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Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz is one of a few Jewish elected officials in New York City.

State Lawmakers Fail In New York City Primaries

Last month’s Democratic primary for various New York City posts saw several state lawmakers try to jump to local office in New York City. All but two lost their bids for an office that would be closer to home than their position in Albany and for more pay. It appears city residents did not have a favorable taste for state lawmakers this year.


Liberal New York City Councilman Brad Lander, a Park Slope resident, held on to win the city comptroller race with 52% of the vote, besting City Council President Corey Johnson and three state lawmakers in a 10-way contest. Senator Brian Benjamin, a Harlem resident, finished in fourth place. Assemblyman David Weprin (D – Holliswood, Queens) finished in fifth, and Senator Kevin Parker (D – Flatlands, Brooklyn) finished in sixth place.

In an eight-way contest for Manhattan District Attorney, Assemblyman Dan Quart, an Upper East Side resident, came in dead last in his bid to become the next top lawman in the borough. Alvin Bragg, a Harlem resident, bested the field of eight and will become the first Black district attorney in Manhattan succeeding Cy Vance, who opted not to seek reelection.

The Democratic primary saw two state lawmakers vie to become the next Bronx Borough President. Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez, a Bedford Park resident, finished in third place and Senator Luis Sepulveda, a resident of the West Farms neighborhood in The Bronx, finished last in a five-way contest. Former Assemblywoman and current New York City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson of Morris Heights is in line to win, though Janelle King, a Republican, and Sammy Ravelo, a Conservative, are on the ballot in November. If victorious, as expected in the heavily-Democratic county, Gibson would be the first woman to hold the post.

Senator Brad Hoylman, a West Village resident, came in second in his bid to become the next Manhattan Borough President. City Councilman Mark Levine of Washington Heights bested a field of seven contenders.

Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, an Inwood resident at the northern tip of Manhattan, beat out a field of eight contenders to win a seat on the New York City Council, representing the 10th District. She garnered 59.7% of the vote. She supports state funds for private schools and yeshivas. Yeshiva University is in her district. In her Assembly bio she states, I “look forward to continuing to serve and bringing about progressive changes in the New York State Legislature for the community [I] so deeply love and genuinely care [about].” Well, that thought goes out the window when she becomes a New York City Councilwoman.

Assemblyman Charles Barron, a resident of Canarsie, Brooklyn, will return to the New York City Council, representing the 42nd district. He garnered 53.7% of the vote in a four-way primary. Barron is doing a bit of seat-swapping with his wife Inez. When Charles was term-limited during his previous tenure in the council, he swapped seats with his wife, who was serving in the state Assembly at the time. It is presumed that Inez will run for her husband’s Assembly seat, which she once held, after he relinquishes it in January.

New York City Councilman Antonio Reynoso will become the next Brooklyn Borough President in a contest that included 12 contenders, including Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon (D – Boerum Hill), who came in second place with 34% of the vote. Reynoso, a Williamsburg resident, garnered 41.5% of the vote. In the November general election Reynoso will face Menachem Raitport, a Crown Heights resident, who is running on the Republican and Conservative lines. The general election is being held on Tuesday, November 2.


Fewer Jews on the New York City Council Next Year

The New York City Council’s Jewish Caucus will be shrinking from 11 members to only six – five men and one woman. There could be another member but Borough Park’s Kalman Yeger refuses to be a part of the Jewish caucus. In 2018 there were 13 members of the Jewish Caucus. Next year’s makeup of the 51-member council will see a majority of female representatives.

Lander, who identifies as being Jewish, is married to a non-Jewish woman, and Levine will be the only Jewish official to hold citywide office next year. Besides several judges, Lander, Levine and the six council members, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz (D – Forest Hills) is the only other Jewish elected official in New York City. Benjamin, Weprin, Parker, Sepulveda, Quart, Hoylman and Simon will be returning to their seats in Albany next year.

Eric Adams, a favorite of the Orthodox Jewish community, won the Democratic primary for mayor. He will face off in November against self-proclaimed lawman Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels.

Jumaane Williams will retain his post as Public Advocate. Borough-wide, The Bronx will be led by two Black females, Gibson as borough president and Darcel Clark will remain as district attorney. In Manhattan, two new faces are on the horizon. Levine as borough president and Bragg as district attorney. In Queens, Donovan Richards retains his role as borough president as does Katz as district attorney. In Brooklyn the two top posts will be held by two Hispanics. Reynoso, 38, is the new kid on the block as borough president and Eric Gonzalez remains district attorney. On Staten Island, it’s a race between Republican Steven Matteo and Democrat Mark Murphy for borough president. Democrat Michael McMahon is not up for reelection this year.


Kaminsky Runs to Become Nassau County’s Top Legal Eagle

Looking to bolt from the state Senate is Todd Kaminsky (D – Long Beach, Nassau County), a former federal prosecutor. Earlier this year Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas to be an associate judge on the New York State Court of Appeals. That opened the door for Kaminsky to run for the open seat. Late last month, Kaminsky made it official. If he wins that would open up his Senate seat, which was previously held by longtime Senator Dean Skelos.

On May 11, 2015 Skelos was sent packing after being charged with an eight-count felony indictment. He was convicted for extortion, fraud, and bribery solicitation. On October 23, 2018 Skelos was sentenced to four years and three months in prison, and he began his prison term in January 2019. In April 2020, Skelos tested positive for COVID-19 and was released from prison to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest.


Cuomo’s Weakened Status

As Kaminsky gears up his fundraising efforts for his campaign it is painfully obvious that voters are not keen on Cuomo serving a fourth four-year term. Several polls have consistently indicated voters want Cuomo to finish out his term but not to run for reelection due to several accounts of sexual harassment, allegedly falsifying Covid-19 numbers by keeping them lower than what the federal government has recorded the numbers to be and for accepting $5.1 million for publishing a book about his leadership during the pandemic.

For the first time in 12 years, Cuomo’s Republican opponent, Lee Zeldin, raised more money than the incumbent during the first seven months of the year. This is often seen as an indication of weakening support for Cuomo. At least one influential union refused to patronize a recent fundraiser for the governor. Other major unions did support the governor at his soiree.

Earlier this month, Cuomo was interviewed for several hours by lawyers hired by Attorney General Letitia James to investigate the claims made against the governor. No word as to what occurred during the interview. James told The Jewish Press she gets daily reports about the investigation but won’t reveal what she knows.

While investigators continue to probe Cuomo’s handling of reporting the coronavirus impact on New Yorkers, the hospitalization rate continues its downward spiral and vaccination rates are increasing. The month of June saw 244 deaths from Covid-19 statewide, an average of 8.13 deaths per day. In July, the first half of the month saw 48 deaths, averaging 3.2 deaths per day. July could be on track to having fewer than 100 deaths for an entire month.


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Marc Gronich is the owner and news director of Statewide News Service. He has been covering government and politics for 44 years, since the administration of Hugh Carey. He is an award-winning journalist. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press and his coverage about how Jewish life intersects with the happenings at the state Capitol appear weekly in the newspaper. You can reach Mr. Gronich at [email protected].