Dec. 30, 2019 By Allie Griffin
The Queens County Democratic Party endorsed Council Member Donovan Richards for Queens Borough President Monday, but not without controversy — the party faced heated backlash from other BP candidates and local Democratic groups who said the endorsement process lacked transparency.
Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman stepped down from the race shortly before the endorsement was announced at the party’s Forest Hills headquarters. Hyndman said she didn’t want to split the south east Queens vote, an area where Richards has a strong base.
“I have decided that in the interest of being with a unified Queens Democratic Party, under the great leadership of our chairman, Congressman Greg Meeks, I am ending my campaign for Queens Borough President,” Hyndman said in a statement. “I will stand with the Party and will support who it selects as the endorsed county candidate.”
The endorsement of a candidate, however, irked two progressive groups that are trying to bring change to the party apparatus. The groups protested the concept of the party making an endorsement, arguing that the party should not pick candidates in races where Democrats square off against one another.
The groups, New Reformers PAC and Queens County Committee for All, held a rally outside the party headquarters in Forest Hills before the announcement and also protested the hasty manner in which the meeting was called.
The meeting date was announced by the party on Christmas Eve, without including a formal agenda. The 72 Democratic district leaders—who vote on who the party endorses—had limited time to conclude which candidate their constituents support, the protesters said.
“What ends up happening is that it’s just the opinion of the room and it shuts out all of these other voices,” said Heather Beers-Dimitriadis of Queens County Committee for All group.
The 72 district leaders are elected in a Democratic primary and four are selected—two men and two women—from the 18 assembly districts in Queens. The district leaders are supposed to represent the Democrats who live in their area. A handful also hold other public offices.
“An endorsement made under these circumstances cannot be considered an informed, accurate and truly representative reflection of the opinion of the Democratic voters of Queens County,” the New Reformers said in a statement before the meeting.
“The very fact that not even the party’s District Leaders are certain of the agenda of what is ostensibly their own meeting is just the latest instance of the Queens Democratic Party’s current dysfunction and inability to operate in a transparent, accountable and democratic fashion.”
Two candidates who are running for borough president also took a swipe at the party.
“Queens residents want a transparent process that engages residents, welcomes new ideas, and makes our borough stronger,” Council Member Costa Constantinides tweeted Saturday after learning about the meeting the day before. “This could’ve been that opportunity to bring in those who want to be part of something larger. Sad that won’t appear to happen.”
Meanwhile, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, in a tweet Sunday, labeled the party corrupt.
“The corrupt Queens Democratic Machine is the opposite of democratic, and Monday’s meeting & endorsements are clearly a sham,” he said. “I beat the county machine in my 2009 insurgent progressive campaign for Council and have proudly stood up against the machine since.”
Richards, who knew before the meeting that he was going to be endorsed, was quick to retort.
“Funny how folks who were part of the Queens County Organization, all of a sudden are progressive and want to rewrite the rules for the nomination process they engaged in without an issue forever,” he tweeted.
Constantinides has historically been loyal to the party and is a current district leader. He didn’t attend Monday’s meeting and has previously vowed not to run for the position again, signing onto the New Reformers’ request that district leaders not hold other public offices.
But Richards took greater exception to Van Bramer.
“Let’s discuss the other guy who supported Joe Crowley over @AOC and all of a sudden is anti-establishment,” he tweeted. “This individual also sent two letters of support for Amazon to come to LIC, before he knew what was in the deal and talked to his community. @Costa4NY is at least genuine.”
Let’s discuss the other guy who supported Joe Crowley over @AOC and all of a sudden is anti-establishment. This individual also sent two letters of support for Amazon to come to LIC, before he knew what was in the deal and talked to his community. @Costa4NY is at least genuine.
— Donovan Richards (@DRichards13) December 28, 2019
Following the party’s endorsement, another BP candidate Anthony Miranda tweeted his own thoughts on the Queens Democratic Party.
“Today’s process was a sham and our Party Bosses should not be in the business of rigging elections for political insiders,” Miranda tweeted. “The business of the party should be to allow the voters to decide who will be the next Queens Borough President and the Democratic nominee for President.”
Miranda, chair of the National Latino Officers Association, called the endorsement “preordained, back-room orchestrated.”
A fifth Borough President candidate and District Leader, former Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, stayed out of the twitter spat.
Each candidate except Richards and Hyndman had said they didn’t want the Queens Democratic Party’s endorsement, according to the Party’s Chair Congressman Gregory Meeks.
In an interview Sunday, Richards told the Queens Post that he believes he was endorsed due to the good work that he has done in south east Queens, noting the redevelopment of the Rockaways post-Hurricane Sandy.
He said that he was not endorsed by the party based on his past loyalties. He said he was elected in a special election in 2013 without the party’s backing and defied Joseph Crowley in 2014 when he backed Melissa Mark-Viverito as council speaker.
Richards said that while the party is far from perfect, many of the people deemed part of the establishment deserve respect.
“Many of these people are the ones who come out when there is a shooting, when the streets need to be cleaned…” he said. “Yes, the Democratic party has to extend olive branch—but we have to stop with the division.”
The special election for Queens Borough President is expected to be held late February.