Kavanagh Less Than Thrilled with Election Year Tactics

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh

In the past week we’ve linked to a couple of items about State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s lawsuit aimed at keeping his Republican opponent in the 64th Assembly District race off the September Primary ballot. Comically, the New York Post portrayed the challenger, Joan Lipp, as an impoverished widow being bullied by Albany’s most powerful politician.

Meanwhile, there’s also a petition challenge in the neighboring 74th Assembly District, currently represented by Brian Kavanagh. But Kavanagh is not the one doing the challenging.  Instead, State Committeeman Michael Farrin, a longtime activist in the downtown political club, Coalition for a District Alternative (CoDA), has filed an objection with the Elections Board.

Kavanagh submitted about 5300 signatures for re-election.  CoDA alleges the challengers, Juan Pagan (a Democrat) and Dena Winokur (a Republican), failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. In a statement, Kavanagh made it clear he’s not all that thrilled about CoDA’s efforts on his behalf:

I look forward to the campaign and the opportunity to discuss the issues that matter to people in our community, the things we need to do to make our government more responsive to the needs of every New Yorker, and my own record representing and serving our community. I am aware that objections have been filed to Mr. Pagan’s petitions, but I am not involved in any way in the objections or otherwise challenging his ability to run. The objector, Michael Farrin is on the ballot himself as a candidate for Democratic State Committee and has a long history of independence. I have told Mr. Farrin and the Coalition for a District Alternative that I do not want to challenge Mr. Pagan’s right to run and I have asked them not to challenge his petitions on my behalf.”

In a brief interview yesterday, Farrin said the challenge – far from being frivolous – is intended to prevent the abuse of New York’s election laws.  A bit of context: CoDA, and Farrin, have a long history of challenging petitions, a tactic some deride as “politics as usual.”  In 2006, he tried unsuccessfully to force Kavanagh off the ballot.  Farrin told me any differences he might have had with Kavanagh were set aside long ago. CoDA endorsed Kavanagh this year.

Pagan was a contender in the ’06 Democratic Primary, finishing behind Kavanagh and two other candidates, and he  ran unsuccessfully against Rose Mendez for the District 2 City Council seat last year.

The 74th Assembly District includes parts of the Lower East Side, Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village, Union Square, Gramercy Park and a section of East Midtown. Kavanagh chairs the Assembly’s subcommittee on voting rights and election operations.