Cornegy Frontrunner For City Council Speaker
Sources say the stars may be aligning for City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr. next year to replace term-limited Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and become the first Speaker ever from Brooklyn.
The six-foot-ten Bedford-Stuyvesant/Northern Crown Heights lawmaker is smart, articulate and well liked among his colleagues in the council, and it doesn’t hurt that Queens County Democratic Party Boss Congressman Joe Crowly also likes him. Cornegy has some Queens roots including playing center on the St. Johns College basketball team during its hey day of legendary coach Lou Carnesecca – an era that Crowly and other Queens power brokers fondly remember.
On the Brooklyn side, Cornegy comes out of the powerful and hard-working Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA) club, which in some ways is comparable to Kings County Democratic Party Boss Frank Seddio‘s Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club.
It’s no accident that retiring Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, who founded the club with former Assemblyman and City Councilman Al Vann, is the Party’s second in command after Seddio. Additionally, just about anybody in Central Brooklyn that wants to run for higher office pays a visit to the VIDA for their blessing.
It was VIDA that launched Congressman Hakeem Jeffries run for Washington, and forced his predecessor former Congressman Ed Towns into retirement. It’s also the club where Public Advocate Letitia James cut her teeth as a young attorney under Vann’s wing, and most recently played a big supporting role in re-electing Assemblywoman Latrice Walker over term-limited City Councilwoman Darlene Mealy in Brownsville.
Additionally, Cornegy is more of a moderate than progressive City Councilman Jumaane Williams, which bodes well for possible support from more moderate Jewish council members such as David Greenfield and Mark Treyger.
If Cornegy does make it to the speaker role, it will further cement the obvious – that Brooklyn has replaced Harlem as the power base for black politics in the city. While Jeffries, James, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and Borough President Eric Adams are highly respected elected officials citywide and in Washington, there are a number of black elected officials whose stars are firmly on the rise.
This includes State Senator Jesse Hamilton, Assembly Members Walter Mosley, Rodneyse Bichotte and Walker; and City Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Williams.
NOTE: As KCP reader Howard Graubard pointed out, an earlier version of this item wrongly identified Abe Stark as the borough’s last equivalent of Speaker when he served as the president of the city Council, but that role actually became that of Public Advocate. Since the office was created in the 90s, a Brooklyn resident has never been Council Speaker. The equivalent office before the 90s charter change was Majority Leader. The last Brooklyn resident who served in that office was Thomas Cuite of Windsor Terrace, who left office at the end of 1985. KCP strives to be accurate and regrets the error.
Walker’s Dilema, Abbate’s Popularity in the Political Gossip Fodder
Speaking of Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, sources say she is quietly trying to line up union support for her lifelong best friend and former Chief of Staff Alicka Ampry-Samuel for City Council next year in term- limited Darlene Mealy’s seat covering Brownsville and parts of Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, East New York and East Flatbush.
If the rumor is true, it puts Walker at odds with VIDA, whose President Henry Butler also has his sights set on the seat. Butler, who is currently the favorite in the race, also has strong ties to the unions as a former motorman with the MTA and proud TWU Local 100 member.
Several other people are also looking at the seat, which promises to be one of the more watched and contested city council races in Brooklyn next year.
On the other side of the borough, sources say Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr. would be a strong favorite to replace term-limited Vincent Gentile next year for the Bay Ridge City Council seat.
Abbate, who is one of the longest-serving Brooklyn members in the Assembly, would have no problem raising money as he enjoys among the most ardent union support in the assembly. He is also a very able lawmaker, politician and horse trader, who traditionally tops or is near the top of the list of assembly members with the most bills passed per session.
While it might be hard for Abbate to leave the assembly as he is one of the more powerful lawmakers in Albany, the pay bump from $70,000-something to $140,000-something is enticing, to say nothing of saying good-by to the long commutes to Albany.
Others with serious intentions on Gentile’s seat and who, while not being a favorite if Abbate jumps in the race, could mount an upset, are Justin Brannan and Kevin Peter Carroll.
Another possibility might be if Bay Ridge’s considerably sized Arab-Muslim community puts up a moderate candidate. While Palestinian-American Linda Sarsour has the most name recognition, she remains a radical in her views on the Middle East and Israel, which would hurt her in Brooklyn, which has a large contingent of equally radical Jewish lawmakers on their views of Palestinians. That said, Sarsour is pals with Mayor de Blasio and several other citywide leaders, and is a pro at playing New York City politics. If she backed a more moderate Muslim candidate it could galvanize the Muslim community to come out and vote, which would only up her power in the long run.