Petitioning over, candidates ready for (second) primary


If you thought the presidential primary was the only primary this year, you are mistaken.

There is a second primary for Assembly, Senate and congressional positions June 25. Petition filing for those candidates recently ended, with political clubs gathering thousands of signatures in support of their respective candidates.

Further down the ticket are district leaders and state committee members of the 81st Assembly District. Those positions are separated by gender and serve as liaisons between voters and their respective parties. Duties include attending party meetings and voting to nominate candidates for county office or civil court judgeships. Candidates for district leader and state committee positions will often run as a slate due to overlap in the roles.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said he and his slate of district leaders, state committee members, and judicial delegates filed more than 3,000 signatures, six times more than required.

“There was no neighborhood left out and no community left out at all,” Dinowitz told The Press. “And it was grassroots and it was all over the place. We probably had at least 100 people or more who actually helped us gather signatures.”

Those Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club endorsed candidates include state committee candidate Johanna Edmondson, incumbent Michael Heller, and district leader candidates Emily Hausman and Ben Jackson.

Club president Virginia Krompinger said members went into every single part of the 81st Assembly District to gather signatures.

“I know that sometimes people focus just on Riverdale because people are energized here and it’s easier to get signatures or it’s close for some people,” she said. “But we don’t think that’s what we need to focus on — although Riverdale is obviously important — we went everywhere.”

The slate of district leaders and state committee candidates endorsed by the Unity Democratic Club filed more than 1,000 signatures, double the requirement. Those candidates include district leader incumbents Abigail Martin and Ramdat Singh, state committee incumbent Morgan Evers and candidate Aaron Stayman.

“We had wonderful conversations throughout the district,” Martin said. “Voters are really energized and excited to help us get on the ballot. It was a very tough petitioning month because of the weather and the holidays.”

Each club endorsed its own slate of judicial delegates and county committee members.

In addition to those positions, U.S. Reps. Ritchie Torres and Adriano Espaillat — both Democrats — are up for re-election.

While Torres doesn’t face a primary challenger, in the general election political organizer and independent Jose Vega will challenge him.

Meanwhile Espaillat faces a primary challenger in Lindsey Williams, an entrepreneurial chef who also ran against Espaillat in the last election cycle.

Democratic state Sens. Gustavo Rivera and Robert Jackson are also up for re-election.

Assembly candidate Dinowitz previously faced a primary challenger in attorney Lewis Kaminski. However, Kaminski withdrew from the race not long after failing to receive an endorsement from the Unity Club.

On Kaminski’s campaign website, he explained that he withdrew for the same reason he did in 2018, when he ran against Independent Democratic Conference chair Jeff Klein in the state Senate primary.

“Another candidate had the support of the grassroots, and those same activists decided I wasn’t the best available candidate to do the important work of making Albany more honest, fair and equitable,” Kaminski wrote. “As I leave this race, I hope folks can overcome the fear and cynicism that make running against a regressive, well-connected political machine feel impossible. Because it isn’t impossible.”

A large spotlight in the upcoming primary will likely be on district leaders and state committee member candidates who face each other from opposing clubs. But there were not always two clubs. Several members of the Unity Dem club were originally in the Ben Franklin Club, which was founded in 1960 with the stated goal to fight for progressive politics and policies and create a space for open, liberal, independent Democratic organization in the district.

But some community Democrats said they felt unwelcome in their attempts to get more involved in the Ben Franklin club, leading recently elected district leaders Martin and Singh to announce in 2022 they would form a new club.

The Unity Dems’ goal, members said, is to create a place where everybody felt welcome. Though the club initially considered not letting members from the Ben Franklin Club join, members decided any registered Democrat with an interest in the northwest Bronx could join.

A few months prior to the forming of the Unity Club, a slate of Ben Franklin candidates for district leaders and state committee members were challenged by an opposing slate, as three out of four incumbents from the club, including former district leader Eric Dinowitz, were not seeking re-election.

The emerging slate of Martin, Singh, Evers and Stayman faced Heller, Edmondson, Sara Liss and Bill Weitz. Former Ben Franklin club president Heller, also president of Riverdale Co-Ops/Condominiums, won his election for male state committee member against Stayman, a marketing analytics consultant. Meanwhile Evers, a city teacher, won her election for female state committee member against Edmondson, founder of the Female Fight Club gym.

Now that same slate, with special education teacher Singh and social worker Martin, will face off against newcomers early childhood administrator Hausman and lawyer Jackson for district leader positions.

“Candidates are vigorously campaigning,” Heller said. “We’re going to door-to-door many nights a week, knocking on doors and handing out literature about our team.”

Stayman told The Press one of the big priorities is making sure petitioning isn’t the only time candidates talk to voters.

Evers said maintaining those lines of communication is important.

“I think we found a lot of people were surprised to hear there was a second primary election,” Evers said. “So we’re just going to knock on doors, we’re going to pound the pavement.”

Primary elections Assembly candidates Senate candidates Congressional candidates Political clubs District leaders State committee members Petition filing Endorsements Grassroots campaigning