Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Working Families Party Hit List by Sal Gentile - City Hall News

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The Working Families Party is gearing up for the 2009 City Council elections—and getting ready to pick a fight with anyone who voted to extend term limits. There are a few Council Members who seem especially vulnerable, according to political insiders, either because they would make for potential examples or because their voting records have rubbed the WFP the wrong way:

Alan Gerson: The WFP proved that it had a formidable ground operation in lower Manhattan when it helped put Daniel Squadron over the top in his primary challenge to 30-year incumbent Marty Connor in September. Gerson was known as a good-government type until his vote on term limits, making him an especially appealing target. And the WFP has experience going up against Gerson: the party endorsed one of his opponents, Rocky Chin, in 2001. He came within 700 votes then, and the Chinese-American community—which also went for Squadron this year—has only grown as a political force since then.

David Yassky: The WFP has already targeted Yassky once this year, with mailers in his district urging constituents to contact his office about term limits. Their point person—and the only WFP member on the City Council—Letitia James has been openly coordinating with some of Yassky’s potential opponents on her lawsuit against the mayor’s bill. And the WFP has proven its strength in North Brooklyn, where its progressive and labor-friendly issues resonate especially well.

James Sanders: The WFP essentially made Sanders a City Council Member in 2001, when he failed to get the backing of the Queens Democratic Party. But Bertha Lewis, the national chief organizer for Acorn and a leader in the Working Families Party, publicly called him out in The New York Times in September for his prolonged indecision on the term limits issu. He was also a target of the WFP’s term limits mailers, and once he voted for the bill, one of his main opponents—Marquez Claxton, who has won the endorsements of some of Sanders’ fellow council members—began courting the WFP.

Darlene Mealy: Mealy is another Council member who owes much of her success to the WFP. She defeated a much more established candidate, former Assembly Member William Boyland, in 2005 with the WFP’s strong organizational support. But she made herself one of the most public figures in the term limits debate when she came out strong against the mayor’s bill—only to reverse herself, and cross the WFP, in the final vote. The WFP may want to make an example out of her as well.

Kendall Stewart: Stewart was viewed as vulnerable even before he voted for the mayor’s term limits bill, after the indictments of two of his staffers on charges of fraud and embezzlement. That ethics cloud crippled his campaign for State Senate this year, in which he was defeated by Sen. Kevin Parker, who won the WFP endorsement. Stewart’s district is two-thirds black, and the WFP is particularly strong in the predominantly black communities of Brooklyn. Stewart has shown difficulty raising money and institutional support, so the WFP may see him as an easy target. Not to mention that one of his opponents—Rodrick Daley, a teacher—is a member of the United Federation of Teachers, which also opposed the mayor’s bill.

Larry Seabrook: Before term limits were extended, Seabrook’s Northern Bronx seat had already attracted one of the more crowded fields in the city. He was one of the more prominent players in the behind-the-scenes drama that unfolded over term limits, reportedly helping convince Darlene Mealy to change her vote. The WFP has never backed Seabrook, and may look to make inroads in his district, which is predominantly black. Plus, Seabrook has attracted a lot of criticism for his financial dealings over the years—he was fined by the campaign finance board for abuses of campaign funds, and was implicated in the slush fund scandal for his use of discretionary funds. He has not been charged.

Helen Sears: Should she run for re-election, Sears will face two well-established challengers who have said they will go ahead with their campaigns regardless of the term limits extension. Daniel Dromm, a longtime gay rights activist and teacher, was expected to get the backing of the Queens Democratic Party before term limits were extended. And Alfonso Quiroz has raised a sizeable war chest for his Council campaign. Sears has kept a fairly low profile in the Council, and the demographics are changing in her district—there are growing Hispanic and Asian-American communities there—both of which might make her a prime target for the WFP, should it back one of her opponents.