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Brooklyn boss Frank Seddio’s backing of Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito for Speaker good for Brooklyn, good for Working Families Party, but bad for Democrats

Worked over! Brooklyn’s gain in Council speaker battle is Democrats’ loss, experts say

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Brooklyn’s Democratic boss has strengthened his borough — but may have weakened his party.

Kings County Democratic chairman Frank Seddio threw his weight behind progressive Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito’s Speakership bid this week, uniting Brooklyn’s long-fractured delegation — but potentially turning over considerable power to a third party, according to insiders.

Seddio, at the urging of Mayor-elect DeBlasio, surprised observers by backing Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark-Viverito (D– Manhattan) to lead the Council over her rivals, Councilman Dan Garodnick (D–Manhattan), Councilman Jimmy Vacca (D–Bronx), Councilman Mark Weprin (D–Queens), and Councilwoman Inez Dickens (D–Manhattan).

Brooklyn sends the largest delegation to the city legislature of any borough, but its influence has long suffered from the split between county machine loyalists like Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) and the more liberal members of the Progressive Caucus like Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope). Councilman Charles Barron (D–East New York) was a pariah to both organizations.

The current Brooklyn boss, who has only held his chairmanship since disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s resignation in 2012, looked especially weak after Progressive Caucus candidate Carlos Menchaca defeated Seddio-backed incumbent Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez (D–Sunset Park) in the September primary. But thanks to Seddio’s deal with the Progressives, all 16 Brooklyn reps — even the replacement for term-limited Barron, his wife Inez — are backing Mark-Viverito. And it looks like Brooklyn will enjoy the spoils: powerful positions in the Council.

Rumors are already swirling that Seddio loyalist Councilman David Greenfield (D–Borough Park) will take the coveted Land Use Committee chairmanship, while Lander will become deputy speaker for policy. And there’s talk of freshman Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay) heading up the Public Safety Committee.

But experts say the real trade-off may not have been between boroughs or caucuses, but between the Democrats and the Working Families Party.

Some Dem strategists lamented that Mark-Viverito’s ascension to the Speakership will mean that the four top offices in the city will fall under the power of the labor-backed minor party, with Bill DeBlasio becoming mayor, Letitia James becoming Public Advocate, and Scott Stringer becoming comptroller.

“The WFP has the other big three posts,” one insider said. “Do the Democratic leaders really want to turn over that power? What’s more important? Being ‘progressive,’ or that ‘D’ after your name?”

Working Families is known for lending its elite canvassing operation — regarded as the best in New York state — and its ballot line to candidates that win union favor. DeBlasio, James, and Mark-Viverito have been Working Families loyalists their entire careers — with the Public Advocate-elect actually first getting elected as Councilwoman from Fort Greene as a Working Families Party candidate. Stringer is a product of the Manhattan Democratic machine, but the key to his victory over disgraced ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer — who was dominating the term-limited borough president in early polls — was ground support from the Service Employees International Union, a major component in Working Families’ labor alliance. And DeBlasio, Mark-Viverito, Stringer, and James all appeared on the Working Families’ ballot line on election day.

“It means the apparatus of electing the Democratic leadership will be located outside of the party,” another insider said.

Seddio himself told me just weeks ago he was worried about Working Families growing power over the Democrats.

“I’m certainly concerned about it, that’s for sure,” the king of Kings said.

• • •

Sources say aspiring Brooklyn Republican boss Timothy Cochrane will run against Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D–Coney Island) in 2014. Cochrane, a Ridgite, campaigned on the Conservative line in 2008 to replace disgraced Congressman Vito Fossella — but shot to prominence again in October when he attempted to unseat GOP chairman Craig Eaton. Cochrane, backed by state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), had 565 votes behind him at the party’s convention to Eaton’s 440. But the party’s credentials committee — all Eaton allies — threw out 295 of Cochrane’s votes over what they alleged was improper dating. Cochrane and Golden have sued to restore the votes and install Cochrane as chairman, and the case will go before the Brooklyn Supreme Court on Jan. 18.

Cochrane refused to confirm or deny his candidacy for the Assembly, but said he viewed Brook-Krasny as vulnerable in the 46th District, which stretches from Bay Ridge to Brighton Beach — areas traditionally considered conservative — even though the district has not sent a Republican to the Assembly since 1948.

“I think a strong Republican with solid backing has a good chance,” said Cochrane. “One way or the other it will be a hell of a fight, and it couldn’t hurt having an Irishman in the thick of it!”

Speaking of Irishmen, Brook-Krasny’s unsuccessful 2012 challenger Tom McCarthy — another Ridgite and a banker at JP Morgan — is considering taking another shot at the Soviet emigre.

Brook-Krasny’s office declined to comment.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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