Rep. Yvette Clarke Recommends NYS Special Elections Take Place in June Congressional Election
By Mary Alice Miller
“I don’t know why you are sitting here quietly,” Rep. Yvette Clarke recently said to a Brownsville audience. “Where we are right now there is no state representation. I would expect you to make some noise!”
Clarke was referring to the political impact of the recent conviction of Assemblyman William Boyland, Jr., who had represented the 55th Assembly District covering Brownsville and parts of Ocean Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and Bushwick. The former assemblyman was convicted of 21 charges including extortion, mail fraud, bribery and theft. Boyland’s $100,000 bail was revoked and he was immediately remanded into custody.
Upon conviction, Boyland was automatically expelled from the Assembly.
But parts of Brownsville were also represented by former state Senator Eric Adams who is now Brooklyn Borough President. With the 21st Senatorial District also an open seat, tens of thousands of Brownsville citizens are not represented at all in the Assembly or the Senate.
Clarke ticked off a list of East Brooklyn districts currently not represented at all: Boyland’s Assembly District, Adams’s state Senate District, the East New York Assembly District formerly represented by Inez Barron, the Canarsie Assembly District formerly represented by Alan Maisel, and the Bushwick/Greenpoint district formerly represented by Rafael Espinal.
At the prospect of 5 Brooklyn districts, another in the Bronx (Vanessa Gibson’s former Assembly seat) and several upstate districts having no representation until January 2015 unless Governor Cuomo calls a special election, Clarke issued a call to action. “Call the governor’s office. Write an e-mail. Tell your friends, family and your neighbors in the supermarket and at the bus stop to do the same,” said Clarke. She added, “If need be, we will hold a press conference on the steps of City Hall.”
Clarke acknowledged that the governor’s reluctance to calling a special election is due to the cost. But, said Clarke, “there will be a congressional election in June with only one seat on the ballot.” Clarke recommended that special elections for NYS open seats be held on the same date as the congressional primary. “The state is going to spend the money on an election anyway,” she said.
Chair of the NYS Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus Assemblyman Karim Camara agrees that the governor should call a special election.
“Of course it would have been too late for the budget which is due March 31. But even after the budget, there is still many key legislative matters that have to be addressed and in the event of a special session after June, there will be communities (potentially) without a voice,” said Camara. “I stand with most of the caucus members who believe there should be a special call for elections to fill open seats. I stand with the Speaker of the Assembly to say a special election should be called so that these communities have a voice.”