The Board of Elections named a new Republican chief clerk one year after the infamous April 2016 voter purge, which slashed more than 120,000 voters from the rolls during the contentious New York presidential primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
Bay Ridgite Ray Riley — a former staffer of state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) who now works at Maimonides Medical Center — will replace Diane Haslett-Rudiano at the end of the month, filling the six-figure position she was suspended without pay two days after the purge.
Riley will start his new gig on April 30, a Board of Elections spokeswoman said. And Haslett-Rudiano’s Democratic counterpart Betty Ann Canizio remains suspended without pay, the spokeswoman said.
This being Brooklyn’s fractured Republican Party, the move of course comes with some controversy.
Some conservative politicos are charging Riley has been hand-picked by state Sen. Marty Golden in yet another move to maintain his political power.
It is customary for county leaders to pull strings to get their allies high-paying gigs on the board, and in this case it should have been newly elected Kings County Republican Chairman Ted Ghorra to name the new guy — but sources say it was Golden who gave the nod to appoint Riley.
“The chairman should have been the one to pick. Ghorra would have nothing to do with. Marty was definitely behind that,” one source said. “Ray’s never worked at the Board of Elections. This is patronage.”
Other sources claimed days after the purge that Golden had chosen Republican Brooklyn Board of Elections commissioner Simon Shamoun in exchange for internal favors, like allegedly shredding competitor’s petitions.
And appointing Riley is just Golden’s way of trying to gain more power, said an election attorney familiar with Brooklyn politics.
“He was always one of the main organizers of Marty’s campaign,” he said. “And it’s just another example of consolidating his power at the Board of Elections.”
Golden did not respond to requests for comments, but a former consultant for the senator said it makes perfect sense that Riley was appointed to the board and obviously his anti-faction would spew that kind of nonsense.
“Not surprising that he ended up with a prestigious job at Maimonides, and it’s not surprising he would end up at the Board of Elections,” said Gerry O’Brien, who left the Republican Party and is now an independent. “I would find it difficult to believe that Ted and Marty weren’t on the same page about this. They seem to be working very closely with each other. The anti-Golden camp, of course you’re going to say, ‘he’s just doing what he’s told.’”
But Ghorra insists he had an even hand in selecting Riley, and that Golden was busy in Albany when discussions were taking place.
“I was consulted on the county clerk position concerning Ray Riley, there is no disagreement with anyone regarding his selection and Senator Golden was occupied with Senate and constituency matters — not this issue,” said Ghorra in an e-mailed stated.
Ghorra did not return an e-mail asking if he consulted Golden at all about the pick by press time.
Riley could not be reached for comment.
Term-limited Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), who is vying to become the borough’s next district attorney, came out on top in a new poll he commissioned in which voters were asked if they have a “favorable opinion” of him and five other candidates running for the seat.
Gentile topped the charts with 21 percent answering “favorable,” beating interim District Attorney Eric Gonzalez by two percent.
But Gonzalez would still win according to the poll, with 15 percent saying they would vote for him, four percent more than those who said they would cast a ballot for Gentile.
But nearly half the voters — 48 percent — say they are still undecided.
Gentile used some cash from his more than $85,000 in his campaign coffers to launch a poll through North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, which surveyed 630 likely Democratic primary voters in Kings County from April 6 to April 9.
Others running for the seat include Patricia Gatling, Ama Dwimoh, Anne Swern, and Marc Fleidner.
The results are just as the senior lawmaker suspected, he said.
“It was the campaign’s idea to see what the lay of the land is in the race. There was no guarantee about that, it just so happens the results show that I had a very strong showing,” Gentile said.
But Gentile is also actively courting voters — including those who are just old enough to cast their first ballot — through social media. His campaign launched a 90-second video across multiple platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, to highlight why he’s running for the seat — it has nothing to do with trying to get the young vote, said his campaign manager Samuel Powers.
“As part of that campaign launch, we purchased Facebook ads to run across the borough. It was less about targeting a specific demographic and more about making sure we were advertising our video across Brooklyn,” he said. “Facebook is used by people of all ages and ethnicities, so we chose it simply because it’s an easy way to reach a lot of people rather than radio or TV. The reason it was also on Instagram is a lot of individuals have their facebook connected to their Instagram.”
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The also-heated race to replace Gentile for his Council seat are the handful of candidates who — like their ties with Democratic Party Boss Frank Seddio — are all equally close with the man they are vying to replace. And it’s making it difficult to give out an endorsement, said Gentile.
Gentile staffer Justin Brannan, Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D–Bensonhurst), and District Leaders Kevin Peter Carroll and Nancy Tong are all friendly with the councilman, and Gentile doesn’t know when, or even if, he plans to endorse any of them, he said.
“I know everybody in this race so it’s a matter of how things shape up in the months to come,” he said. “I haven’t decide when that will be, if I do one.”