At our March general meeting, held at Bushwick’s Mayday Space, we welcomed the Chair of the Kings County Democratic Party, Frank Seddio. Chairman Seddio is also the male District Leader (DL) for the 59th Assembly District (AD), which mostly consists of Canarsie.
We filmed most of the conversation between Chairman Seddio and NKD President Brandon West. A summary and links to videos of the convo follow!
Chairman Seddio started by detailing his own political career. He first ran for office at age 50, winning a seat in the New York State Assembly. He became the DL of the 59th AD in 2010 and the County Leader in 2012 after Vito Lopez resigned. He talked about the State Democratic Party meeting he recently attended where the Party debated whether to eliminate fusion voting.
Q&A with Frank!
Frank described his three priorities for the Party: 1) Evolution, not revolution. He welcomed everybody to participate in the Kings County Democratic Committee. 2) He stressed the importance of electing a Democrat for President, because the current one is “unpresidential.” Did you know Chairman Seddio was the head of security for Michael Dukakis? 3) Create as much harmony as possible within the Party.
County Committee Meeting Structure
Brandon reiterated the importance of coordination between NKD and Party leadership, as well as process and rules, asking Chairman Seddio what he would do about DLs avoiding calls from KCDC members to establish Assembly District Committees (ADCs).
Chairman Seddio stated that he is open to ideas about how to improve the structure of KCDC, and seemed to encourage discussion rather than assuming he could read the minds of those that disagree with the way the Party currently operates. He said that running the Party is expensive! He offered to meet monthly with a designated committee, though its purpose wasn’t clear. Chairman Seddio said that he didn’t realize the Party rules require the formation of ADCs. He asked whether those present (that is, NKD members) had read the Party rules, and many people in the room indicated that they had indeed read them. He put the onus on KCDC members to hold their DLs accountable.
Chairman Seddio said he is a strong supporter of the current proxy system. He pointed out that, in his district, he has no problem getting almost all of his proxies from his AD. He said he is displeased with DLs who can’t get enough proxies themselves, like he can.
Of note: this centralization of power is something NKD continues to question and challenge.
Chairman Seddio stated that he is working on formulating ideas about how to convene the Standing Committees. He pointed out that DLs are unpaid so it’s hard to do these things, and he works on training them.
An NKD member asked about the letters that went out from various DLs seeking proxies ahead of the September 2018 KCDC meeting. Chairman Seddio said that the people who volunteered to go out and get proxies tried to set up a system, and they screwed it up. They didn’t follow up with all the DLs, but then sent out the letter anyway. He wasn’t sure who paid for it, and stated that the mailing yielded only 20 proxies; according to data the NKD acquired from County, it likely yielded over 300.
An NKD member asked what Chairman Seddio’s plan was to mitigate underrepresentation of certain communities as part of the 2020 redistricting process. Chairman Seddio predicted that the 64th AD and the 17th State Senate district will be eliminated and that there will probably be an Asian-majority AD in Western Brooklyn.
An NKD member asked about the Party’s debt and whether there is something unique about Brooklyn that makes it hard to manage the budget. Chairman Seddio responded that Brooklyn has had a terrible reputation when it comes to politics. He said he doesn’t go to Walentas for funding (referring to Jed Walentas, the head of Two Trees, a powerful developer). He also said that the Party will start reaching out to more people for fundraising and would potentially raise the price of its annual dinner. He said that the Party would start with a new fundraising committee because NKD members have been getting a “free ride.”
Chairman Seddio’s Personal Business
An NKD member asked why Mr. Seddio conducts Party business at the office of his personal law business. Chairman Seddio said it is for his convenience -- to avoid going to Downtown Brooklyn. He also said he has no problem filling County Committee seats in his AD.
Chairman Seddio set aside his responsibility to manage the DLs -- the members of the Executive Committee -- instead insisting that every DL is responsible for filling seats in their own AD as well.
Again, NKD partners with other progressive, reform-oriented groups across Brooklyn to find new ways to help all Brooklynites become involved in the Democratic Party and hold their leaders accountable to their communities. We continue to seek out ways to partner with DLs, including Chairman Seddio, to reform the proxy process (as well as other County Committee reforms, explained here), to ultimately disentangle the process by which seats on County Committee are filled, and we believe members should run for seats representing the blocks where they live, rather than simply being appointed (often unknowingly) by DLs and other local elected officials. You can learn more about the #RepYourBlock project here.
NKD members expressed persistent concerns about the Party’s lack of communication and the limited usefulness of its website. Chairman Seddio claimed he would like to put more information on the site and offered to connect NKDers to the person who maintains the website. NKD members have volunteered on several occasions to help.
Chairman Seddio claimed that it takes time to find a meeting location and that is why he has not announced meeting locations with more advance notice.