Amsterdam News September Primary Endorsements

7/24/2014, 12:04 p.m.
The New York Amsterdam News held its annual endorsement meeting this past Monday. Dozens of candidates were seen for the ...
Governor Andrew Cuomo (Left)

The New York Amsterdam News held its annual endorsement meeting this past Monday. Dozens of candidates were seen for the various offices up for grabs this election season.

This year’s endorsement meetings took a different tone. Of the first six interviews that took place, four people were running for different seats that have been vacated because of charges of corruption or because of the formerly elected in that office actually being jailed for their transgressions, thus the seat is open. One vacancy is because of retirement and another challenger is taking on an incumbent who, the challenger believes, is not serving the community well.

We were disheartened by the trend of so many of the elected positions in our community being open because of these circumstances, but then we realized something. The folks who are trying to replace them are in it for the right reasons, and a new crop of young, talented, ambitious and, most importantly, from what we have seen so far, honest young men and women are coming forward to seek election and to make their communities better. So here are our endorsements for the Sept. 9 primary.


Andrew Cuomo for Governor

Andrew Cuomo made some big promises when he ran for office four years ago. He promised some big changes. One promise he kept was marriage equality, which was a hard-won fight. He promised to expand MWBE opportunities, which he did, although much more work needs to be done. He has eliminated thousands of prison beds in this state, but still more needs to be done in terms of criminal justice. The governor created universal pre-K, but more still needs to be done on the education front. We need more funding in poor communities, and he pledges to continue to do more.

He promises to continue to expand opportunities for minority youth, and he has helped to bring a halt to lending discrimination. But there is so much more that needs to be done. For example, championing the Safe Act that supports community-based programs to help stem the violence in our communities.

He has realized the needs of those inside our prison system, including those with mental health issues. Moreover, he believes that re-entry into society is a huge issue and, thus, he has created the re-entry council.

He has combated corruption in Albany and is holding everyone to a higher standard. He has pushed for college education, leading to degrees in prison and creating more preventative services to stop recidivism and incarceration in general.

He has taken the state from a deficit to a surplus in less than four years and continues to make inroads to expand economic opportunities for communities of color.

Has he done everything we want him to do? Not yet, but given another four years, more changes can be made in this state and more headway can be made on the issues we care about most. For all these reasons, and for the possibilities that lie ahead, we endorse Andrew Cuomo for governor in the September primary.

State Senate


“I expect to be a champion for working men and women all throughout the state [and] to use my responsibilities as a state senator to pass legislation [and] also bring back resources for the community,” -Liu

In the 11th Senatorial District located in Queens, there is a very contentious Democratic primary. John Liu, former New York City comptroller, versus Tony Avella, the sitting state senator and a member of the Independent Democratic Conference that allowed the Republicans to gain a stranglehold on the senate.

Liu, who did not run for reelection as city comptroller so he could run for mayor in the last election, could have joined the ranks of the private sector. Instead, he decided to run again, but this time taking on the powers that be to serve his neighborhood in the state Senate. Liu served the city well as comptroller, although he did have his share of legal troubles. That aside, he helped to expand the role of MWBEs in the city and as a proven leader will bring his skills to the state Senate.

The issues that are important to him are important to all of us. And he wants to make sure that bills such as the Dream Act, Women’s equality and the raising of the minimum wage come to fruition. He wants to be part of the solution in Albany, not part of the problem. For this reason, we endorse John Liu in the primary in the 11th Senatorial District.


The 14th Senatorial District is one that has been ripe with controversy. The sitting senator, Malcolm Smith, who was the former Majority leader of the Senate, decided to join the Independent Democratic Conference, thereby leading to the election of Dean Skelos, a Republican, as majority leader. In addition, Smith was arrested by the FBI on federal corruption charges.

Leroy Comrie Jr., the former City Council person and former candidate for Queens borough president, is challenging him. Comrie served the city well as a council person. He understands the growing needs of his community. He sees the need for more opportunities for entrepreneurs and more training for our young people. He understands that much of Southeast Queens has an aging population and that steps must be taken to address those issues. He has ideas and has implemented programs that have made real differences in the lives of those who live in areas he has served.

He sees a lack of services for the community, including the services of representation in the legal system. Comrie believes that real change is possible. And he wants to serve. He believes he can be part of bringing Albany back together and stopping the gridlock. Comrie wants to make a difference, and we think he can. That is why we endorse Leroy Comrie Jr. for senator in the 14th Senatorial District.


The 18th Senatorial District has seen a lot of change in the past 20 years. Those who have lived in the district for decades are getting pushed out in record numbers. The incumbent in the district voted against rent control and, according to some, is invisible. But one woman is waging an uphill challenge against that incumbent. That woman is Debbie Medina.

There is no better person to undertake this task for the 18th. Medina has been a neighborhood tenant organizer from the south side of Williamsburg for close to three decades. She is interested in fighting for tenants’ rights and protecting tenants in Brooklyn. Medina has watched her community change over the past few years and wants to find solutions to make sure long-standing residents can remain in their Brooklyn neighborhood and homes.

Medina is a unifier and a fighter and is willing to step up to challenge what has become the status quo in her district. For this reason, we endorse Debbie Medina in the Democratic primary for the 18th Senatorial District.


“We have had a lack of leadership and we need a real fighter,” said Smitherman to the AmNews. “We need someone who is dedicated to fighting for the community.” - Smitherman

The 19th Senatorial District is another one that has had a bit of controversy. The incumbent is John Sampson, who was indicted for embezzlement in May 2013. Several people are running against him in the Democratic primary.

But the one who stands out the most is Dell Smitherman. Smitherman, who is the political director at 1199SEIU, grew up in the Pink Houses of East New York and wants to fight the real fight. He believes that the incumbent can’t focus on the issues at hand because of the other issues he is personally dealing with. And he wants to be there for the community in a way in that previous senators were not.

He understands the need for affordable housing and how good jobs and security can lead to home ownership. He has seen that community policing works and that there is a need to help support those efforts on a state level. He understands the political process and is willing to work hard to see changes made in Albany.

He has been endorsed by all the major labor unions, but he takes none of that for granted. He wants to make his district better, and we believe he can. That is why we are endorsing Dell Smitherman for the Democratic primary in the 19th Senatorial District.


“It absolutely matters the kind of the leadership that we have with the issues that our community is facing from the needs of our public education and expanding our opportunities for women and minority businesses,” -Doracy

The 20th Senatorial District is the district vacated by now Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. This seat is one of the few vacant because of someone leaving for all the right reasons.

Three people are in the Democratic primary for this is race, Rubain Dorancy, Jesse E. Hamilton, and Demetrius Lawrence. Hamilton currently running the office of the 20th Senatorial District, has worked with Adams for more than 20 years, but we do not see him as the heir apparent, although he is very thoughtful and competent.

The man in this race who almost seems to come out of nowhere is Dorancy. But do not let the soft-spoken voice distract you from his passion for equality and the education of the children of Brooklyn. For more than 20 years, he has steadily built his reputation within his community as an advocate, community school board vice president, senior administrator in the New York City Department of Education and chairman of the Haitian American Association for Political Action-PAC.

Dorancy’s primary focus is to improve education within his district. In addition, he is committed to expanding job opportunities, fighting for a minimum wage that is a true living wage, building affordable housing and protecting homeowners and promoting equality, in particular, the Women’s Equality Act.

For these reasons and many more, we endorse Rubain Dorancy for senator in the Democratic primary for the 20th Senatorial District.


“My main platform is touching base with the people," Jackson further stated. "We need a full time legislator that’s going to work for the people and listen to the concerns that impact them.” -Jackson

The elongated 31st Senatorial District seems the perfect shape for Robert Jackson because he knows firsthand the issues facing the residents there.

Since Jackson entered the political arena 14 years ago, he has been absolutely unsparing in his commitment and not afraid to voice his opinion on controversial issues. Few elected officials or parents have been as vocal and consistent about the needs of our children’s education.

If Jackson can be said to have a passionate, strong point in his political arsenal, it’s on education, especially a quality education, and not just for the children in his district. Integrity, honesty and tireless advocacy are just a few of the words that come quickly to mind when thinking about this former councilman who we hope will be the next senator in his district. Therefore, Robert Jackson is our choice for senator in the 31st Senatorial District.


“Senate has failed to pass a higher minimum wage, campaign finance reform, women’s equality agenda, and the dream act,” said Koppell to the AmNews. “I am a progressive democrat, I have a long history and I am staying in the race.” -Koppell

In the 34th Senatorial District, we have a big problem and his name is Jeff Klein. Klein was the leader of the IDC that led to the re-election of Dean Skelos as Senate Majority leader and the deadlock in Albany. Klein cares about his own self-interests and the not the good of the community.

Thankfully, Oliver Koppell is running against him. Koppell was in the New York Assembly for 23 years. He was the author of more than 280 laws that actually came to fruition. Some of the most important legislation he is responsible for includes human rights protection for the disabled, the bottle bill and the MTA reorganization in the late 1970s.

Under his leadership in the Judiciary Committee, he helped to repeal the abortion ban and led child support reform. He served as the state attorney general and a City Council member for 12 years. He retired recently but decided that after all the shenanigans going on in Albany, he needed to come out of retirement and take on Klein.

Koppell has been around the block many productive times. And he has done a lot of good in the city and state. We think he can make a difference now. That is why we endorse Oliver Koppell for Senate in the Democratic primary for the 34th Senatorial District.


“I believe that I’ve done some very good things for my community and there are things yet to be done,” -Hassell

In the 36th Senatorial District, there is a force to be reckoned with, and that force is sitting Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson. Hassell-Thompson has been in the state Senate for 14 years. She has been at the forefront of change and has been working hard for the people of her district and the state as a whole.

She believes that more change is needed in this state, and while a lot has happened, so much more needs to be done. To hear her expound on foster care is to attend a seminar on the subject. She clearly has her protective arms around the issue and the critical need to reshape it. And she is equally conversant on and committed to solving the problems related to substance abuse, with a particular concern about treatment.

There is a caring, motherly grasp she possesses on social and family affairs, and for these reasons and so many more, we endorse Ruth Hassell-Thompson in the Democratic primary for the 36th Senatorial District.


State Assembly

“I want to make sure there is economic flow in the district in terms of making sure people support small businesses and getting access to capital funding,” - Bichoette

The 42nd Assembly District has an open seat because of the retirement of Rhoda Jacobs, who served in that seat for more than 30 years. Running for this seat in the Democratic primary are five people, but one stands out head and shoulders above the rest.

Rodneyse Bichotte is currently the state committeewoman and district leader for the 42nd. She has a proven track record for fighting for the community and now wants to take her experience to the next level. She has the support of almost all of the major unions; has the ability to work well with others and make effective change; understands the need to work with those with whom she might not agree; and wants a true investment in our communities. She knows that communities are better when the residents have a real chance of bettering their lives. That is why we are endorsing Rodneyse Bichotte for the Democratic primary in the 42nd Assembly District.


“We really need someone who is going to take education by the helm and provide the resources needed for our young people to gain access to adequate libraries, computer labs, smart boards and everything else.” - Walker

“We need to look at our educational system, especially as it pertains to our young African American boys... the ways in which they are stereotyped and the failure of our system to adequately educate African people,” - Boozer

It appears the residents of Brooklyn’s 55th Assembly District will be able to move swiftly beyond the Boyland era, with two extremely qualified women running this year. The board was impressed with the candidacies of Latrice Walker and Lori Boozer and ultimately could not make a choice between the two.

Both women have extensive legal backgrounds, knowledge of the challenges facing the district and support from various unions and Brooklyn politicians. To name just a few, Walker has the support of Yvette and Una Clarke, as well as Public Advocate Tish James, and Boozer has the support of the WFP, 1199 and 32BJ.

Boozer’s strengths are a supreme understanding of the housing issues facing the district. She served as a housing specialist with the Urban Resource Institute, as well as in a position with Housing Court Answers, where she assisted families in understanding their legal rights against unfair housing practices. Walker’s strengths are her years of political work in Brooklyn with the Clarke family and her work within the Brooklyn political system at various levels of government.

Ultimately, we suggest the residents of the 55th investigate who they would like to lead the district. Fortunately, both women have a keen political knowledge and passion for their lifelong Brooklyn community.


“The bottom line is you either have to have power, the ability to make decisions or leverage.” Barron further stated ”I want to get into the state assembly to have influence in the Black, Latino, and Asian caucus so we can bring more goods and services back to our community.” -Charles Barron

Brooklyn’s 60th Assembly District will never be the same for all the right reasons if Charles Barron is elected to represent it. Barron, who has been known to be a firebrand, does not want to go to Albany to entertain. He wants to go to Albany to make a difference.

Barron, who has been at the forefront of social justice issues, education, health and the list goes on, wants to represent his community and continue to make real change. He wants to be a voice for the unheard but in a way that will add to the conversation. He wants the community to be part of the conversation and part of the solution. And we think he is very well-suited to do just that.

Therefore, we endorse Charles Barron in the Democratic primary for the 60th Assembly District.


“Housing, housing, housing, that is the big issue. The landlords are working to raise the rent and the people who are having the problem are folks in their 80’s and 90’s,” -Farrell

The 71st Assembly District has been served by Herman “Denny” Farrell for four decades. He has made huge contributions to the Assembly and has served his city and his state admirably. He wrote the Neighborhood Preservation Act of 1978, has chaired Ways and Means and has been a staunch advocate for the people of this city. He has the experience to understand Albany and the frustration to help change it. And few elected officials understand the intricacies of housing and the problems plaguing landlord and tenants’ courtrooms. He makes a difference to his constituents every day and, therefore, we believe he needs another term. We endorse Herman “Denny” Farrell in the Democratic Primary for the 71st Assembly District.


“Most of our young people are not landing in college which is critical now of days if you want to land a good job. We need resources so our young people have a path to college,” - Linares

The 72nd Assembly District is another district with a plagued passed. The last person to hold that seat pled guilty to marriage fraud. But now what is old is new again, and her predecessor who served the seat proudly wishes to retake it. And that person is Guillermo Linares.

Linares has represented Washington Heights in the City Council and in the Assembly and was the commissioner of Immigrant Affairs in New York City. He has been a staunch supporter of the community and of working people. He wants to make sure that the residents who have made up the fabric of Washington Heights can afford to stay there as they get older.

When he was in the Assembly previously, he was instrumental in the creation of the Dream Act and wants to see it to fruition. And he was also the driving force behind legislation that allowed livery cab drivers to pick up fares on the street. He was the first Dominican elected to office in the United States in 1991. He has proved that he can serve all of the groups he represents.

He is a coalition builder and deserves to go back to the Assembly. Therefore, we endorse Guillermo Linares in the 72nd Assembly District in the Democratic primary.


The 79th Assembly District is another district in which there is an open seat. And again it is because of the misdeeds by the elected official who held the seat. However, his misfortune could be a benefit to this district, as we see a new face entering the fore in the 79th District. Born and bred in the Bronx, a young man named Michael Blake seemingly has come out of nowhere to show the Bronx and New York that he is here for business.

A product of the New York City public school system, Blake understands the needs of our youth. Touched by all the issues that affect our communities personally, he took his skills to help elect the first Black president of the United States and then served in the Obama administration for several years before coming home to make a difference in his own backyard.

The 79th is the poorest district in the country and also one of the least likely to participate in the electoral process. Blake understands something different needs to happen here. And he wants to be that difference. From sentencing disparities in the justice system, to breaking the cycle of poverty and incarceration, to creating jobs, he has the message and the ideas to make great change.

He wants to be a change agent. He does not want to be just a vote in Albany; he wants to be a leader in Albany. We believe he can, and we believe the 79th needs Blake. Therefore, we endorse Michael Blake in the Democratic primary for the 79th Assembly District.