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Brooklyn Democrats back Richards for Queens BP, uniting political rivals

March 11, 2020 David Brand
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The leaders of the Brooklyn Democratic Party have endorsed Councilmember Donovan Richards for Queens borough president, uniting the organization with their long-time political rivals, the Queens County Democrats.

Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Rodneyse Bichotte, Councilmember Justin Brannan and Councilmember Farah Louis joined U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries in backing Richards Wednesday, less than two weeks before the March 24 special election. The Queens County Democratic Party endorsed Richards in December 2019.

“Now more than ever, we need strong leaders at every level of government who don’t shy away from the tough issues but take them head on,” Bichotte said. “Donovan Richards has been a leader at the forefront of critically important issues like criminal justice reform and affordable housing, and I know that he will continue to lead us forward.”

Brannan, one of a handful of contenders to become the next City Council speaker, praised Richards’ commitment to “real, tangible, quality of life improvements” for New York City residents.

“I’ve seen how dedicated he is to improving our city for working families,” Brannan said.

The joint endorsements could mark a shift in New York City politics.

The Queens and Kings County Democratic organizations have long been at odds, often supporting different candidates for City Council speaker while vying for top committee leadership positions. The relationship between the two former party chairs, Joe Crowley in Queens and Frank Seddio in Brooklyn, reportedly eroded to the point where they were no longer on speaking terms.

Seddio even trashed the Queens organization in June 2019, a few days after democratic socialist Tiffany Cabán appeared to have achieved victory in the Democratic primary for Queens district attorney. Cabán ultimately lost to county-backed candidate Melinda Katz, the former borough president, after a countywide manual recount.

But the Brooklyn and Queens organizations both have new leaders, each elevated to the position in the past year. Bichotte took over from Seddio in January, while U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks was elected Queens County chair in March 2019 after Crowley took a job at a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm.

The two parties also share a common enemy: insurgent, leftist candidates challenging party-backed incumbents for state and city office.

Progressive political strategist Neal Kwatra said the two party chairs are heralding a new era for inter-borough unity on the Western tip of Long Island.

“I think Rodneyse is a different kind of leader,” Kwatra said. “She isn’t necessarily beholden to the rivalries of the past and she thinks like an organizer.”

Early voting in the special election for Queens borough president begins March 14.

Councilmember Costa Constantinides, former Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, retired NYPD Sergeant Anthony Miranda, former Queens prosecutor James Quinn and Flushing businessperson Dao Yin are also running for borough president.

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