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Democratic Reformers Decry 'Backroom' Senate Pick by Brooklyn Party Boss

By  Gwynne Hogan and Allegra Hobbs | September 18, 2017 4:20pm 

 The head of the Brooklyn Democratic Party picked without allowing a vote,
The head of the Brooklyn Democratic Party picked without allowing a vote,
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Office of Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh

BROOKLYN — Brooklyn Democratic reformers are decrying what they call a "back room" appointment without an open vote to fill a senate seat left vacant by the sudden departure of a state senator

Members of New Kings Democrats rallied in front of Junior's on Flatbush Avenue Monday morning, to heckle party boss Frank Seddio, who was dining with other members of the party, a day after he announced his endorsement of State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh to fill Daniel Squadron's vacant post in the 26th District.

Seddio picked Kavanagh without calling on members of the county committee, which he oversees, to vote on the nomination, as had taken place in Manhattan over the weekend, where Paul Newell, a district leader in Lower Manhattan, took the majority of the votes, a spokesman for the party confirmed.

Because Seddio will cast all of Brooklyn's vote in a block for Kavanagh, he'll secure the Democratic nomination, despite the fact that Newell won 72.2 percent of the Democratic votes in Manhattan's County Committee.

“Party bosses deciding in a back room is not acceptable,” said Anusha Venkataraman, member of the New Kings Democrats, a reform-minded political club, who urged Seddio Monday morning to call a vote. “There was no chance for people to weigh in.”

“This is completely unacceptable and real step backward for our party,” she said.

The Democratic party's nomination for the 26th Senate District which spans parts of Lower Manhattan and Northern Brooklyn is due to the State's Board of Elections by Tuesday, the state confirmed, and is picked by a weighted vote from the Democratic parties in Manhattan and Brooklyn. 

Manhattan gets roughly 65 percent of the vote while Brooklyn gets roughly 35, according to Barry Weinberg, executive director of the Manhattan Democratic Party, though the state Democratic party could not immediately confirm this split.

In Manhattan, County Committee members voted over the weekend 72.2 percent for Newell and 27.9 percent for Kavanagh.

But Manhattan committee leader Keith Wright is expected to tip the scale toward Kavanaugh when he splits the votes accordingly, Weinberg said.

The Brooklyn Democratic Party was invited to participate in the voting process over the weekend, said Weinberg, but the committee declined.

Brooklyn's Democratic Party pointed to its own set of rules as justification for Seddio's bloc vote.

Bob Liff, a spokesman for Brooklyn's Democratic Party, said there was no requirement for Seddio to put the selection up for a vote and he consulted many members of the party who all got behind Kavanagh. 

"We complied with the rules and we made a decision under the rules," Liff said. "You play the cards your dealt. These are the rules that exist."

Kavanagh announced he'd been tapped by Democrats Sunday on Twitter and thus the likely pick to fill Squadron's vacant post.

Meanwhile Newell, infuriated by the outcome, pointed out if both counties had voted in a block, he would have secured the nomination. And if both counties had called a vote among members he would have secured the nomination. Instead, the disparity between Brooklyn and Manhattan had lost him the spot in the Senate.

"The other side's contention that one man gets to speak for the hundred thousand residents of this district in Brooklyn is absurd and disenfranchising an entire borough," he said.