Duane retirement rocks Downtown’s political landscape

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  Tom Duane’s surprise announcement on Monday that he won’t seek re-election to the state Senate stunned the Downtown political world. It also altered the dynamics of the upcoming election to fill the City Council seat currently held by Speaker Christine Quinn.

Speaking on Monday, Duane said it wasn’t an easy decision to retire from the Senate and that he only reached it after much careful thought and deliberation.

“I was elected to the state Senate in 1998 and I’ve worked hard to represent all the people of my Manhattan district for the past 14 years,” he said. “But 14 years is a long time in Albany, and I have decided it is time for a new chapter in my life.”

Duane assured that, after Dec. 31 when his final term ends, “I will continue to be an activist and an advocate. I will hold those positions for life.”

At the press conference, Duane indicated that he supports Brad Hoylman, the current chairperson of Community Board 2, as his successor.

“Brad is one of my closest friends,” Duane said. “I would be proud to be represented by Brad Hoylman.”

Hoylman had been expected to be a front-runner in the 2013 election for the Third Council District (West Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen). He previously ran for City Council in the First District (Lower Manhattan) Democratic primary in 2001, finishing second to Alan Gerson.

Hoylman said he’s definitely running for Duane’s primarily West Side 29th Senate District, which runs roughly from Canal St. to W. 85th St., but also stretches cross-town to include Stuyvesant Town and part of the East Village.

In a statement sent to this newspaper on Tuesday, Hoylman said, “I’m humbled by Senator Duane’s comments about me. Nothing would make me prouder than to continue his legacy of being a champion for our community and those who normally don’t have a voice in the halls of government. His 14-year legacy is truly without parallel. I hope to follow in Tom’s progressive, activist footsteps and would be extremely honored to have his support.

“I filed my paperwork yesterday with the State Board of Elections and am definitely running for the State Senate seat,” Hoylman added.

As of Tuesday, no one else had filed to run for Duane’s seat.

Hoylman had also been planning to run for another one-year term as chairperson of C.B. 2, with the election set for Thurs., June 21, at C.B. 2’s full board meeting. However, given that he’ll now be campaigning for state Senate and, if elected, would have to step down as board chairperson after only six months, he won’t seek re-election. His term as chairperson will end June 30.

Nominations for chairperson will be reopened at the full board meeting. Three members are reportedly interested in running for the board’s leadership, including David Gruber, chairperson of the C.B. 2 Land Use and Business Development Committee; Bo Riccobono, the board’s first vice chairperson; and Tobi Bergman, the Parks Committee chairperson.

Asked if he’s running, Bergman said, “I haven’t really thought about it. I do plan to think about it. Would I have to wear long pants and socks to meetings? Also, a benefit to the board would be shorter meetings because I would not be able to speak from the floor.”

In addition, with news that Hoylman is running for Senate, Andrew Berman is now closer to committing to run for City Council. Berman says this was always the case, but, in fact, he’s played it close to the vest for several years now, not really saying what his intentions were.

On Monday, Berman said, “Obviously, Tom’s retiring is huge. He’s been such a fixture in West Side/Lower Manhattan politics for the last 30 years. I think he’s sort of inspired a generation of people.”

Berman was Duane’s chief of staff from 1997 to 1998 in the City Council, and from 1999 through 2001 in the state Senate.

As for his own political aspirations, Berman said, “My situation is unchanged — I still am very seriously considering running. While many people have asked me if I’m running for the state Senate, people who know me know that’s not something I’m considering. I am still very seriously considering a run for the City Council. And I’ve been getting a lot of encouragement — especially today.”

Asked to reveal who has been encouraging him to run, Berman said, “I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

There’s word that Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh may also be interested in Duane’s seat. Kavanagh didn’t return calls seeking comment by press time.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick said she’s not interested in switching to the Senate. She said she likes her position in the Assembly, where she chairs the Higher Education Committee, and values being in a chamber where she can get things done — as opposed to the Senate, where the Republicans are in the majority. She said she’s backing Hoylman for the Senate.

“Tom’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election is dramatic,” Glick said. “It’s a dramatic change for me. It will seem odd not having Tom in Albany.”

Glick was the Legislature’s first openly gay member.

Corey Johnson, chairperson of C.B. 4, said he’s not sure if he would want to run for the state Senate and is currently deciding.

“In the less than 24 hours since this news broke, a number of people have inquired about my potential interest in this seat,” Johnson said on Monday. “I have been preparing for a campaign for the City Council seat currently held by Speaker Quinn. I will be weighing this decision very carefully in the coming days, and will make an announcement in due course. Right now, however, I ask that we lay the question aside and instead focus on honoring a true leader and pioneer, Senator Tom Duane.”

Activist Yetta Kurland, another expected candidate in the Council race, didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether she plans to run and on the news that Hoylman is dropping out of the race to campaign for state Senate. However, Dodge Landesman, a close political ally, offered his thoughts.

“I’d be surprised if Yetta took a shot at state Senate,” he said, “although her experience would make her qualified for a number of offices. And while she hasn’t announced that she is running for any office in particular, it is easy to recognize the strong race she ran in the Council district in 2009. She has a lot of support and name recognition on the West Side, so City Council would seem most likely. She is still fundraising while getting involved in issues pertinent to the West Side, and her activism comes first.”

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