By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Democratic leaders in the Brooklyn and Manhattan on Sunday chose Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh as the nominee for the State Senate seat Daniel Squadron resigned from in August. The contentious nominating process pitted Kavanagh against district leader Paul Newell, who received the majority of the votes from county committee members in Manhattan but was not nominated because the block of votes from Brooklyn went to Kavanagh.
Since State Senate District 26 spans two boroughs, Manhattan and Brooklyn, party bosses in each were allowed to determine how to nominate a candidate, either by a convention, vote from committee members or a block vote.
The process in Manhattan included a convention on Sunday in which 100 county committee members took a vote, Gothamist reported. The vote was only advisory but members hoped that Keith Wright, the leader in Manhattan, would heed the results, in which members voted overwhelmingly for Newell.
According to official rules, Brooklyn did not have to hold a convention, although Democrats encouraged party boss Frank Seddio to do so. Seddio ultimately announced on Sunday that he would be backing Kavanagh without a convention or vote from committee members, which he said was because Kavanagh had the most support from elected officials in Brooklyn as well as the Working Families Party.
Seddio’s support for Kavanagh counted as a block vote, and despite Newell receiving 72.2 percent of the vote from the members in Manhattan and Kavanagh receiving only 27.9 percent, the entire block of votes in Brooklyn in addition to votes he received in Manhattan were enough for Kavanagh to secure the nomination.
Kavanagh was chosen as the party’s nominee through the unusual process because Squadron resigned from the seat in August. This meant it was too late for there to be a primary election, for which the petitioning deadline is in June.
Although Kavanagh ultimately won the nomination, he said that he was disappointed that there wasn’t an opportunity for a primary.
“I’m proud to have gotten the support I got but there are better ways to do it,” he said. “I enjoy having elections and making my case directly to voters. The gold standard for nominating someone is a primary but because the time was so short, the law doesn’t permit there to be a primary so the party has to go through the process through its own rules.”
Newell accused Wright and Seddio of “stealing” the seat, according to the New York Post, and Greenwich Village district leader Arthur Schwartz was frustrated at the outcome.
“It’s really astounding,” Schwartz told the Post. “This was two guys in a room electing a state senator.”
Kavanagh, whose Assembly district covers the East Village, Union Square, Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village and parts of Kips Bay and Murray Hill, will be running against Republican Analicia Alexander for the State Senate seat in a special election that will be held on the same day as the general election in November.
Kavanagh has received endorsements from both city and state elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Public Advocate Tish James and others, including Squadron.
In addition to Newell and Kavanagh, former Brooklyn prosecutor Eileen Naples, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council executive Diego Segalini, Pace Law School’s Dean David Yassky and Alan Gerson were all vying for the Democratic nomination, although Gershon conceded before the meeting on Sunday.