By Frank Quinn
Greenwich Village voters will select candidates for five major offices this summer, but disruption from a recent court ruling has generated confusion over who’s running for what. The court ruled that our Democratic Legislators in Albany created unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts for U.S. House of Representatives and N.Y. State Senate and appointed a Special Master to re-draw the district boundaries and determine the rules to compete for those offices.
This is all happening on an expedited timeline that further tests our checks and balances, and at this writing the details are still unfolding. Amidst this political debacle we offer a curated review of the highlights impacting our part of the city.
This is a competitive race with established candidates on both sides. Incumbent Kathy Hochul and Republican Lee Zeldin are favored to win their respective primaries, and a match between them in November would give voters a fairly clear ideological choice. However, Hochul’s low approval rating concerns Democrats who might have a better shot in November if they elect centrist Tom Suozzi in the primary. Alsothere’s still a tortured rumor that former Governor Andrew Cuomo just might enter the race as an independent, which most observers believe would favor the Republican candidate.
The redistricting fiasco put several local contests into play. Most notably, for the first time in 30 years Representative Jerry Nadler will no longer represent lower Manhattan in Congress. The newly redrawn 12th Congressional District now includes his upper west side base of support, while the new 10th Congressional District covers lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.
Nadler was expected to easily win the gerrymandered 10th District under the Democrats map and declined an invitation to attend a recent candidate forum hosted by the Asian Wave Alliance. The event was notable for its non-partisan format and included candidates from both parties, but Nadler responded to the invitation writing “Congressman Nadler does not seek the endorsement of a political organization that supports Republicans, nor does he want to speak at a club that is involved in supporting Republican candidates for office.”
Nadler’s influence and the work of party operatives seemed evident when one of his opponents, Tribeca resident Brian Robinson, received what he described as a “meritless challenge” to his petition signatures. “It was infuriating. Leave fair elections alone, don’t play these games.” To remain on the ballot Robinson had to hire an attorney to respond to the challenge, a chore that cost him $6700.
Attorney Arthur Schwartz, who Robinson identified as the contact on the legal notice he received, defended the petition challenge. “My client, Ashmi Sheth, would rather that Jerry Nadler not have 3 or 4 opponents. If it were meritless I wouldn’t have allowed my client to file.” Curiously, Ms. Sheth herself was a Democratic candidate for the gerrymandered 10th District, but it’s unclear if she is still in the race.
Under the gerrymandered map, the race for a proposed 30th State Senate District was shaping up as a contest between incumbent Brad Holyman and a more centrist Democratic challenger Maria Danzilo. Danzilo also received a legal challenge to her petition signatures. “I submitted over 2100 signatures by the deadline” Danzilo said of her effort that involved paid canvassers and an attorney. “When the challenge was filed, we were essentially frozen until we could resolve it.”
She identified the objector as George Cominskie, known locally as the long time President of the Westbeth Artists Residents Council. A message seeking comment from Mr. Cominskie was not returned.
The village is now bifurcated into the new 27th and 47th State Senate districts. Ms. Danzilo will be a candidate in the 47th while Mr. Hoylman’s plans are unclear. However, an Asian-American woman has thrown her hat into the ring named Iwen Chu, who, according to her campaign’s website is looking to become both the first “Asian-American state-elected official” from Brooklyn, and New York state’s first female Asian-American state senator.
US Senate and NY State Assembly
These two races don’t have much drama. Senator Chuck Schumer, a 23-year incumbent, will likely retain his seat after a rumored challenge from the venerable AOC apparently fizzled. And 30-year incumbent Deborah Glick is expected to fend off a primary challenge from a progressive newcomer.
Shortly after the new court mandated districts were announced, Brad Hoylman tweeted he was “seriously considering” a run for the new 10th Congressional District. Days later former Mayor Bill de Blasio officially announced he was running for the seat. As of press time we expect more candidates to announce plans in the coming days. In the weeks leading up to this paper’s printing, another female candidate on top of Sheth emerged named Elizabeth Kim. Also, Mondaire Jones who had won the 17th district in 2020, has opted to run for district ten this June. All in all, seven candidates including Patrick Dooley, Ian Medina, Brian Robinson and Yan Xiong are running to be elected to the House for New York’s tenth district this June in what is shaping up to be an eight-way race.
It’s fair to point out that all of this could have been avoided if our elected officials in Albany had cooperated and produced bi-partisan legislative district boundaries. Perhaps this expedited court mandated scrum will inspire a lively debate among the remaining candidates and the public will be better educated for it, but the disruption and political shenanigans have an impact on serious independent candidates and interest groups, while painting a poor picture of our democratic process.
There are meaningful concerns about the court-revised districts and the abrupt ramifications to 2022 elections. Some communities of interest feel disenfranchised as established incumbents suddenly face challenges from well-connected interlopers taking advantage of new political opportunities.
The rules allow candidates to run for newly redrawn districts if they plan to reside there within 12 months. Serious candidates find the decision to hold the primary in the middle of August with expected low turn-out an advantage for the party machinery. Now the party can coordinate its apparatus on behalf of favored candidates with maximum impact during a low turnout event.