“We have heard reports over and over again that there is no Queens candidate for mayor. This is not true. I’m the Queens candidate, ”Adams, who grew up in Queens, told his Democratic County organization in a virtual forum earlier this month. “It’s a district that is close to my heart.”
Two weeks later, Representative Greg Meeks, who heads the Queen’s Democratic Party, announced that the organization’s district leaders had not reached consensus around a single candidate and would not support the race for replace outgoing mayor Bill de Blasio. His Brooklyn and Bronx counterparts are forging a similar path – all three so far refusing to get behind any of the contenders four months before the June 22 primary.
The abdication by county parties – which at one time had viable organizations in three of the city’s five boroughs – marks another demonstration of the recession of local Democratic organizations from their once powerful role at the center of politics. New York.
Party leaders are no longer able to muster – or dictate, depending on one’s point of view – votes for candidates across town, leaving them without a position in one of the most important local elections in the city. modern memory.
“The counties are in a very difficult position, if not impossible,” said city lobbyist George Fontas, a native of south Brooklyn. With four months to go, the field is too crowded and too uncertain – the inevitable consequence of a new campaign finance system and ranked choice voting – to confidently pick a winner, he said. reasoned.
As a crucial deadline approaches to stand for election, parties are likely to lose one of their most important roles in the city’s electoral process.
“Time is running out and this is essential,” said Jason Laidley, chief of staff to Bronx Democratic leader and State Senator Jamaal Bailey, referring to the start of the signature collection on March 2 to secure a spot on the ballot. The local party has still not fallen behind a candidate.
In Brooklyn, Democrats are embroiled in a civil war between old guard allies and leftist reformers. The breach blocked Adams’ approval, even as the county party lawyer openly supports the borough president’s campaign.
Party spokesman George Arzt said it was “just too early for county party leaders to endorse mayoral candidates” and added that they “are fighting the ravages of the pandemic And that they focus too much on constituent services to approve until later in the cycle.
The discord within Brooklyn’s Democratic Party became so severe it led to a 1-hour virtual confrontation in December, captured in video clips of party alumni silencing reformers by automatically turning off their microphones. The standoff over the party’s Byzantine statutes is now in the hands of the courts.
Meeks, who is said to be fond of Wall Street executive Ray McGuire in the mayoral race, struggles with several divisions in Queens, including a block of support for Adams countered by a growing presence of far-left activists more inclined to support a politically concordant candidate, according to several people familiar with the matter.
“I don’t understand why the parties wouldn’t buy into these new blood movements,” Derek Evers, a district leader in the Queens’ Ridgewood and Long Island City neighborhoods, said in an interview.
In the Bronx, Bailey is finding his place after a leadership reshuffle last year. Shortly after Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. quit the mayoral race, party chairman Marcos Crespo resigned and chose not to stand for re-election to the Assembly. of State. Bailey called on district leaders and politicians to gauge their preferences in the upcoming primary, but found little consensus, Laidley said.
The long-standing Cold War between Adams, a mainstay of Democratic city politics they would otherwise be inclined to support, and Representative Hakeem Jeffries – a rising star in Washington, whom they are not inclined to cross, threatens party leaders.
Given the messy landscape, leaders decided to focus on other elections this year: substitute court contests, city council showdowns, and the comptroller race.
“An approval of a [mayoral] candidate at this point, while they are all viable candidates, could cause a major divide in the county parties and they don’t want to do that. So much smarter to let things go, ”Fontas said.
In 2013, each party approved four months before the primary, which gave them time to help candidates collect signatures and potentially challenge petitions from their opponents.
There are more than two dozen candidates for mayor, and at least eight would appear to have a viable path, given the unpredictable role that tiered choice voting will play in the election. Among these, several candidates put elbow grease to convince the county leaders, despite the loss of their balance sheet during the last open election for mayor in 2013.
Leader Andrew Yang set up a private 30-minute Zoom call with Meeks to make a final weekend pitch before the congressman refused to approve the race, according to a campaign aide. Yang, who skipped numerous nightly forums, made sure to appear at one of the forums hosted by the Brooklyn Democratic Party earlier this month.
He made his deepest forays into the Bronx, where he had lunch with the Borough President at a famous Italian restaurant this week, visited a party loyalist’s Council district, and hired Stanley Schlein, the county organization lawyer.
The Brooklyn party practically endorsed Adams. County chief Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn’s close ally on city council, Farah Louis, recently backed the Borough President, and County Attorney Frank Carone donated for his campaign. The same goes for those close to Carone, as well as 35 other people who live in her neighborhood and have contributed a total of $ 28,930 to Adams’ campaign, according to a POLITICO analysis of donations.
Adams ‘speech that he is the “Queen’s candidate” may not have won him Meeks’ support, but he landed a list of endorsements from city council member and party loyalist Francisco Moya and six district leaders last week.
McGuire, who donated the maximum contribution to Meeks’ re-election effort in 2020, stands in his way. McGuire has set his sights on the sought-after constituency of southeast Queens, hiring a political consultant with long-standing ties to the region and eating at Sangria’s in Jamaica with Senator Leroy Comrie. During a recent Zoom forum, Comrie rushed to McGuire’s defense when one of Adams’ backups criticized him.
Even Maya Wiley – who is running for Liberal and Reform voters – signaled her desire for support for the county party Before entering the race, Blasio’s lawyer and former councilor traveled to the Bronx. for Caribbean cuisine with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, the former county leader who still holds considerable influence. Wiley also personally called Bichotte Hermelyn to run for office, according to a campaign aide.
City comptroller Scott Stringer, whose native Manhattan does not have a strong Democratic organization, is one of the top candidates who has no obvious path to county support.
Despite being a career politician, Stringer alienated county leaders by backing Tiffany Cabán’s unsuccessful candidacy in the 2019 Queens District Attorneys Race against party favorite Melinda Katz. He also backed the winning challengers’ offers reaching the city’s sitting lawmakers and deepened his rift with Heastie by siding against him on a legislative pay rise committee.
County organizations’ electoral muscle atrophy began long before 2018, when Ocasio-Cortez routed an upset Queens party leader.
In 2009, the worker-backed Working Families Party reached districts that county leaders believed were firmly within their reach and rejected their favorite candidates. City council members Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer defeated party picks in Queens, and Jumaane Williams, now the city’s public counsel, ousted a party-backed incumbent in central Brooklyn.
It was a marked disappointment for the once powerful rulers of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, whose control had previously eclipsed the separatist factions.
County leaders suffered another round of setbacks in 2013 – first by supporting mayoral candidates who lost to de Blasio in the September primaries, then failing to secure their pick for city council chairman, Dan Garodnick.