Democrats Remain Cautious as Special Election Looms

Democrats Remain Cautious as Special Election Looms

The scrum of potential Democratic candidates for the seat of former Representative Anthony Weiner seems to be growing every day. Yet even as Governor Cuomo finished a surprisingly successful session in Albany, he’s remained silent on when, and how, that seat will be filled.

While Weiner’s staff is working under the aegis of the 9th Congressional District, rather than through the direction of an elected official, speculation is widening the field for Weiner’s replacement.

Among the Democratic contenders that have been raised are: City Council Members Mark Weprin (Oak Gardens), Elizabeth Crowley (Middle Village) and Peter Vallone (Astoria); former City Council members Melinda Katz and Eric Gioia (both in the private sector); and Assemblymen Rory Lancman (Fresh Meadows), and David Weprin (Little Neck).

None have gone beyond stating that they would run, “if needed.” Few have said anything. One reason for the hushed anti-campaign is that Cuomo has yet to call a special election; another is that Representative Joe Crowley (D-Queens), who could potentially name a candidate, is also staying mum on the topic. There’s also redistricting, which could eliminate the congressional seat.

“We don’t know what the district will look like in a year and a half. … I haven’t ruled myself out, but I haven’t ruled myself in,” David Weprin said, adding that he would have to give up his Assembly seat, and it’s unclear who would then replace him, or if he would have a job after redistricting.

Because of low census numbers, New York is set to lose two congressional seats. In the wake of Weiner’s Twitter scandal—which dominated the headlines for nearly three weeks—his seat seemed like an obvious throw away for the Democrats; a position that was strengthened by statistics showing voters have been inching toward a Republican vote for the past decade.

State Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said redistricting will play a big part in anyone’s decision to run. “I’m not sure this seat will exist,” he said. “If that’s the case, whoever gets elected will be a placeholder.”

Several news sources have cited insiders and analysts stating that Joe Crowley is eyeing Weiner’s district as a way to move out of Bronx and represent a larger chunk of Queens after redistricting.

Joe Crowley as king-maker is also a pervasive theme as the clock ticks on an announcement from Albany. Earlier this week, the New York Post ran an exclusive that said Weiner has been trying to guide his replacement selection process, speaking with potential candidates and with Crowley himself.

“He’s held the seat,” the insider told the Post. “He knows the district better than anyone else. He’s interested in a Democrat keeping the seat. I’m pretty sure he’s spoken to everybody.”

Not everyone is sure Joe Crowley will be picking the Democratic candidate that runs for Weiner’s seat. According to David Weprin, Cuomo could call a special election, or he could leave the seat vacant until 2012. “There could also be a primary,” he added.

There has been speculation that Cuomo will call a special election—wherein the Democratic and Republican Party leaders will each choose one candidate—for September 13, the date of the New York primaries. However, with enough signatures, the 9th District vacancy could also go to a primary for the Democratic candidates, held on September 13. Whoever wins the primaries would face the Republican nominee on November 8.

“I’ve heard there are a number of people circulating petitions,” David Weprin said.

Addabbo said he’s certain there will be a special election.

“I like when people get to choose their representation, but I don’t think we can move fast enough for a primary,” he said. “The way the current law exists, it will still be a special election. … To have a congressional district go empty in Washington would be bad for the people.”

Cuomo spokesperson Josh Vlasto did not return a call from The Forum by deadline, but did issue a statement earlier in the week: “The Governor will take the appropriate steps to ensure New Yorkers in the 9th district are fairly represented in Congress.”

As for the candidates, Lancman had no comment, Vallone and Mark Weprin’s offices did not return numerous phone calls, neither did Katz, a private attorney. Eric Gioia, a JP Morgan employee, could not be reached.

Addabbo said that after the session in Albany ended he discussed the congressional seat with his family, and ultimately decided against running.

“I’d rather be one of 62 members of the assembly than one of 538 in Washington,” he said. “I can better serve my district on a state level.”

He added that all the potential candidates are highly qualified, and whoever is nominated will serve well. For his part, he thinks the Democrats have a strong chance of keeping the congressional district.

Elizabeth Crowley, Joe’s cousin, had said she is focused only on the city budget and finishing up the current City Council session. The budget was approved by the city council Wednesday afternoon, by a vote of 49-1, as The Forum was preparing to go to press.

David Weprin said if he’s elected he’ll make the survival of Israel one of his top priorities. He also said there are a lot of financial issues in the district—foreclosures and small business closures—that could use federal attention. He added that he would support whichever candidate Joe Crowley chooses. And, without being asked, offered this: “I’m not on Twitter.”

by David J. Harvey


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