Democrats Likely to Choose Silver’s Successor on Sunday

65th assembly district

On Saturday, Governor Cuomo called a special election for April 19 to fill Sheldon Silver’s Assembly seat. The longtime Lower East Side lawmaker was forced to give up his position after being convicted on federal corruption charges. Today we have more on what happens next in the battle for the 65th Assembly District.

According to candidates angling for the Democratic nomination in the Lower Manhattan district, a meeting will be held of the party’s County Committee this coming Sunday. A time and location have not yet been announced. This morning, Cathleen McCadden, executive director of the Manhattan Democratic Party, referred our questions to a press representative. We’re still awaiting a reply.

As previously reported, about 200 party insiders connected to the Assembly district’s four political clubs will hand-pick Silver’s successor. While a general election will be held in April, the Democratic nominee is almost certain of winning; Republicans are badly outnumbered in the downtown district. The victorious candidate will face a regular primary election in September.

County Committee members are elected, although local district leaders are charged with filling vacancies. Last month, we asked the city’s Board of Elections for a current list of members. We were sent a report prepared following last September’s Democratic Primary. There were around 40 vacancies. Some time ago, a County Committee rep told us that the list had been updated by the party and shared with the candidates. But no decisions had been made about whether to publicly release it.

So the list we’ve published below is incomplete. But it will give you an idea of the County Committee membership.

[Note: Committee members in the 65th Assembly District appear on the first 10 pages of the document.}

You”l likely recognize some of the names. They include: Judy Rapfogel, Silver’s former chief of staff; Gary Altman and Lenny Greher, present and former leaders of the East River Co-op board; Grand Street District leader David Weingerger; and Rosa Silver, the former Assembly member’s wife. In Chinatown, community leaders Justin Yu, Jenny Low and Virginia Kee all have votes. Other names include: Diem Boyd and Sara Romanoski of the LES Dwellers neighborhood group, preservationist Mitchell Grubler and Wei-Li  Tjong, a former board president of the Seward Park Co-op.

A standoff is a strong possibility on Sunday because the political clubs have not settled on a consensus candidate. Yuh-Line Niou is favored by the United Democratic Organization in Chinatown. Alice Cancel will be the choice of Lower East Side Democrats, her home club. Paul Newell and Jenifer Rajkumar are competing for support among County Committee members within their club, Downtown Independent Democrats. Meanwhile, Sheldon Silver’s political organization, the Truman Club, is deciding this week which candidate to support. Notably, three contenders (Newell, Rajkumar and Cancel) are also district leaders. This means they have all appointed some of the committee members who will be voting Sunday.

The bottom line is this: No candidate will win a majority this weekend without the support of their own club plus that of another political organization.

Several other candidates, meanwhile, without ties to the four political clubs are waiting for their shot at the Assembly seat during regularly scheduled election this coming fall. They include: Don Lee, Gigi Li and John Bal.

In many cases, hand-picked candidates chosen in special elections have big advantages in running for re-election. This time around, however, conventional wisdom might not hold. For one thing, the person chosen will only have served a few months in Albany. For another, there may very well be a stigma attached to the establishment candidate picked by party insiders in a process lacking in transparency.  Stay tuned. We’ll let you know if and when we hear from the Democratic County Committee regarding this weekend’s schedule and format.

UPDATE: Candidates have been told the meeting will take place at the Educational Alliance, 197 East Broadway, at 2 p.m.