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BY COLIN MIXSON
A candidate vying to fill Downtown’s vacant state Senate seat is crying foul after Democratic party bosses maneuvered to install his establishment-backed rival despite his overwhelming grass-roots support at a party committee meeting on Sunday.
Members of the Manhattan Democratic County Committee cast nearly three quarters of their votes for Paul Newell to represent the party November’s general election to replace former state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who announced his shock resignation after it was too late for a primary.
But machinations by the party bosses in the two borough the district spans nonetheless swung the decision in favor of Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh to be the likely nominee — an outcome, which is not yet official, that one Brooklyn Democratic Committee member called “the worst case scenario.”
“I think this demonstrates the naked power of the machine,” said David Bloomfield. “There is nothing good to say about it. It forever marks Kavanagh as a product of the machine and a phony reformer.”
In a statement released the day after the meeting, Newell said the race was “stolen” by the party’s bosses.
When Squadron stepped down from his seat in the 26th Senate District, he announced his resignation after an important petition-filing deadline for would-be candidates, thus robbing rank-and-file Democrats of the opportunity to choose their party’s nominee in a primary.
Instead, candidates for the cross-borough district are being chosen by county committees on both sides of the East River — an arcane process that allowed party bosses Keith Wright in Manhattan, and Frank Seddio in Brooklyn significant leeway in determining how a decision would be made.
In Manhattan, committee members voted by 72 precent in favor of Newell at a meeting on Sept. 17, with Kavanagh taking the remaining 28 percent after a third candidate, former City Councilman Alan Gerson, suddenly withdrew from the race.
Seddio, however, refused to call Kings County committee members to a vote, and instead took it upon himself cast all of the Brooklyn committee’s votes for Kavanagh, pushing him over the top with 53 percent of the district’s total vote.
If the process had been organized any differently Kavanagh would have almost certainly lost, leaving many grass-roots Democrats to suspect that the fix was in well before any ballots were cast, according to a member of a Manhattan political club.
“Manhattan voted proportionally, Brooklyn voted as a bloc, and that’s the game they’re playing,” said Sean Sweeney, treasurer of the Downtown Independent Democrats. “That’s the corruption.”
Because more registered Democratic voters live on the Manhattan side of the district, the county committee’s votes are weighted considerably in the Big Apple’s favor, leaving Wright the opportunity to gather his members’ votes into a block and choose Newell as the nominee, according to the grass-roots favorite.
“New York’s county leader still have the opportunity to do the right thing,” Newell said Monday morning. “I know that Brian claims victory based on a back-room deal, but that’s not inked yet.”
That would mean Wright snubbing some of the state’s most powerful blue-party honchos, including Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo, who — in a rare moment of agreement — have both thrown their weight behind Kavanagh.
But if he doesn’t, it proves that Tammany Hall levels of corruption are at work, Newell said.
“The last time a county committee vote in New York was ignored was in the 1950s under Tammany Hall,” Newell said.
Assemblyman Kavanagh could not be reached before deadline.