Dem Politics: One Person’s Common Sense Is Another Person’s Lunacy

Kings County Democratic County Committee Meeting
The Kings County Democratic County Committee featured plenty of booing and shouting out motions. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)

In a battle of what defines common sense, the Kings County Democratic Executive Committee this week accepted one reform rule and rejected a second regarding two proposed changes to the proxy voting system that governs the party.

Robert Carroll
Assemblymember Robert Carroll
Democratic District Leader Josh Skaller

Male District leader Josh Skaller (52 Assembly District – Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, DUMBO) and Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington) floated the reforms at a raucous Kings County Party Committee Meeting last year.

The meeting came as there was some disagreement between the main Kings County Democratic Party organization and its Chair Frank Seddio, and some “progressive” Dem clubs like the New Kings Democrats (NKD)  on who would control the proxies of committee members who often don’t make the meetings.

The party, under Seddio’s control, sent out mailers misrepresenting district leaders asking for county committee members proxy votes, which drew criticism among many. The NKD were accused of undercutting district leaders of color by going into largely black neighborhoods and trying to usurp their leadership to control proxies for their “progressive” agenda.

Skaller and Carroll’s reform measures suggestions were two-fold. Firstly, “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.

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 executive committee, made up of the borough’s 42 district leaders, voted to approve the second suggestion requiring strong language on the proxy informing the proxy signer of the ramification of signing and giving county committee members notice on all proxy cards of their rights and what giving away your proxy vote means.

However, the executive committee was unable to come to a vote on the first proposed rule change on giving proxies to anybody within the assembly district, and referred it back to the rules committee for further review and revision.

Carroll said he was disheartened by the actions of Seddio and the majority of executive committee members for not adopting these “common sense reforms.”

“As we all remember last September there was mass-confusion in the lead up to the county committee meeting due to multiple proxy requests being sent to county committee members from multiple parties including a request to all the county committee members in my district from Frank Seddio purporting to have been sent from me. This type of behavior is undemocratic and undermines the integrity of the party and the county committee at large,” said Carroll.

Kings County Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio

But Seddio shot back, the amendment wasn’t rejected, but sent back to the rules committee for further review and modification.

This executive committee felt this proposal on who can control the proxies was too broad and there was concern that it could lead to a quorum not being reached, and without a quorum, the party wouldn’t be able to nominate judges and complete other official business as per the state governing body regulations, said Seddio.

Seddio said while proxies in the past have normally gone to the chair to ensure a quorum, the executive committee would consider broadening that out to district leader as well because they are mainly charged with finding and appointing county committee members.

To be able to just give proxies to anybody that lives in the district would cause more confusion and could lead to a quorum not being reached, said Seddio.

“Common sense is an interesting term because it’s depending where it comes from,” said Seddio. “It is common sense that Democratic District Leaders be given the opportunity to participate as most of the committee members come through them. When did it become your choice or nothing?”