BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Updated Jan. 14, 1 p.m.: Downtown Independent Democrats, the dominant Lower Manhattan political club, has rolled out its endorsements for the upcoming June primary elections for state office — and noticeably absent from the list are both Brian Kavanagh and Yuh-Line Niou in the race for state Senate in the 26th District.
Instead, D.I.D. members voted to back the campaign of local District Leader Vittoria Fariello for the coveted state Senate seat.
It’s definitely shaping up to be an unusual race, in that, Niou, in a surprising move, has chosen to forsake her Assembly seat to campaign for the state Senate against incumbent Kavanagh, a fellow Democrat.
Meanwhile, in the club’s other endorsements on Sun., Jan. 9, its members voted to support community activist Grace Lee in her bid to succeed Niou in Lower Manhattan’s 65th Assembly District. Lee got about one-third of the vote versus Niou in the most recent Democratic primary a year and a half ago.
Also among the field running for the Assembly seat are social worker and Democratic Socialists of America activist Illapa Sairitupac, Baruch Houses activist Jasmin Sanchez and Justine Cuccia, a member of Community Board 1.
In addition, D.I.D. is backing veteran Assemblymember Deborah Glick for reelection in the West Side’s 66th District. Glick usually does not face a strong challenger in the primary. However, this season it looks like she will have an opponent. Two days after the club endorsed Glick, Ryder Kessler, a Community Board 2 member active in Democratic politics, issued a press release publicly announcing he is seeking the seat.
The Tues., Jan. 11, release’s first sentence states: “Democrat Ryder Kessler today launched his campaign for Assembly in Manhattan’s 66th District, which includes Greenwich Village, Soho, Noho, and Tribeca.”
D.I.D. members also are supporting state Senator Brad Hoylman for reelection.
As for why D.I.D. snubbed the incumbent state Senator Kavanagh, Sean Sweeney, the club’s vice president, said, “Kavanagh is a good lawmaker but people feel that his constituent services lacked and that he has little presence on the ground. On the other hand, Vittoria Fariello has been active in the community and has been particularly active as a district leader, pushing for reform within the Manhattan County Democratic Committee. She is an active member of D.I.D. and that also gave her an advantage.
“Specifically, Fariello undertook legal action against the Manhattan County Democratic Committee, which is led by Keith Wright,” Sweeney said. “The issue was an election law passed in New York State that was not well drafted and which Keith Wright and his minions at County interpreted to give power to the outgoing County Committee membership to choose the next county leader. Reformers, and common sense, would say that it should be the new batch of County Committee members who we choose who would lead them during their tenure.
“So Fariello went to court on the issue and four different Manhattan judges recused themselves, in order to avoid a conflict of interest. A judge from Staten Island had to be brought in and he ruled in her favor. It shows that Fariello has the courage to stand up against a very powerful politician to do what’s right. That is what we need in elected officials.”
As for why the club also chose not to support Niou for state Senate, Sweeney said, “D.I.D. has no problem with Yuh-line. But Vittoria is a club member and her reform credentials are sound. It was a no-brainer”
In local Democratic State Committee races, the club is backing Joshua Goodman in the 65th Assembly District to succeed new City Councilmember Christopher Marte, but voted “no endorsement” for female state committee member in the same district.