Let Brooklyn Voters Choose Their Leaders


Last night, the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s Executive Committee appointed a new District Leader for Assembly District 43 -- before constituents were even informed that Geoffrey Davis, their District Leader, had resigned. 

According to insiders, this was a planned resignation — not tied to Davis’ health or wellbeing. When a District Leader resigns in the middle of the term, the other District Leaders, who make up the party’s Executive Committee, nominate their successor. But since this resignation wasn’t accidental or surprising, the District Leaders and party chair Rodneyse Bichotte could’ve called for public participation in selecting Davis’s replacement, but chose not to. 

Assembly District Committee (ADC) members in AD43 first learned of the resignation through a leaked email sent to District Leaders about an upcoming meeting. They tried to get in touch with Chair Bichotte and Leader Davis, but were unable to reach them. Neither of them reached out to the ADC, either. Although the purpose of an ADC is to connect County Committee members with District Leaders, it seems party leadership didn’t want to engage with these active members of the party, and doesn’t see that as an obligation they have in serving their constituents. 

This misuse of power is only the latest in the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s attempts to fill leadership positions with individuals favorable to the party boss while denying constituents their right to elect leaders through democratic processes.

Prior to Leader Davis’s resignation, he had a challenger for the male District Leader seat in AD43 —Akel Williams, an insurgent candidate and community leader, was also running for that seat. However, Davis challenged William's signatures using the objections process to kick him off the ballot. This practice has been long-used by candidates aligned with those already in power, like incumbents and party bosses — to stop insurgents by way of technicalities like writing in pencil or otherwise not in ink, or that the date or signature is illegible. (More on the objections process here.)

So, with no challenger for the seat, the race will not be on the ballot for the June 23 primary. This means that the person who was appointed when Davis stepped down last night is now in office for the next two years. The District Leader position — supposedly an elected position — was ultimately decided by 41 other District Leaders, 40 of whom live outside the district. 

This is not the first time the party has used systems most Brooklynites are excluded from to handpick who they want on the ballot and in office. 

In AD50, Nick Rizzo, who was the only candidate for male District Leaders, also had his petitions challenged by someone affiliated with the political machine, so there won’t be anyone on the ballot for male DL in AD50. That position, like Leader Davis’ seat, will now be appointed by the other District Leaders as members of the Executive Committee.

But appointments aren’t the only way that party leadership is ensuring they get to pick who represents constituents. Last month, District Leaders Darma Diaz (AD54) and Felix Ortiz (AD51) resigned after the petitioning process and before appearing on the ballot, which ensured that they could choose who replaced them on the ballot.  

When a candidate steps down after petitioning, and before appearing on the ballot, their “Committee on Vacancies” decides who will take their place — in practice, this means the departing candidate picks who replaces them. Instead of District Leader candidates petitioning in their communities to get themselves to get on the ballot, Leaders Diaz and Ortiz essentially petitioned to be able to choose who will run for their seat. 

This needs to stop. Using these systems that exclude most Brooklynites to hand-pick District Leaders is not only wrong, it hurts our democracy by excluding voters and placing leaders in power who lack accountability to their communities. Brooklyn Democratic Party leadership needs to be accountable to everyone in the party — not just their own interests. 

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