Bay Ridge

Would-be candidates await Harris’ next move

If indicted lawmaker quits, special election takes place

January 22, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblymember Pamela Harris who was indicted on fraud and witness tampering charges, hasn’t signaled that she will resign from office. But several people are already being mentioned as possible candidates should she quit and a special election is held. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas

A Southwest Brooklyn lawmaker’s trouble with the law could turn out to be a boon for would-be candidates hoping to run for her seat in the event she steps down.

Brooklyn’s political world was recently rocked by the indictment of Assemblymember Pamela Harris (D-Coney Island-Dyker Heights-Bay Ridge), who was hit with federal charges of wire fraud, conspiracy, making false statements and witness tampering stemming from an alleged theft of thousands of dollars from government agencies involving a nonprofit organization she founded and Superstorm Sandy relief.

Harris can still serve as a member of the New York State Assembly while under indictment, but she could come under increasing pressure from Democratic Party officials to give up her seat.

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If she does decide to step down, Gov. Andrew Cuomo could set a special election to elect a replacement. The winner would serve the remainder of Harris’ term in office, which runs through the end of this year. Harris was first elected to represent the 46th Assembly District in a special elected in 2015. She was re-elected in 2016.

There is no shortage of names being mentioned as possible candidates for the Assembly seat.

“It’s going to be a free-for-all,” one political observer told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Among the Democrats being mentioned is Kate Cucco, a community relations specialist at Maimonides Medical Center who ran against Harris in a Democratic primary for the Assembly seat in 2015 and lost. Cucco has a great deal of experience in politics having served as chief of staff to Harris’ predecessor, former Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny.

Brook-Krasny, who resigned from the Assembly in July of 2015, was indicted last year on health care fraud and bribery charges.


Chris McCreight, chief of staff to Councilmember Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) has been touted as a possible candidate.

Two Democrats who are running against Republican state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn) this year, lawyer Andrew Gounardes and journalist Ross Barkan, have also been mentioned as viable candidates for the Harris seat.

On the Republican side: Lucretia Regina Potter, the former GOP district leader in the 46th Assembly District, who lost to Harris in the General Election in 2015, could run again.

To date, only one Republican has been willing to go on the record about a possible run.

Steve Saperstein, who ran against Councilmember Chaim Deutsch (D-Manhattan Beach-Brighton Beach) in 2017 and lost, confirmed to hosts Vito Palmeri and Vito DiGiovanni on the “Vito and Vito” radio show that he intends to run for the Assembly seat should Harris resign. To listen to the interview with Saperstein, visit https://www.spreaker.com/user/8226961/juanita-broaddrick-joins-vito-and-vito.

Other names that pundits are touting are Republican John Quaglione, Golden’s deputy chief of staff and Bob Capano, a Reform Party activist.

Meanwhile, Harris could be facing a stiff prison sentence if convicted.

Harris was charged with two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of making false statements, two counts of bankruptcy fraud, one count of witness tampering and one court of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Harris, 57, defrauded various governmental agencies including the City Council, Department of Youth and Community Development, FEMA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, NYC Build it Back Program and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, by taking funds and misusing the money, according to an 11-count indictment unsealed in federal court.

She allegedly used her position as the executive director of a not-for-profit organization called Coney Island Generation Gap to obtain $23,000 in City Council funding by claiming to use the money to rent studio space. She submitted a forged lease agreement and diverted the money to her personal checking account, according to the indictment.

 

CORRECTION:An earlier version of the article incorrectly identified Lucretia Regina-Potter as the Republican district leader of the 46th Assembly District.


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