The Queens County Democratic Party district leaders in the district most challenged in last week’s primary elections by the New Reformers, a local reform-oriented PAC, said that they feel confident that outstanding absentee ballots will swing the final vote in their favor.
According to unofficial results released the day after the elections, current female and male district leaders for Assembly District 28 Part A City Councilmember Karen Koslowitz (D- Forest Hills, Forest Park, Kew Gardens, Rego Park, and Richmond Hill) and her Director of Communications Michael Cohen are behind their New Reformer opponents Maria Kaufer and Ethan Felder in the vote count.
However, the unofficial tally doesn’t include the historic number of absentee ballots received because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Cohen said most likely came from older voters who regularly vote in primaries but who did not vote in person for this election because of fears of contracting the novel coronavirus.
Those voters are less likely to be drawn to what he called the “rage” fueling the New Reformers’ efforts. Rage that he said was justified but that was misdirected at him and the councilmember.
“They didn’t like us other than we’re the incumbent,” Cohen said about the New Reformers.
“The councilwoman and I have a really good feeling about this. We’re really confident,” he said about the tight race.
More than 5,000 absentee ballots for the Democratic Primaries in Assembly District 28 have been received so far according to a report released by the Board of Elections. Absentee ballots can be disqualified for technical reasons such as stray or unclear marks, so how many will be counted is yet to be seen. But Koslowitz and Cohen are behind by 65 and 63 votes respectively making it an incredibly tight race.
“I don’t think that there’s a necessarily age advantage,” said Martha Ayon, a co-founder of the New Reformers. “They may, I guess in a sense, have the traditional 65 and older but we have been very active talking to registered active Democrats of all age and all ranges so we don’t feel like we’ve given up any turf per se to the county.”
The New Reformers is a local PAC with the stated goals of bringing transparency, participation and small “d” democracy back to the Queens Democratic Party through unseating district leaders, an unpaid party position that comes up for election every two years but that is rarely contested.
Ayon said that she didn’t think rage fueled their efforts but instead said it was fueled by passion.
“I think we have a very strong passion for small “d” democracy. We have a very strong passion for getting as many Democrats involved in the party.”
Part of the New Reformers’ proposals includes making sure that there is more turnover in who gets elected to district leader. They also don’t want sitting and former electeds to be district leaders.
If the New Reformers get their way, both Cohen and Koslowitz fit the bill for who shouldn’t be a district leader.
Cohen, a former state assemblymember, was first elected to district leader alongside Koslowitz in 1982 when he unseated the incumbent in the primary, he said. He stepped down from district leader in 2002 before being re-elected in 2014. He’s been the male district leader for Assembly District 28 Part A every since.
Cohen said that the only other primary he’s been challenged in for his district leader seat was in 1988.
“How do I feel about being challenged?” Cohen said about the New Reformers taking him on in this year’s election. “In some respects, I’m just the political animal and it felt good to get the juices going again, you know?”