Political potpourri – Welcome 2023 and all the politics that comes with it. The most hyperlocal of the political races this year is for Male District Leader in the 76th AD, Part A. Ben Wetzler, the current Male DL, isn’t running for re-election. So far there are two announced candidates, Ben Akselrod and Todd J. Stein. Ben’s 27. Todd’s 57. Ben and Todd are members of the Four Freedoms Democratic Club, as am I. Ben was elected to the club’s Executive Committee last year. The two campaigns are pretty much a reflection, IMO, of the generational divide in terms of focus. Akselrod says he is “working diligently for the Four Freedoms endorsement, talking with folks in the community, and sharing [his] vision for a more accessible Democratic Party.” Stein is campaigning as a community advocate and is reaching out to businesses and the local community for support. Both candidates are seeking political support. Stein said that “Since civic engagement has always been important to me, I quickly got involved in the election by supporting various candidates...,” and “Over the past year, I attended the Four Freedom meetings and events and participated in door knocking, phone banks, etc.”
He has fund-raised for political candidates and is doing so for his own race. Akselrod has not been fundraising. If he gets the Four Freedom endorsement, I assume he will have to fund-raise because Stein will primary him.
At this point, Ben says that his focus is getting the support and endorsement of members of Four Freedoms and in getting more people involved in the democratic process. Todd is also seeking support of club members but is also fundraising and seeking endorsements outside the club. Chris Sosa was another candidate in the race, but dropped out. A fourth name mentioned as a possible candidate by many I spoke to was Billy Freeland. Billy’s an attorney and Community Board 8 member. In response to my query about whether he was in the race, he emailed that he has “not decided if [he was] running,” and that he would let me know if he was. Haven’t heard. Since this race is for Male District Leader, females need not apply. Women interested in running for district leader will have to wait for a Female District Leader race. None this go round. FYI, while District Leaders are elected, they are not paid.
The calendar for petitioning isn’t out – at least I haven’t seen it as paper goes to press – but hear that it will begin in early March. Four Freedoms will be endorsing at their February meeting. The club will carry the petitions of their endorsed candidate. As of now, that would be either Ben Akselrod or Todd Stein. Once petitions are printed, qualified Democratic voters, including campaign workers, Democratic club members, and others will be out on the streets collecting petition signatures of registered Democrats who reside in the 76th AD to get their candidate on the ballot. If there’s a primary, it will be on June 27, 2023. I’ll be following this race throughout and welcome any comments and would like to know if anyone else is in the race.
Not everyone knows what the role of District Leader entails and the role has changed over the years. I reached out to Kim Moscaritolo, Female District Leader in the 76th AD, Part B, and a founding member of the Four Freedoms Democratic Club to find out how she saw the role of District Leader. There was a time when District Leaders were identified with political patronage and clubhouse politics. None of it very positive, except maybe for the times the clubhouse distributed turkeys at Thanksgiving. Times they have changed. Under Kim’s leadership, FF has become a paradigm for political leadership. And while she won’t disclose who she is personally supporting in the Male District Leader race between Akselrod and Stein, she said she will support whichever candidate FF endorses. Kim was willing to share how she defines the role of a District Leader.
“I view being a District Leader in a few ways. First, we are the local party organizers. We engage people in the party and recruit volunteers to campaign for Democratic candidates. We are also a line of communication between voters and elected officials. We can escalate issues, and we can help local residents navigate the complicated city bureaucracy. Finally, we help guide the direction of the party, by endorsing candidates who most embody our Democratic values, both in public office and in the judiciary, and by publicly advocating on issues, whether it be housing equity, criminal justice reform, reproductive rights, or any other important causes.
“I think the key to success is being open to new members, and also open to different points of view. We are a diverse party, and we have members who run the gamut, from very moderate to very progressive. As long as we all respect each other, and everyone has an opportunity to be heard, we will continue to thrive.”
And the City Council seats – As a result of redistricting and the 2020 changes to New York’s City Charter, City Council members elected in 2021 and 2023 serve two-year terms, with full four-year terms resuming after the 2025 City Council election. This year’s election will be held on November 7, 2023, with a primary, if necessary, on June 27, 2023. Party nominees will be chosen by ranked-choice voting. The City Council seats up for election on the UES are District 4’s Keith Powers and District 5’s Julie Menin. Petitioning dates are the same as for district leader race.
Reader readback – In an earlier issue, I wrote a column about the East 67th Street Market, the new law banning pet shops selling pets, and pooch Lucy yapping for latte via Zoom. Reader Bonni Goldberg, a former New Yorker, commented, “Love all the pooch news! I never went to that market [East 67th St], didn’t know about it.” Bonni, who lives with her family and dog in Portland, Oregon, is an author, and her new book for writers is “The Write Balance.”