The Back-Room Shenanigans That Could Determine Bay Ridge’s Next Assemblymember

Former State Assemblymember Alec Brook–Krasny
Alec Brook-Krasny (left), with Letitia James. Photo from Brooklyn Eagle

This post was revised on July 15 to correct inaccuracies, particularly in the last three paragraphs. 

Now that Democratic State Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny—who represented most of Bay Ridge below 80th Street, as well as Coney Island and parts of Dyker Heights and Brighton Beach—has resigned, state election law requires a special election to fill his seat. But because he stepped down after the law’s July 2nd deadline, there’ll be no primary election. Instead, Democratic and Republican candidates will be chosen by their respective county-party committees in closed-door meetings with no input from voters.

The governor is required to call a special election whenever a vacancy occurs in the State Assembly. Cuomo could call an election immediately, but this would be impractical and expensive. In all likelihood, the special election will be called to coincide with Election Day in November.

Following Brook-Krasny’s resignation—reportedly to take a better-paying job in the private sector—each party has 14 days to select a candidate to run in the special election. This guarantees the candidates will be party insiders, with the most likely candidate on the Democratic side assumed to be Kate Cucco, Brook-Krasny’s former chief of staff, who he named as his favored successor. The next likeliest candidate, according to political insiders, is Bay Ridge native Andrew Gounardes, chief counsel to the Brooklyn borough predsident’s office and a former candidate against Marty Golden for the State Senate.

On the Republican side, Lucretia Regina-Potter, the female GOP district leader in the 46th AD, and Marcus Aurelius Nussbaum, the male district leader as well as an army vet and noted anti-Islamic activist, have been mentioned as a likely candidates—which could mean a behind-the-scenes political brawl. Regina-Potter has a reputation, from unsuccessful campaigns for higher office, as someone with sharp elbows, not afraid to anger other members of her party to follow her own ambitions. Nussbaum tried to run against Brook–Krasny on the GOP line last year but lost out to Stamatis Lilikakis, who lost to the incumbent Democrat.

Do you know who your district leaders are? Probably not! District leader is one of the most obscure elected positions in our state electoral system. (The Democratic district leaders in the 46th assembly district are Dilia Schack and Mark Davidovich.) They hire poll workers, select judicial candidates and, in general, represent the concerns of their communities to the party leaders. They don’t directly select candidates to fill vacancies in the legislature; that’s done by county committees, though district leaders often have some influence over committee members.

County party committees are a little known aspect of the democratic process in New York State. Each party is free to establish both state and county committees to work on state and local elections. County committees consist of two members (male and female) from each election district within an assembly district, of which there are typically 70-80, though not every slot is always filled; in the 46th AD, there are presently approximately 90 county committee members. These are unpaid, volunteer positions, and anyone registered in a party can run for one (as long as he or she lives in the assembly district, even if he or she doesn’t live in the election district in which they run), though actual elections are rare—candidates typically run unopposed and off-ballot or are appointed to fill vacancies after a primary.

One of a district leader’s most powerful roles is to elect a chair for each county. (County committees have no vote for county leader.) On the Democratic side, for example, 70 percent of registered voters in Brooklyn are registered Democrats, and the county leader has influence on the party at all levels of government, especially with judicial candidates.

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