Colby Hamilton, Writer, WNYC News
Colby Hamilton is a general assignment reporter. He originally joined WNYC as a political blogger. He's a proud graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
On September 19, Brooklyn Democratic leaders will trek out to the beautiful, if distant, seaside campus of Kingsborough Community College to choose their next chair person. Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who has been the head of the county organization since 2005, is not seeking re-election after being censured in the Assembly over multiple sexual harassment charges.
The short list to replace him is, in fact, pretty short:
Frank Seddio: A former assembly member and, briefly, a surrogate judge. Seddio heads the powerful Thomas Jefferson Club in southern Brooklyn. Seddio is the odds-on favorite heading into the meeting. He is generally well-liked, with some insiders seeing him as a kinder, gentler alternative to Lopez; someone who is willing to listen and adopt other people’s ideas. Still, other district leaders have expressed concern over Seddio’s ties to Lopez.
Assemblyman Karim Camara: Camara’s the head of the state legislative Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian caucus and the Assembly representative from the 43rd District. He has a good relationship with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. Initially, it appeared that Camara was being pushed into the role rather than pushing for it. But he’s reportedly been more active recently, looking to bolster his case to become chair by putting together a labor coalition that can apply outside pressure.
Jo Anne Simon: Simon is a disabilities attorney and the Democratic district leader for the 52nd. Her base of support is brownstone Brooklyn reformers, which makes her long shot for the job — there just simply aren’t enough of them. She has been a critic of Lopez’s, referring to him as a controlling bully. Her pitch to the group will be that, given the behavior of the current chair, the time has come to have a female leader.
Assemblyman Félix Ortiz: Ortiz represents the 51st Assembly District. His name was present in much of the earlier discussion about Lopez’s successor, but since then Ortiz’s name has been mentioned less and less. A call to his office to discuss his plans was not immediately returned.
While each of these candidates comes with their own base of support, none of Lopez’s possible replacements have quite the same pre-existing power or influence. As chair of the Assembly’s housing committee, Lopez had a political stick-and-carrot to use against other elected officials, as well as a source of funds for his sprawling northern Brooklyn nonprofit.
That means, whoever becomes the next chair, there will likely be a greater level of cooperation and compromise than seen during Vito reign. There are signs this is already happening: Seddio has said he backs getting rid of the Lopez-appointed 11 “at-large” district leaders, something reformers have been calling on for years.