New Kings Democrats Elect Anusha Venkataraman As Club’s New President


The New Kings Democrats Monday elected Anusha Venkataraman as their new president, who promised to continue the political club’s agenda of being reform minded both on a county and state level.

Rounding out the executive committee are Brandon West (VP of Policy and Political Affairs), Rodrigo Camarena (Secretary), Sara Shoener (Chief of Operations), Jenn Paez (Treasurer), Theo Moore (VP of Organizing), and Ryan Shanley (Digital Director).

The New Kings Democrats Executive Committee. Pictured L to R: Brandon West (VP of Policy and Political Affairs), Rodrigo Camarena (Secretary), Anusha Vankataraman (President), Sara Shoener (Chief of Operations), Jenn Paez (Treasurer), Theo Moore (VP of Organizing), and Ryan Shanley (Digital Director). Photo by Dan Abramson.

Venkataraman said she first became involved with the NKD in the early part of this decade while working with El Puente, a north Brooklyn community based non-profit organization. At the time the late former Kings County Democratic Chair Vito Lopez’s own non-profit organization, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, controlled the non-profit services landscape of Williamsburg and Bushwick, and El Puente, along with several other non-profits joined together for more equitable funding, she said.

The NKD at the time, as is now, formed with a mission to stop Lopez and bring on Democratic Party political reforms borough-wide and that remains the club’s primary agenda. In doing so, it has grown out of the traditional role of being a neighborhood political club, and now has several hundred active members and reaches out from North Brooklyn into Downtown Brooklyn, Crown Heights, Flatbush and Lefferts Gardens, said Venkataraman.

“We are a mission driven not personality driven club,” said Venkataraman said. “Our agenda includes transparence and accountability in the Democratic Party borough wide and to advocate for reforms in the New York State Legislature.”

Venkataraman said this includes issues focussing on corruption in Albany and instituting campaign finance refrom and educating regular people not knowing what it takes to run for office. The incumbents in the senate and assembly from Kings County are the longest serving legislators in the city averaging 21 years in office, she said.

On a county level, Venkataraman said current Kings County Democratic Frank Seddio has instituted some reforms such as having more regular meetings with Democratic Party County Committee members, but still has a way to go in making public the party’s budget and reforming how proxies are counted.

The NKD is a youth-oriented club, ideal for both young up-and-coming candidates and for young people looking to to get politically involved. It also has an excellent website that explains how the Democratic Party and politics works at the most grassroots level.  

On the down side of their reform movement, however, is the club has strong ties to the de Blasio Administration. Venkataraman, who has a degree and experience in urban planning, is the Director of Community Partnerships for the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Several other members of the club have gotten patronage jobs with the city as operatives – much the same way de Blasio himself came up through the Dinkins administration.

Thus, although reform minded, the club is not likely to call for the open transparency or reforms that several watchdog advocacy groups are asking of de Blasio – particularly the call for more transparency on de Blasio’s shadow fundraising arm, his relationship with public relations firms that also represent entities with business before government, and relationship with big real estate donors.

Like all of the borough’s political clubs, the NKD also makes endorsements and has already endorsed 24-year incumbent Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who has also close ties to the club. City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who worked for Velazquez,  came out of the club.

The endorsement comes as Velazquez faces Chinese-American Yungman Lee in the June Democratic Primary, in a district that includes both Lower Manhattan and Sunset Park’s Chinatown. It also comes amid a growing chorus in Brooklyn’s large politically disenfranchised Chinese community that Velazquez has ignored this community.

As for her own political future, Venkataraman, 33, who hails from Ohio and Rhode Island, said she is enjoying what she’s doing right now.

“I’m very aware that I’m not from New York City and I’m always behind someone from the community running, but one day if it made sense I would be interested,” she said.