Every four years, when there are Statewide races, the New York State Democratic Party holds its nominating convention. In addition to regular business of the Committee, including passing resolutions and hearing from the Party leadership, the Conventions are where the Party designates its preferred candidates in the Democratic Primary.
The Party only designates for Statewide office - Governor, Lt. Governor, Comptroller and Attorney General - and anyone receiving 25% or more of the vote is freed from the requirement of gathering petitions to make the Primary ballot. This is a significant prize, especially for challengers, as statewide offices require not just a minimum number of signatures, but a minimum from each of NY’s Congressional Districts.
The 2018 Convention was held last week, on May 23-24. As an elected State Committee Member, I had the privilege of representing the 66th Assembly District. Below is my Report:
How Is This Convention Different From Other Conventions
As Americans many of us are familiar with the idea of Conventions, particularly the DNC and RNC conventions in which delegates are elected to vote for the Parties’ Presidential candidates. Notably, the Convention delegates at both are not the members of their respective National Committees.
Unlike the DNC and states like California, in New York the participants of the Convention are exclusively the members of the State Committee. That is, Party voters do not elect delegates to attend the Convention based on Democratic population. The Convention is really a special meeting of the State Committee, in which only those members may vote, and in which they cast votes weighted by how many people voted for the Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate in last election.
Since I represent a heavily Democratic area, which voted heavily for the Democratic candidate in 2014, I also had relatively large vote. I was told my single vote was equivalent to roughly 1% of the entire convention vote.
There were a number of resolutions slated for debate and voting at the Convention. A small scandal actually broke when, mere days before the Convention, a scripted agenda was leaked indicating that many of those Resolutions were pre-set to fail. I wrote a post about that, and how it demonstrates the heavy-handedness of the State Party Leadership here.
Long story short, the leadership of the Party (which emanates from the Governor) decided in advance which Resolutions they would “Table”. Since the Tabling vote receives no debate, they simply move to Table, proceed to a voice vote, declare the Resolutions tabled and then adjourn. This is precisely what happened despite objections from the floor by myself and others calling for a “Division of the Body” - i.e., a counting of votes. A count is the right of any member and is not-debatable and doesn’t even require a vote. Still, the call for a count was ignored and half the resolutions due for consideration were killed.
Most of the resolutions which were tabled dealt with devolving power from the Governor and Executive Committee to the State Committee (the latter of which is ostensibly the commanding body). Items like creating a more transparent process for electing Executive Committee and DNC members were shelved. A resolution I wrote giving the State Committee oversight of the State Party Budget was also kept from the Convention.
That said, several resolutions did pass, two of which I’m very proud to have authored. One, which is a step towards a more accountable State Committee, requires the entire Executive Committee be listed online as well as all members of the State Committee with a method of contact, and live streaming of all future meetings. The other requires the State Party to provide resources to the Primary opponent of Democrat turned Republican Simcha Felder.
All Resolutions (read them here):
Electronic Notice of Meetings
Calling on IDC Members to Stay With Democratic Caucus
Calling for Closing of “LLC Loophole” in NYS Campaign Finance Law
Supporting Marijuana Legalization
Supporting Puerto Rico
Requiring the NYS Democratic Party to Support Primary Opponents of Simcha Felder (authored by Ben Yee)
Posting Party Information Online (authored by Ben Yee)
Requiring Gubernatorial Candidates to Release 10 Years of Tax Returns (UPDATED)
Removal of Simcha Felder From Democratic Party (UPDATED)
Requiring Election of State Executive Committee Members Representing Judicial Districts Take Place At the State Committee Organizational Meeting (UPDATED)
Placing the NY State Federation of Women on the NYS Democratic Executive Committee
New Election Procedures for the NYS Democratic Executive Committee
New Nominating Procedures for the NYS Democratic Committee Officers
Calling for NYS Senate to Appoint an Independent Investigator in the Jeff Klein Sexual Harassment Case
Allowing Unaffiliated Voters to Vote in Democratic Primaries for Statewide and Presidential Elections
Providing Oversight and Transparency of the Party Budget to the State Committee (authored by Ben Yee)
Governor: Andrew Cuomo won with over 95% of the vote against Cynthia Nixon. Nixon failed to cross the 25% threshold.
My vote: Nixon.
Reason for vote: This could be an email in itself so I will try for an abbreviated version. While I wrote about my dismay with political reformers relying on celebrities to break the log jam of politics in depth here, I still cast my vote for Cynthia Nixon. The reason was two-fold:
First, my concern with Andrew Cuomo’s policy positions are numerous and go back as far as 2011. In fact, I think I managed to impress one of the top Party functionaries (and Cuomo supporters) at the post Convention dinner with the legitimacy and depth of my grievances. While I am happy to admit, and to see, that Cuomo has made a Progressive turn in the last year, his history - both policy wise and as a politician - make me wary of this new ally. Remember, in 2014 newly elected Bill DeBlasio was pivotal in securing the WFP line for him against Zephyr Teachout. In return, Cuomo disregarded the WFP’s issues, has worked to destroy that Party and has engaged in a prolonged feud with DeBlasio. However you feel about DeBlasio, this says something about the kind of friend Cuomo can be.
Second, as mentioned Cuomo has taken a marked shift on policy since 2017. I do not believe this has come out of a vacuum but instead from a belief that people who want reform - Progressives, subway riders, etc. - are no longer willing to stay quiet. I think this is particularly clear based on the policy reactions Cuomo has taken to the challenge of Nixon. As a result, I thought it would be beneficial to voters to have a second option on the ballot and to demonstrate that the Governor does not have unanimous support even within the Party “establishment”.
Lt. Governor: Cathy Hochul won with 94% of the vote against Jumaane Williams. Williams failed to cross the 25% threshold.
My vote: Williams.
Reason for vote: Given what I said about Andrew Cuomo above, I like Williams’ idea of a Lt. Governor who will work to hold the Governor accountable. Conversely, I didn’t see the point in splitting the ticket. Hochul has been a very loyal Lt. Gov (which is fine), so if I don’t like the Governor, I shouldn’t support his pick for Lt. Governor.
Comptroller: Tom DiNapoli, was unopposed and won by acclamation.
My Vote: DiNapoli
Reason for the vote: Tom is my favorite Statewide elected and has been since he emerged as the only real foil for the Governor in Albany. Also, he won by acclamation.
Attorney General: Letitia James received 85% of the vote. Both Leecia Eve and Zephyr Teachout failed to cross the 25% threshold.
My vote: Letitia James
Reason for the vote: I believe James is qualified and has acquitted herself well in public office as a New York City Council Member and Public Advocate. As PA, she has taken a legal approach to the office which I think connotes a mindset proper for Attorney General. Additionally, she would add valuable diversity to Statewide leadership which has been extremely male and devoid of minority representation for nearly a decade.
It was a nice show. I worked with the Party to livestream the meeting (and to pass the new resolution requiring it) so you can watch it all on facebook.com/nydems. I highly recommend Joe Biden’s speech which was given on the second day.
I also recommend watching the roll call votes by Assembly District for the Designations. There you can see how your own State Committee members voted as they’re called by AD and name.
*This post initially listed some resolutions as not passed when in fact they had. I've updated the lists so the status of all resolutions is properly reflected.