba