Brooklyn’s Democratic Party boss and Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn was reelected for another term on Monday, the first Black woman to hold that office. Her victory was almost a footnote at the eight hour long committee meeting, where many complained of the “confusing” elections process “lacking transparency” and being in desperate need of reform.
“I am honored to be reelected County Chair to continue to strengthen and unite our Party,” said Bichotte Hermelyn, who is eight months pregnant and didn’t attend the meeting in person.
“With gun restrictions, abortion rights, voting rights and more on the table, we will keep the party united to fight issues that will affect the entire future of our borough and nation. We will continue to relentlessly focus on improving and uplifting the lives of all Brooklynites. Nothing will get in the way of our united Brooklyn Democracy,” she continued.
The democratic county committee is composed of hundreds of people who are registered Democrats in their neighborhoods across the borough. Committee members come from Brooklyn’s 21 Assembly Districts (AD). Each AD is broken down into smaller Election Districts (ED), typically one to three city blocks. These committee members vote for things like the executive members and Party boss, the budget, and judicial candidates. They can also run for office or nominate candidates in a special election.
Every two years, members elect one male and female District Leader (DL) for each AD, and the DLs choose the party boss. The district leaders and chair make up the executive committee of the county committee.
This week’s meeting was the second part of an incredibly contentious and fraught meeting that aimed to vote in new leaders on Sept. 21 in Coney Island. The first committee meeting, according to members, was poorly planned and left members waiting for hours. At least one reportedly white group started singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ in the auditorium, which a few Black county committee members found disrespectful and insensitive. Unable to get to voting before the venue closed, the meeting was adjourned until Oct. 3 at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Brooklyn.
“There’s a new generation of people that have emerged from all over Brooklyn to assist in helping make the Democratic Party better. We appreciate all of the people who come on board to work with us,” said Democratic liaison of 57 AD Renee Collymore. “That’s our goal. That people are willing to work with us and not to try and take over us.”
The meeting resumed with similar chaos. More than 400 members in-person in the hotel’s ballroom were kept waiting while device issues were dealt with, and they often resorted to calling for motions, mockery, and outbursts in order to be heard. It should be said that other boroughs have notably shorter and more organized county meetings albeit with less people.
Newcomers, even new district leaders, complained that they weren’t informed or educated about the proceedings enough to know what was happening and often looked baffled.
Reynolds “Ray” Pinder, 75, from Assembly District 60, said this was his second time coming to a committee meeting and he had yet to meet any of the leadership or know what to vote on. Still, he maintained that it was his duty to try and seek change. “In order to change we need the ants to tell the queen what to do,” he said.
As the night came to a close, Bichotte Hermelyn was reelected over challenger Assemblymember Maritza Davila in a 23-12 vote. Vice Chair Henry Butler was also reelected.
“She’s the first Black woman [in this office],” said Collymore about Bichotte’s reelection. “We should celebrate. We’re supposed to be here to help, to push her, to make her time in office as valuable and meaningful as possible.”
“It’s not about a us versus them thing, it’s about the agenda. The agenda has to be by the people and whoever is representing the people and the agenda is focused on the people, then I’m with them 100%,” said County Committee Member Anthony Beckford about Bichotte’s reelection.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w