By Sabina Mollot
With Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh having expressed his interest in taking over the State Senate seat occupied by Daniel Squadron, who announced his resignation last week, it is unclear who would fill Kavanagh’s spot in Albany if he’s successful.
Two obvious choices would be City Council Members Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez, since they both live in the area covered by Assembly District 74 and are both getting term-limited out of the Council. However, neither of them has given any hint that they’re interested in the job, which involves taking a substantial pay cut and regularly commuting to the state capital.
Reached on the phone a day after Kavanagh made his announcement of his intention to seek the Senate seat, Mendez said she hadn’t had a chance to give it much thought.
“It’s absolutely too soon to say,” she told us. Instead, Mendez said, she’s been focusing on all the things she wants to get done before leaving office. “It’s a busy time. My plan was to start looking for a job after the primary.”
She did, however, get a call from Kavanagh ahead of his announcement to share his intentions and she also heard from others she didn’t name who were interested in running for the vacant Senate seat.
Garodnick did not respond to a request for comment on his thoughts on Kavanagh’s plans.
Meanwhile, Kavanagh has already announced a few endorsements from State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
The last time a special election happened in the Assembly District was in 2006 when then-Assembly Member Steven Sanders stepped down from his position after 28 years. He was succeeded by Sylvia Friedman in a special election, though she lost the seat under a year later to Kavanagh in November. A year earlier Kavanagh had attempted to win the City Council seat that was won by Mendez.
The timing of Squadron’s announcement also means there won’t be a primary race for his seat. Instead, the county committee for each party will nominate a candidate and then there will be a special election on a date chosen by the governor, probably in November during the general election for citywide races.
Barry Weinberg, executive director for the Manhattan Democratic Party, said possible successors for Squadron and Kavanagh wouldn’t be nominated until the committee members get together for “an old-fashion convention.” Weinberg added he believed there will be more candidates announcing themselves. As for the nominations, State Senator Brad Hoylman has blasted the system as an “insider game” in need of reform. However, Weinberg seemed to think the Senate seat wouldn’t necessarily be a shoo-in for Kavanagh if another candidate emerges with strong, grassroots ties to the party or the community.
One such candidate is Paul Newell, a district leader with the Downtown Independent Democrats Club since 2009, who announced his intention to run for the Senate seat to The Villager last week. Since then, a website has been created, with Newell announcing himself as a candidate officially. On his website, the lifelong Lower Manhattan resident said he is “committed to working for affordable housing, quality schools, livable streets, and an honest government in Albany.”
As district leader, he said he’s helped lead efforts to extend rent regulations for thousands of “421-g” apartments and helped lead local volunteer efforts after Superstorm Sandy.
Reached on the phone, Newell said he believes he’s got more of a shot in the race than Kavanagh, due to his roots in the district.
“Brian only represents a small portion of the Senate district. I represent more as a district leader. I have deep relationships with the folks who are politically engaged in the Manhattan and the Brooklyn parts of the district.”
The district covers Brooklyn (about one third), with the other two thirds in Manhattan. Kavanagh’s Assembly District 74 represents just a small part of it.
Previously, Newell ran a race against Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, who has replaced Sheldon Silver in the Assembly and in 2008 he ran against Silver.
Newell added that he thought Kavanagh’s been doing a fine job in the district, “and I think he’d be a good senator.” That said, Newell said if he succeeds he would hope to, among other things, save the soon-to-downsize Beth Israel, which, while not technically in the district, does impact those who live there. He’s already been endorsed by the Downtown Independent Democratic and the Lower East Side Democratic Clubs.
Niou has also emerged as a potential candidate but a spokesperson told T&V she will not be running.
Other rumored Senate candidates are Council Member Alan Gerson, who represented Chinatown and Lower Manhattan (now Margaret Chin’s district) and Lincoln Restler, a former district leader in Brooklyn.
Louise Dankberg, the vice chair for the New York County Democratic Executive County Committee, and a district leader with the Tilden Club, said she won’t have a say in the nomination for the Senate candidate, since she doesn’t personally represent the area covered by Squadron’s district, but, she noted Tilden has already been approached by Kavanagh and Newell for endorsements. As for the possible vacancy of Kavanagh’s Assembly seat, Dankberg said the County Committee can’t take any action there until after the Senate election. Dankberg said she suspected likely candidates would include those who end up losing in the City Council races for Districts 2 and 4, as well as, if interested, Mendez and Garodnick. “I have no idea if they want to go to Albany,” she added.
County committee members generally have one function, which is to select nominees when a vacancy occurs, with 300 members per Assembly District. The members who are in Squadron’s 26th Senate district will nominate the candidate for that seat. County committee members are actually elected officials who serve for two-year terms. However, their names may not even show up on a ballot if they’re running uncontested.
T&V reached out to the Manhattan Republican Party chair to ask about potential candidates but did not hear back.