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BY TONY HOFFMANN | Before a packed house of about 100 people, the Village Independent Democrats and the Downtown Independent Democrats held a joint candidates forum and endorsement meeting at Greenwich House on Thurs. evening March 15.
Jonathan Geballe, president of V.I.D., and Jeanne Wilcke, president of D.I.D., welcomed the assemblage of club members, community activists, candidates and their representatives as they streamed in.
Overlaying the forum was the concurrent redrawing of district lines and the ongoing furor in Albany over new districts for the upcoming November election. Some state legislators arrived blurry eyed after an all-night session in Albany. The state Senate session had ended in a Democratic walkout — a protest over much-derided new district lines drawn by the Republican Senate majority, and acceded to by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo. State Senator Tom Duane expressed both disappointment with the governor’s position and resignation over the new district lines, which, Duane stated, will disenfranchise both minorities and Downstaters.
Turning to Washington, D.C., Congressmember Jerrold Nadler lamented the changes that have occurred since the Republicans took over the House of Representatives. He quoted Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, a Republican, who said that the transportation bill that came out of the House was “the worst bill I have ever seen.” Nadler expressed confidence that the bill would be improved, but was doubtful it would be as good as it needs to be.
The congressman proudly noted that before the Republicans took over the House, he was responsible for enacting a number of crucial bills. One of these required all incoming shipping containers to be scanned for nuclear materials, and another ensured community members’ inclusion in the Zadroga Health and Compensations Act. In response to a question on whether he supports taking military action against Iran now, he said, no. He said he feels that sanctions and diplomacy should first be given a chance to work.
Assemblymember Deborah Glick, chairperson of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, said she was proud of the support she was able to give to higher education. Last year’s tuition hike at state colleges was tied to provisos of more aid to poor students and the requirement that the state maintain its level of funding and not syphon off the extra tuition money for other state needs. According to Glick, the state has kept to its agreement so far. Glick is also pleased by the role she played in getting the marriage equality act passed and the funding she secured to keep St. Vincent’s Hospital open while the search proceeded for a takeover partner. Unfortunately, according to Glick, without the support of the mayor, the New York State Department of Health and a viable partner hospital, St. Vincent’s was forced to close.
Also addressing the forum were Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, congressional candidate Erik Martin Dilan, U.S. Senate candidate (independent) Scott Noren, Democratic State Committeewoman Rachel Lavine and State Committeeman Arthur Schwartz. In addition, there were speakers for U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velazquez. Finally, candidates for Civil Court and Surrogate’s Court addressed the forum.
At the forum’s conclusion, V.I.D. and D.I.D. members split up and moved into separate rooms to endorse candidates for the upcoming primary. V.I.D. and D.I.D. both endorsed President Obama, Senator Gillibrand, Representatives Nadler and Maloney, state Senator Duane, Assemblymember Glick, Democratic State Committeewoman Lavine, Civil Court candidates Melissa Crane and Verna Saunders, Civil Court candidate Debra Rose Samuels and Surrogate’s Court candidate Judge Rita Mella.
Additionally, D.I.D., which encompasses areas not covered by V.I.D., endorsed Congressmember Velazquez, Assembly Speaker Silver, Assemblymember Kavanagh, Civil Court candidate Anil Singh — who is running for re-election since his 10-year term is up — and State Committeeman Schwartz.
As for the lone incumbent that V.I.D. didn’t back for re-election — Schwartz — it was because he supported Cuomo for governor on the Working Families Party line two years ago. Voters who were swayed by Schwartz’s endorsement cost V.I.D. judicial delegates, which are based on votes on the Democratic line for governor. Asked last Thursday, if he would do it again in two years, Schwartz could not give a firm commitment that he wouldn’t. V.I.D. feels that elected Democratic Party officials should support Democrats.