The Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club announced endorsements for the upcoming primary following meeting on Jan. 24. However, it decided to table endorsements of sitting state senators Gustavo Rivera and Robert Jackson.
About 110 members voted on a ballot with all recognized candidates for several races and it was a large success for candidates running from the club.
The endorsed candidates included U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, state Jamaal Bailey for New York’s 36th State Senate District, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Emily Hausman and Ben Jackson for 81st AD District Leaders, and Johanna Edmondson and Michael Heller for 81st AD State Committee.
“I am incredibly proud of the candidates the Ben Franklin Club endorsed,” club president Virginia Krompinger said in a statement to The Riverdale Press. “Hausman, Jackson, Edmondson and Heller bring tested results oriented experience to the table. Their skills are diverse but they have all shown their willingness to do the political work.
“In addition to their collective decades of experience, they have already started doing the work of district leaders and state committee members by petitioning for Biden and petitioning for his delegates. The other team did not do this, even though three out of the four of them are incumbents.”
In 2022, the newly formed Unity Democratic Club had a big win when three out of four of their candidates — Ramdat Singh, Abigail Martin and Morgan Evers, — won their elections against Ben Franklin-backed candidates for district leader and state committee positions. The only one who did not win from the club was state committee candidate Aaron Stayman. Those same candidates asked for Ben Franklin Club members’ endorsement.
Ultimately, the Ben Franklin Club went with candidates running from their club. For the position of 81AD District Leader, Jackson and Hausman won about 44 percent and 42 percent of the votes respectively, while Martin and Singh received about 7 percent and 4 percent.
For female NY State Committee Member Edmondson received about 84 percent of the votes while Evers received about 7 percent. As for male NY State Committee Member incumbent, Heller received about 92 percent of the votes while Stayman received about 6 percent.
“I firmly believe in the power of collaboration and community engagement to elevate the overall quality of life for our residents,” Edmondson said. “Through active participation and commitment to meaningful initiatives, I am eager to work alongside fellow committee members to bring about positive change.”
Edmondson is a fitness instructor and founder of The Female Fight Club NYC, while Heller is the president of Riverdale Co-Ops/Condominiums and former president of the Ben Franklin club. Hausman is the director of the Infant and Toddler Center at SAR Academy and a childhood educator, while Jackson is a longtime Democratic Party volunteer and attorney. Both have never run for anything until now..
“The people we have on the slate, it’s really exciting and I think it’s a super slate,” Assemblyman Dinowitz told The Press. “It’s sort of like bringing top people from different areas together.”
At the meeting district leaders Martin and Singh were questioned over their campaign goal of increasing voter turnout despite the opposite occurring in the last election.
“If you look at voter turnout since 1994, you can see that there are ebbs and flows. There are all sorts of things that can contribute to voter turnout, and what we’re looking for is a trend,” Martin said. “You know, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can’t just increase voter turnout in a year and that’s all we’ve had. It’s dependent upon what’s happening at the top of the ballot. There’s a lot of different factors that contribute to voter turnout.”
Evers was also questioned about attending a #defundNYPD rally outside former Councilman Andrew Cohen’s office in 2020. Evers claimed she does not normally participate in rallies due to having a disability. This was despite a now deleted tweet from then saying, “When we protested at his office last week to #DefundNYPD he laughed.” Evers said that it was a typo.
Regarding the subject of defunding police, Evers said she does not believe in defunding the police completely, but rather reallocating funds to areas that are cut like schools. Singh similarly said he believes they should be looking at the budget and analyzing the needs of the community.
Several members of the Unity Dem Club called the endorsement process into question at the meeting and critiqued the questions asked to Rivera and Jackson.
“I think it’s interesting that they asked Senator Jackson and Senator Rivera if they were going to support the Ben Franklin slate,” Martin stated to The Press. “The phrasing of the questioning to the senators made it seem that it was a foregone conclusion that Ben Franklin Club would support the slate that Jeff Dinowitz had put forward. And when we were invited to seek their endorsement, my understanding was that the endorsements hadn’t been decided yet. The whole line of questioning felt disingenuous, wasn’t that meeting indented to decide who the Ben Franklin Club would endorse?”
Members also said that they initially were unaware that they had the opportunity to send a letter to the club membership and found out last minute after hearing that the club’s “preferred candidates” and Dinowitz sent letters out.
Krompinger told The Press that it was a transparent and open election with secret electronic ballots.
“People were free to choose the candidate they wanted, even if that candidate didn’t ask for our endorsement,” she said. “Can any other club in our part of the Bronx make the same claim? We also distributed all messages asked of us by our candidates. The Unity club and three of their candidates were part of the Ben Franklin club years ago and know the rules and practices.”
The Ben Franklin club will have a second endorsement meeting to consider incumbent U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres for congressional district 15 and other remaining positions.
During the meeting state Sens. Gustavo Rivera and Robert Jackson were asked if they were planning to endorse either Ben Franklin or Unity Dem’s slate of party officials, district leaders and state committee members, to which both said they would endorse Unity Dem’s Club’s picks.
The club decided to table a vote for their senate seats, despite those seats currently being uncontested. Club vice president Ira Bigeleisen said there was still time to think about their endorsement and that it was possible that challengers could enter the race.
The Ben Franklin club will have a second endorsement meeting to consider incumbent U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres.