A squabble within the Manhattan Democratic party has led to a standoff between the Democratic Chair and the city council speaker. At issue is a nominee to the board of elections, but the two power brokers can't see eye to eye on who that should be. Zack Fink has the story.
With just a few weeks left as City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito is hoping to nominate Attorney Andy Praschak to the Board of Elections. The problem is that Manhattan Democratic Chair Keith Wright had someone else in mind, and normally it's the County chairs who call the shots on these nominations.
"I stand by members," Mark- Viverito said. "I stand by the process by which they selected and decided to support the candidate that is not with County."
Manhattan Democrats took the matter to court where a judge issued a temporary restraining order barring the council from formally approving Praschak, but that order was vacated the very next day.
Arthur Schwartz in an attorney for Wright and the Manhattan Democrats. He says it's all about patronage since the position has sway over hiring at the Board of elections.
"Basically what the Speaker is looking for is not only control of the $150,000 a year job but these 30 or 40 other positions as she is about to leave office, which is why she is in such a hurry to do this?" Schwartz said. "So that in and of itself is very disappointing."
"We've seen the reports of how dysfunctional the Board of Elections is," Mark-Viverito said. "We are interested in seeing reforms. We are interested in seeing changes happen. And the commissioners play a role in that."
Mark-Viverito tried to hold a vote on Praschak but in a show of solidarity to Wright, other County chairs including Joe Crowley of Queens and Marcos Crespo of the Bronx withheld their delegation council members to prevent the Speaker from having a quorum.
"We have certainly benefited from that," Crespo said. "As a County organization, we have made nominations and our delegation has supported that and moved forward. In addition, I think that same respect and process needs to be respected for other county organizations as well.
Insiders say the roots of this fight go back to four years ago when Mark-Viverito was made Council Speaker over the objections of Crowley and other county bosses.
The issue is going back to court next week, but Mark-Viverito says she is confident the judge will rule in her favor. She has yet to schedule another vote of the council on Praschak's nomination. The last stated meeting of the council in Decembrer 19.