A last-minute endorsement for the Queens Borough President Office on Monday in Forest Hills has made an already crowded special election even more contentious as the current officeholder Melinda Katz is only days away from taking up her new position as the Queens Borough District Attorney.
Over the weekend, members of the Queens County Democratic County Committee issued a statement about their disappointment with the party choosing to endorse during a special election, which is not based on party lines, and worse to do it during the holiday season.
Members from QCC4All and the New Reformers protested outside the Queens County Democratic Party office during the endorsement process.
“We the undersigned members of the Democratic Organization of Queens County stand in solidarity with our coalition partners in expressing our regret that the Democratic Organization of Queens County continues the practice of endorsing candidates in primary races,” said the letter that was endorsed by 26 QCC4All members on Dec. 29. “It is our position that this practice should be abolished. Primary Elections must be conducted in a transparent and fair manner without the endorsement of candidates.”
The endorsement of Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Jamaica, Far Rockaway) for Queens Borough President on Dec. 30, was just five days after the meeting was announced on Christmas Eve, according to a letter that was sent out to district leaders with no mention of what type of gathering was to take place.
Richards later thanked the party for the endorsement via tweet.
“Proud to be endorsed by @Queens_Dems this morning,” tweeted Richards. “#QueensStrong #LetsGo.”
Richards and Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens) were the only candidates in the borough president race seeking an endorsement, but Hyndman dropped out of the race on Monday, said the Queens County Democratic Party.
“While I have loved every minute of the campaign, after a great deal of thought, conversation and reflection, I have decided that in the interest of being with a unified Queens Democratic Party, under the great leadership of our chairman, Congressman Greg Meeks, I am ending my campaign for Queens Borough President,” said Hyndman.
Richards now goes up against Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and police reform candidate Anthony Miranda.
Miranda called the support for Richards a “preordained back-room endorsement.”
QCC4All didn’t take issue with Richards, but with the process.
“This is a special election, this isn’t an election where we have Democrats or Republicans,” said Heather Dimitriadis, a member of QCC4All, who had an issue with the vote taking place at all, especially during the holidays. “This is an election where everyone declares their own party.”
Dimitriadis felt that the special election shouldn’t have any endorsements, but if the Queens County Democratic Party was going to go through with one anyway, the 72 district leaders should have had more time to engage with the people they represented.
“They should have had time to engage with the election district representatives to find out where people stood on the endorsements,” said Dimitriadis.
At least 45 district leaders were determined to be present at the vote, according to a spokeswoman for the Queens County Democratic Party.
“It got crowded as people from the protests came in towards the end of the meeting, so I was not able to keep track of any other district leaders who may have voted later,” said the party spokeswoman. “Hiram Monserratte, Sonya Harvey and Louis Gomez were the three that abstained from voting, the rest that I counted were unanimous.”
Dimitriadis was sad to see Hyndman go.
“I thought it was a wonderful addition to see Hyndman speaking and having her run for office,” Dimitriadis added. “I know that she is saying that there were no conversations, and this was her own decision, and that may be, but I just feel the path was cleared for Richards and this breaks my heart. I respect her greatly. I think Donovan is a fine man, but her platform came from the heart and I wish the County would have stayed out of it.”