Political unrest marked this year’s 5th Annual Kings County Democratic Breakfast in Downtown Brooklyn today when City Councilmember Antonio Reynoso (D-Williamsburg, Bushwick) and members of the New Kings Democrats (NKD) political club protested yesterday’s announcement that Manhattan Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh had secured the Democratic nomination for the vacant 26th District Senatorial Seat covering lower Manhattan and Northern Brooklyn.
The group used the annual event at Junior’s Restaurant, 386 Flatbush Avenue Extension, to confront Kings County Democratic Party Boss, Frank Seddio, whose County Committee threw their entire support behind Kavanagh, without a committee vote, to give him the nomination in the Nov. 7 special election for the seat.
Following Seddio’s announcement, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer also endorsed Kavanagh. The senate seat opened up last month when Sen. Daniel Squadron stepped down in the middle of his fifth two-year term.
Seddio qualified the nomination calling Kavanagh the best candidate to represent the 26th Senate District and the democratic party.
”That’s not what the rules require. The process in Brooklyn is different from the process in Manhattan. They allow a recommendation of the county committee. Of the candidates that were in the race, I evaluated them for our purposes and for who I thought was the best candidate that would serve us. And I believe that for a 10-year state legislator to walk into the state Senate with experience and knowledge was the best choice,” Seddio told reporters at the breakfast.
Kavanagh currently represents the 74th Assembly District in Lower Manhattan up to just beyond East 14th Street, first took office in 2007, and is considered a reform and progressive-minded Democrat. He went to Princeton as an undergraduate and became an attorney after attending New York University Law School.
Seddio’s announced backing of Kavanagh came with endorsements from many of Brooklyn’s electeds including Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries, Borough President Eric Adams, and several reform-minded lawmakers such as Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon and City Councilmember Brad Lander.
But Reynoso and NKD members pointed out that in a vote the New York County (Manhattan) Committee took on the nomination, Manhattan District Leader Paul Newell beat Kavanagh, 72-28, and that the nomination lacked transparency and didn’t pass the smell test.
“This is unacceptable and very disrespectful. We’re going to earn their respect by making sure we bring our County Committee members when we change [Brooklyn’s] Democratic party. That unity stuff, their [Democratic party] message that their sending out, ‘to celebrate a unified Brooklyn’, where? It doesn’t exist,” said Reynoso.
Also supporting Newell is Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kennsington), who called on New York County Democratic Boss Keith Wright and Seddio to respect the will of the County Committee vote in Manhattan and back Newell.
“This process is already highly undemocratic and would become completely devoid of any legitimacy if anyone but Paul is chosen to be the Democratic nominee after such an overwhelming vote at yesterday’s County Committee meeting,” said Carroll.
“The only fair and democratic choice for the Democratic Nomination for the 26th Senate District is Paul Newell. Any other nominee at this point would be illegitimate and would only further crystallize – in practice and in spirit – that Albany is a broken and craven place where even those who claim to be paragons of reform are in fact self-serving,” he added.
Special elections are held in the event of an unexpected departure of the current office holder. Candidates for the vacant legislative seat are first chosen by the leadership of their respective political parties in a committee meeting, rather than by the voters registered in that political party during a primary election.
In Brooklyn, the 26th Senate District includes the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, the Columbia Waterfront, DUMBO, Downtown Brooklyn, Fulton Ferry, Greenpoint, the Navy Yard, Vinegar Hill, and Williamsburg.
– Staff Reporter Kadia Goba contributed to this story.