At Witt’s End: The Reign of Lady Boss Bichotte Hermelyn

Brooklyn Politics
Stephen Witt

Leading up to the recent election, local media outlets have been skewering Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn with a celebratory joy akin to a July 4th barbecue.

Roasting Brooklyn’s Democratic Party Boss in the media is hardly something new. It’s been going on for at least as long as I’ve been covering Brooklyn politics, which goes back to former boss Clarence Norman. Corrupt former Brooklyn District Attorney Charlie Hynes, with local media serving as accomplices, convicted Norman on felony charges so convoluted I still can’t make sense of it.

So local media ganging up on Bichotte Hermelyn is par for the course. What’s not par, though, is the media’s love fest with the new political insurgents led by the New Kings Democrats (NKD) political club and their vaunted “Brooklyn Can’t Wait” slate. 

I have long written how this club and associate clubs are led mainly by newcomer whites. This includes  how their “Rep your Block” initiative was political gentrification, and how executive members of these clubs were given plum patronage jobs in the de Blasio Administration.

But that’s politics. Democratic Party patronage goes back to Boss Tweed.

Then a funny thing happened this election. The two factions pretty much fought to a draw. Yes, in the 43rd Assembly district, the NKD were able to take out Bichotte Hermelyn’s husband, Edu Hermelyn, as district leader, but the county’s female district leader Sarana Purcell trounced the Brooklyn Can’t Wait candidate in the same district.

In the 57th Assembly District, the NKD’s incumbent Shaquana Boykin beat the county candidate Renee Collymore, but in neighboring Bed-Stuy, the longstanding and Black-run Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA) candidate Kenesha Traynham Cooper trounced  NKD candidate Monae Priolenau.

Now that the local election is over, NKD and the white gentrifiers are making noise about making Assembly Member and District Leader Maritza Davila the new county boss. And the media is tripping over themselves saying Bichotte Hermelyn is finished when her term ends in September. Bichotte Hermeleyn herself told me she is undecided.

But if I were an independent district leader looking for a new boss, I would consider Davila damaged goods. She hardly comes from insurgent stock. She learned the ropes under former County Boss Vito Lopez, who himself was removed as chair for sexual misconduct and ties to his nonprofit.

So who could be next in line? There’s Chris McCreight  over in Bay Ridge, but he’s white which is not a good look. Then there’s Roxanne Persaud, but she’s tied to the old Seddio machine. There are a couple of district leaders on both the NKD and entrenched side that may be able to do the job, but they come up a bit short on experience.

In the end, I’d stick with Bichotte-Hermelyn. She came into politics as an insurgent, and after learning the ropes, became party chair. I’ve locked horns with her before and she’s tough, but doesn’t hold grudges. She sent out congratulations to all the winners, for example, even to Akel Williams who beat her husband

Bichotte Hermelyn is a strong Black woman, extremely loyal to her Haitian roots, has shown the ability to raise money and understands after all the animosity that election results and democracy rules the day. Sounds like pretty good traits for a county boss to me.

But if she decides to step down, so be it. Good luck to the next boss that tries to keep the Democratic Party whole.