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Harvey Epstein running for Manhattan Democratic Party chairperson

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Declaring that the Manhattan Democratic County Committee needs a progressive in its top ranks to tackle the party’s current challenges, Harvey Epstein is running for its chairperson.

Epstein is challenging the incumbent, Domenico “Nico” Minerva, who is the right-hand man to Keith Wright, the longtime Manhattan County leader. Wright, formerly the Harlem assemblymember from 1992 to 2016, has been County Committee leader since 2009. He was also formerly the New York State Democratic Committee co-chairperson from 2012 to 2014.

Epstein, meanwhile, was first elected to the Assembly in 2018. He represents an East Side district that includes the Lower East Side, East Village and Stuyvesant Town and stretches up through Kips Bay and Murray Hill to the United Nations in the E. 40s.

In a letter to local district leaders, Epstein said his vision is to “advance progressive rule changes” and create “a more transparent party.” Touting his housing background, he noted that, as a former member of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, he helped to secure two years of historic rent freezes on one-year leases for rent-regulated apartments.

Epstein and Minerva will square off on the evening of Thurs., Oct. 5, at the Manhattan Democratic County Committee’s organizing meeting at the Society for Ethical Culture, at 2 W. 64th Street, at Central Park West. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Among Downtown political clubs, Downtown Independent Democrats, for one, is throwing its support behind upstart candidate Epstein. D.I.D. sent out an e-mail to its membership list, declaring that it’s backing the East Village-based pol.

“Our district leaders are enthusiastically supporting Harvey Epstein for chairperson,” the e-mail said. “We have seen Republicans make serious inroads here in New York and we need to bring a level of activism and organizing to the party that we simply haven’t seen. Harvey Epstein has the track record and commitment to do just that!”

Another closely watched race on Oct. 5 is for first vice chairperson of the County Committee, in which D.I.D. is backing one of its own, Mariama James. James is currently on Lower Manhattan’s Community Board 1, where she is a committee chairperson, has been active on parent and school issues and has also been a leading voice for maximizing affordable housing at the 5 World Trade Center project.

“She brings years of activism in community, parent, youth and school organizations, earning multiple awards for her contributions,” D.I.D. noted of James. “She has also been deeply involved in advocacy for 9/11 health issues and affordable housing.”

As the D.I.D. e-mail explained it, “County Committee is the grassroots of the Democratic Party. … Members adopt rules for local party operations, fill vacancies for local party offices, and, very importantly, nominate Democratic candidates for special elections.”

One Comment

  1. Elizabeth Kellner Elizabeth Kellner October 6, 2023

    I was at the 3.5-hour County Committee meeting last night. Epstein lost by approximately 18 votes out of approximately 734 votes cast. His strength came from mostly Downtown Democrats, but also from a large contingent from the Northern Manhattan Washington Heights / Inwood neighborhood, not known for its progressive or reform politics. This turned into a proxy battle between those who supported Congressman Espaillat’s efforts to expand his political control at the expense of Keith Wright. It was an odd alliance driven by larger internal political struggles within the Manhattan Democratic Party. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of County Committee members from the northern reaches left the hall after the contested vote. They did not stick around to vote on the other party leadership positions or to consider the important changes to the County Democratic Party rules which affect the judicial selection screening process. Epstein is a good guy. i wish him well, but he got dragged into a continuing struggle played out in numerous contests for elected office where Espaillat backs one candidate and Wright backs another. It should have, could have, been about Epstein. it wasn’t.

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