In a rowdy and raucous Kings County Democratic County Committee meeting last night, both entrenched and Progressive Dems agreed on one thing – reforms are needed in the way proxy votes are handled.
And to a unanimous “I” from the packed mainly progressive crowd at the Leon M. Goldstein Performing Arts Center Auditorium of Kingsborough Community College to the entrenched party leaders there was no apparent opposition when two proxy amendments passed the body and moved to the rules committee.
“I am very hopeful that the overwhelming majority in the room supported these reforms and I hope that the executive committee meeting takes up the reforms and incorporates them into the bylaws of the party with little to no changes,” said Assemblyman Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington), who drafted the amendments along with his District Leader Josh Skaller.
The issue of how to handle proxy votes has been one of the most contentious for the party. That because each assembly district has dozens of Democratic county committee member seats, many of which are vacant and some of whom hardly care, have time for or know about upcoming meetings and decisions made by county party leaders.
Kings County Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio, with support from a number of the longtime party regulars, shore up their base of power by sending out cards to committee members to sign and return, thus giving them their votes on rules and bylaws as proxies. This year, out of fear they are losing political ground, Seddio sent out emails and letters signed from various officials without their permission asking for proxy votes – upsetting both the officials and many of the rank-and-file Democrats.
Not to be outdone, the progressive New Kings Democrats (NKD) political club and like-minded progressives, have been scouring the county for their own proxy votes in anticipation of the meeting. Their makeup is largely the new and growing class of Brooklnites that some characterize as gentrifiers, and have started going into traditionally lower-income neighborhoods to recruit similar-minded people to become committee members and/or give proxies to them.
The major amendment that Carroll and Skaller brought to the floor was that, “A member of the County Committee may only authorize as his/her proxy to another member of the committee from his/her assembly district and the person requesting the proxy must list his/her name, address, phone number, and email address on the face of the proxy card.
Thus, neither Seddio nor the NKD can take someone’s proxy vote unless they live within the same assembly district as the person that signed the proxy.
The second amendment dictates that all proxy cards must include a clear and bold print warning that in signing the card “you are waiving and releasing your voting privileges to the holder of this proxy and you will have no control of how the holder of this proxy votes.” The warning and explanation of the proxy is necessary so that rank-and-file members of the county committee understand how the proxy system works as well as the ramifications of signing and returning their proxy.
The night was marred with a late start in counting the proxies and it was finally revealed that Seddio controlled man more proxies than the NKD. When the meeting did start, shouting and catcalling from the audience dominated and interrupted much of the business, including much interpreting of the Roberts Rules of Order, which dictates how open parliamentary type meetings are conducted.
The meeting also saw the executive committee, which is made up of the male and female Democratic District leaders, re-elect Seddio as county chair.
Additionally, with the use of Seddio’s proxies, Democratic District Leader Joe Bova (D-Bensonhurst, Sunset Park) was elected chair of the County Committee Board.
The NKD put up their president Brandon West, along with a number of reformers against the entrenched slate, perhaps hoping that to get the reformers on the board they would then have the power to vote with the executive committee giving them more clout.
But former City Councilman and Democratic District Lew Fidler noted this would have been against the bylaws because having the board made up of non-district leaders could weigh the executive board against the diversity throughout the borough.
Having district leaders as members of the county committee board ensures that all districts in their diversity are represented at the county party level, said Fidler.
Meanwhile, Seddio welcomed the progressives as positive and refreshing new people with new ideas to the party.
“The energy of the younger members is exciting even if I don’t always agree with them. It shows the party is exciting and worth fighting over. It’s our job to meld the young and the old and elect Democrats,” said Seddio.hotographs by Tsubasa Berg