Friday, March 31, 2023

At least 20 Democratic candidates in Brooklyn didn’t know they were running

This article was originally published on May 4 at 7:31 pm EDT by . was published on city

A 92-year-old Holocaust survivor, an immigration advocate and a financial tech worker, all learned of his candidacy when contacted by Citi. The party reformers alleged that they were trapped in a scheme to maintain control over the power brokers.

Over the past year, the 92-year-old Holocaust survivor has been in and out of Sevly Kaplinsky Hospital.

Holocaust Survivor Savely Kalinsky At Her Bay Ridge Home On Wednesday.
Holocaust survivor Savely Kalinsky at her Bay Ridge home on Wednesday.
Holocaust Survivor Savely Kalinsky At Her Bay Ridge Home On Wednesday.
Holocaust survivor Savely Kalinsky at her Bay Ridge home on Wednesday.

The Brooklyn native fled the Minsk ghetto of Belarus in his youth, suffered two strokes, had brain surgery, and according to his son, his limited English repertoire was reduced to about 100 words.

But while Kalinsky struggled with his health, his name — without his knowledge — was listed on petitions submitted to the City Board of Elections last month to run as a candidate for the position of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.
And he wasn’t alone.

The executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, a 24-year-old financial tech worker, and at least 17 other residents of southern Brooklyn and Staten Island were nominated as candidates for Brooklyn Democratic Party seats without their knowledge, those or His relatives told the city.

Their names appeared on petitions in southern Brooklyn’s 46th Assembly District for membership of the Democratic Party’s county committee—a body of approximately 4,000 unpaid, entry-level party officials throughout the borough who choose nominees for special elections and to vote for party members. Vote on the rules. ,

The petitions were submitted to the election board last month in booklets named for Brooklyn Democratic Party Secretary Aaron Maslow.

Phantom name alarms dissatisfied Democrats The City spoke to, pointing to recent examples warning that placing these pretentious candidates in party positions could allow party leaders to seize those members’ voting power. who do not even know that they have been elected.

Party reformers have accused the county’s leadership of breaking the rules and even resorting to fraud to seize power in the face of growing, internal opposition in recent years.

“These walking people who have no knowledge, they” [party leaders] They can use them to pad their proxy votes in organizing meetings so that they can change the rules, they can appoint officers, and they can do whatever they want,” said Julio Pea III, a district leader at Sunset Park. Rebel group New King’s Democrats.

It may also be illegal to appoint people without their consent, New York courts have considered, if it’s a stray name here or there. Last year, judges in an appellate court covering Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island upheld the rejection of a ballot petition — finding it “permitted with fraud,” as several candidates agreed to run without appearing on the slate. Were were

Pea said that slotting in such “ghost” candidates is against the whole point of having county committee members elected to serve as ultra-local party representatives for their communities.

“I think we’re losing this vision of a busy Brooklyn Democratic Party,” Pea said. “It’s actually used to grab power rather than engage in our local democracy.”

The fraud claims come on the heels of a series of claims by The City last month of identifying five Brooklyn residents whose signatures were forged on election challenges – linked to the party establishment – ​​that sought to weed out potential county committee rivals from the ballot. Used to do

Two of those claims from registered voters resulted in a formal complaint to the city’s election board and a lawsuit by an attorney for Rape Your Block, a group representing several targeted candidates.

Spokesmen for the Brooklyn Democratic Party did not respond to half a dozen questions sent by email early Wednesday.

‘I hope this is an error’

Murad Awdeh and Dina Mora were once active members of the Kings County Democratic Party. In 2018, the couple successfully ran for county committee in Bay Ridge, their neighborhood at that time.

But in February 2020, Awadh, a prominent immigration rights advocate, had to step down. It was under consideration for the status of an official city, so could no longer play the role of a low-level political party. The following year, Oudh and Mora moved to Staten Island, making them ineligible to represent their old neighborhoods.

That’s what surprised the couple last Friday when The City informed them that their names appeared as potential candidates for county committee positions using their old Brooklyn address in a petition form submitted to the election board in 2022. which he had left behind.

Mora said the listing left him confused. “It’s not something I agreed to or signed up for, so it’s weird,” she said.

“I hope this is a mistake and nothing has been done in a nefarious manner,” Awadh said.
In past years, Brooklyn’s county committee races have generally been uncontested cases—which tend to have candidates’ names removed from ballots and obscured from the wider public.

But as the borough’s Democratic Party establishment challenges increasingly organized primarys in districts, committee seats — which are up for grabs every two years — may become increasingly important to Brooklyn party chairman Rodney Bichotte Hermelin. as she struggles to retain power.

This year, attempts to maintain control of the party have involved questionable techniques that critics allege are unethical and potentially fraudulent.

In the case of five forged signatures on ballot challenges previously identified by The City, a mid-level party-backed official — 55th Assembly District leader Anthony T. Jones – took responsibility. He acknowledged that his Democratic club had faulty signatures, though he said he did not know which of his members were guilty.

Now, several unwitting candidates for the county committee interviewed by The City suggest that similarly useless tactics were being used to take advantage of unsuspecting residents, this time in South Brooklyn.

Igor Kaplinsky, the son of Holocaust survivor Savely, said that his father’s condition had deteriorated significantly over the past year – to the extent that he would not be able to extend his candidacy for party position.

Kaplinsky, 61, said the closest his father got to getting into party politics was during his former work as an election worker. He said that his father knew nothing about his name appearing on local petitions and was confused by the whole situation.

“He had never heard anything like this before,” said little Kapalinsky. “It’s certainly not credit card fraud, but it’s still no good if your name is used to gain access to something.”

Some of the “ghost” candidates contacted by CITY were clueless as to how their names ended up on ballot petitions circulated on behalf of 46th Assembly District leaders Dion Brown-Jordan and Michael Silverman.
Silverman was appointed last month to replace outgoing district leader Mark Traeger, while Brown-Jordan was elected to the seat in 2020.

But a common takeaway among the many undocumented candidates is that they previously worked as election workers—hundreds of whom are recommended by district leaders to election boards each year.

As of Wednesday, 14 of the 20 “ghost” candidates identified by the city remained as county committee candidates, according to non-final election leaders, including Morra. Six candidates, including Kaplinsky and Avdeh, were scrutinized in the BOE because of conflicting records of name, address or party affiliation.

In all, 130 candidates remain on the ballot for county committee positions in the 46th district – including a small number who are not aligned with the party leadership.

Brown-Jordan did not respond to phone calls and text messages seeking comment, and Silverman did not return a message he left with an employee in his office.
One of the candidates whose names came up on the petitions without his knowledge said he had no connection between him and the party or its district leaders.

“I don’t like that someone is using my name for something I don’t agree to,” she said, requesting her name not be published. “Those people shouldn’t be allowed to do what they’re doing. As far as I’m concerned, it’s illegal – it’s fraud.”

500 back-pocket proxy votes

The irregularities in the 46th Assembly District are the latest chapter in an escalating battle for control of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, one of the state’s largest and most influential party systems.

A constant theme is how party leaders try to retain power by using so-called proxy votes – which are passed from absent county committee members to their nominees.

In September 2018, it was entirely through proxy votes that party leaders were able to gain enough control of the resurgent faction to reform the party’s rules and have their say in the establishment’s preferred judicial nomination.

Reports at the time said that the vast majority of attendees in person opposed the policy agenda of then-party boss Frank Sedio, keeping more than 500 proxy votes in his back pocket to win the day.

As recently as late 2020, as COVID-19 gripped New York City, Brooklyn Democratic Party leaders again tried to benefit from the proxy system—starting by establishing an emergency provision that automatically Transfers the votes of committee members to the party’s leadership board. Consent in writing was refused.

Beginning to turn into a two-part Zoom meeting that lasted 26 hours, party leaders tried to recruit hundreds of people to the county committee for vacancies, which would have allowed them to cut a huge number of proxy votes.

That move was blocked by a state judge.

In a preliminary tally of votes at the same meeting to determine whether to adopt progressive reforms to party rules, which included changes to the proxy system, the leadership at the time announced that they had enough votes to block the amendments. .

But a recount showed that one of the leaders of the party-aligned district was given more proxy votes than qualified. When those votes were cut, the rebels won their bid to adopt reforms aimed at decentralizing power within the party.

However, in the second part of the meeting, a county-established lawmaker declared the vote’s results invalid. A lawsuit filed last year challenging the reversal on grounds of procedure was dismissed.

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