Since our elected state legislators are often lifetime positions, there is always a mad scramble for open seats. This is the case in the vacant 46th Assembly District, which covers Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, and extends along the bay to Brighton Beach and Coney Island.
Last month, Assemblywoman Pamela Harris resigned after being charged in an 11-count federal indictment.
There must be something in the air with this seat because her predecessor, Alec Brook-Krasny, was also arrested and indicted for healthcare fraud after he left office in 2015.
With the last two Democratic Assembly members being indicted and the district including the only Republican strongholds in Brooklyn, the race for the now-vacant 46th seat is heating up. Hopefully, whoever wins this time can stay out of jail.
On the GOP side, all signs point to Steven Saperstein as the candidate. He officially announced his campaign this week, with very supportive words from the Brooklyn Republican chairman. Saperstein, a special education teacher, ran for Council last year in the 48th District, which overlaps the Brighton Beach portion of the Assembly district, giving him some needed name recognition.
But one has to wonder why Liam McCabe, a former Republican Council candidate last year, dropped out of the running so quickly right after aggressively floating a candidacy on social media. He changed his public Facebook page to “Liam for New York,” which, as any political wonk knows, is the appropriate name for a state political committee. Indeed, McCabe confirmed to a Brooklyn media outlet that he would be filing a state Assembly campaign committee.
Recently, McCabe stated on Facebook that he would not run so he could help ex-con Michael Grimm in his congressional GOP primary against incumbent Dan Donovan. (Adding intrigue is that Donovan actually employed McCabe in his district office for several years and endorsed McCabe in his own primary last year. So much for loyalty.) So, is there more to McCabe’s decision to pass on running under the guise of helping Grimm? Did GOP leaders push McCabe out for some unknown reason? Did Grimm promise McCabe a job back in politics if he wins that Donovan would not?
On the other side, Democrats are looking at a proxy war between the two ends of the sprawling district connected by the Belt Parkway. On the Bay Ridge side, rumors are swirling that Chris McCreight is interested in running. He is the chief of staff to new local Democrat king maker, Councilman Justin Brannan. McCreight also has professional ties to the Coney Island area, making him a very formidable candidate if he enters the Fray by the Bay. In the Coney Island end, Councilman Mark Treyger and his faction are supporting his former chief of staff, Ethan Lustig-Elgrably, who also just kicked his campaign off this week.
Some background on this turf war is in order. In 2016, Treyger won the 46th district leader race against McCreight. Not surprisingly, Treyger got more than 90 percent of the vote in the Coney Island and Brighton Beach end of the district, while McCreight dominated in the Bay Ridge and Dyker parts by a 3 to 1 margin. This was an extremely nasty war between them as McCreight accused Councilman Treyger of being a carpetbagger for moving several times within Brooklyn to suit his political goals.
This split also extended to the 2016 Democratic primary for the Assembly seat where Harris defeated Kate Cucco. Treyger supported Harris, while McCreight and his folks were with Cucco. Harris got 63 percent of the vote, but Cucco beat Harris in the Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights area.
Also in the mix is Mathylde Frontus, an adjunct professor and long-time Coney Island resident that was the first out of the gate. She is a community activist who founded several local organizations. If McCreight doesn’t run there could be a possible alliance between his side and Frontus.
One can wish there were more open seats to create these political choices for voters. Implementing term limits on state elected officials would do the job so we don’t have to rely on arrests and resignations.
Bob Capano is the chairman of the Brooklyn Reform Party and has been an adjunct political science professor at the City University of New York.