Sunday, May 31, 2009

WFP And Queens Dems Go Separate Ways by Elizabeth Benjamin - The Daily Politics - NY Daily News

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Of the 11 endorsements it has made in Queens City Council races, the Working Families Party in four cases backed Democratic candidates other than those being supported by the Queens Democratic Party.

That's more than in any other borough, although the labor-backed party is bucking the Democratic organizations elsewhere, too.

The Queens races in question are as follows:

- 20th CD (Liu): S.J. Jung, WFP; John Choe; Democrats.

- 25th CD: Danny Dromm, WFP; Councilwoman Helen Sears, Democrats.

- 26th CD (Gioia): Jimmy Van Bramer, WFP; Deirdre Feerick, Democrats.

- 29th CD (Katz): Lynn Schulman, WFP; Karen Koslowitz; Democrats.

In the 19th CD (Avella), the WFP has so far made no endorsement, while the Democrats are backing Jerry Iannece.

The WFP and the Democrats agreed in a number of other cases, including on Assemblyman Mark Weprin for the seat being vacated by his brother, Councilman David Weprin, who is running for comptroller; and Frank Gulluscio to make another run for the seat now held by Republican Councilman Eric Ulrich.

Thanks to a 2006 lawsuit in which Assemblyman Richard Brodsky successfully argued on behalf of the WFP that one political party should have the right to interfere in the primary of another, the WFP will be able to work on behalf of its candidates in the September elections - which, in New York, are generally the deciding factor.

WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor said it's unlikely the party will put much effort into the general elections if its candidates don't win in the primary. He noted that only Councilwoman Tish James has ever successfully won in a general election on the WFP line only against a Democratic candidate, adding:

"We haven’t decided yet what we’re doing in general elections, but the action in New York is in the first round. So you know, in terms of priorities, I guess we’d have to see how much energy the local activists have, and how close a given race is. But in general, it’s fair to say that’s not where our energies go."

Cantor said the WFP's aim is not to be at odds with the Democrats, with whom the minority party is usually closely allied. But he did see the WFP's willingness to buck the Democratic organization as "evidence - if any was needed - that we are quite independent, and you can see that up and down the ballot."

In Brooklyn, the WFP backed two candidates - Steve Levin and Maritza Davila - who are being supported by the borough's Democratic chairman, Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

Also in Brooklyn, the WFP is supporting Jumaane Williams against Councilman Kendall Stewart and Mark Winston-Griffith against Councilman Al Vann.

The Brooklyn Democrats have issued endorsements in the citywide races (backing an all-Brooklyn slate of Comptroller Bill Thompson for mayor, Councilman Bill de Blasio for public advocate and Councilman David Yassky for comptroller), but didn't formally vote on a Council slate, I'm told.

UPDATE: Lopez called in to say that the party will be "defending and supporting petitions" for both Vann and Stewart and all other incumbents "with one exception" (Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who is being challenged by Davila).

The party hasn't yet endorsed anyone for the seat de Blasio is departing, but I would be surprised if the candidate of choice isn't Brad Lander, who got an early endorsement from the WFP, as did de Blasio.