Friedman is nominated by party to succeed Sanders
By Lincoln Anderson
By Lincoln Anderson In an upset victory, Sylvia Friedman won the support of the majority of the 74th Assembly District's Democratic County Committee members, garnering the Democratic nomination for a special election this month to fill the vacant East Side Assembly seat formerly held by Steve Sanders.
Last November, Sanders announced he would retire from the State Legislature at the end of the year after serving 28 years in the Assembly. On Jan. 19, Governor Pataki called the special election for Feb. 28 and the Democratic County Committee convened on Jan. 29 to nominate the party's candidate.
Friedman just missed gaining the required simple majority on the first ballot, netting 49.93 percent of the vote. About 150 to 160 county committee members cast weighted votes, which are calculated under a formula based on voter turnout in the gubernatorial election.
On the first ballot, Friedman had 5,160 votes to Steve Kaufman's 4,0591/2 votes to Donald Tobias's 1,114 votes. Tobias dropped out, and on the second ballot Friedman got 57 percent, or 5,501 votes, to Kaufman's 4,752 votes.
Friedman will also run on the Working Families Party line. According to Friedman, the candidates agreed the losers would not challenge the winner in the special election by running on a third-party line.
The Republican County Committee nominated Frank Scala, who owns a barbershop in the East 20s, lives in Stuyvesant Town and is a Community Board 6 member.
The 74th Assembly District extends from Delancey St. on the Lower East Side up to Tudor City in the Murray Hill area.
Sanders had endorsed Kaufman, his longtime chief of staff, to succeed him, seemingly giving him the edge in winning the party's nomination. But Friedman said she was simply the more progressive candidate. She also credited Anthony Feliciano, district leader out of the Coalition for a District Alternative club, for giving a speech in support of her that helped put her over the top. She said they know each other from working together on Lower East Side Call for Justice, a group that works on issues like ending police brutality and the death penalty. Also, Friedman had requested that the area's four political clubs not endorse candidates, so as not to overly influence the vote.
I'm very grateful to him, Friedman said of Feliciano. I think Kaufman was considered the favorite. But I think people realized that, based on the issues, I was the person they wanted to represent them. I'm a grassroots activist. I've worked in the community for years. And I think people agreed with me. I've been out on the streets, which he was not. I've been in the club. I've run for office. I chair the Reform Caucus [of the County Committee]. They know me as a reformer. And reform is very popular these days.
A former district leader, Friedman is a Democratic State Committeewoman and a leading member of the Gramercy-Stuyvesant Independent Democrats club. She ran for City Council in the Second District in 1993 in a three-way primary race with Miriam Friedlander and Antonio Pagan that Pagan won.
Assuming she wins the special election, a strong likelihood given the district's heavily Democratic electorate, she'll hold office until at least September of this year, when there will be a primary race for the seat, followed by the general election in November. At least one candidate has already stated his intention to run in the Democratic primary, according to Friedman.
Brian Kavanagh already has announced he's running, which I find amusing, she said. He hasn't even waited for me to screw up. Kavanagh ran for City Council in the Second District last year in a race won by Rosie Mendez.
If elected, Friedman said she plans to focus on housing, getting full funding for New York City public schools, ending the death penalty, repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws, getting a commissioner from New York City appointed to the State Liquor Authority and stopping inmates from being gouged by prison phone rates, among other things.
She said she would hope to hold the seat for two or three two-year terms, or five to seven years, including the first year after the special election. I will run for re-election, said Friedman, who is 67. But I'm not planning to stay there for 28 years. There are young people in the district who have been doing work that I've been doing all these years who ought to be able to follow. In the Upper West Side's 67th Assembly District, which Scott Stringer represented before becoming Manhattan borough president in January, the Democratic County Committee elected Linda Rosenthal, head of Congressmember Jerrold Nadler's New York office, to run in the Feb. 28th special election to fill Stringer's vacant seat.