To the editor:
Last year, the Bronx Democratic County Committee timed its nomination of a city council member to a judgeship so that his position would be vacated before the end of his term, thus triggering a special election to fill his city council seat for the rest of the term — nine months.
The Bronx Dems know that whoever won the special election — where turnout was anticipated to be extremely low — would most likely win the subsequent June primary for the city council seat.
The timing of the special election was tight, impacting other candidates’ ability to mount campaigns in the time allotted.
The Bronx Dems also knew that its favored candidate, Eric Dinowitz — son of Jeff Dinowitz, its executive committee member and Assemblyman of a largely overlapping district — would have an advantage.
His primary advantage of name recognition was strengthened by the overwhelming endorsement by the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club in a process that other candidates challenged as pre-ordained.
There was substantial interest among the electorate to challenge what many described as the beginnings of a new political dynasty, and six candidates qualified and competed in the special election.
With fewer than 10 percent of eligible voters casting ballots, Eric Dinowitz won. From April until June, he used the power of his transitional incumbency in the city council to fund mailings and provide community services, helping to ensure he would win again in the June primary election.
In a year in which New York City voters will likely elect a historic majority of female city council members to office, our district was unable to meet the moment of inclusiveness, despite the presence of three capable progressive women in the special and primary elections. How is it that Eric Dinowitz prevailed when local and overlapping districts — like the Congressional district represented by Jamaal Bowman and the state senate district represented by Alessandra Biaggi — elected progressive candidates in 2020 and 2018?
We believe that part of that answer is that the Bronx Dems orchestrated the expenditure of $1.6 million of public funds: $1 million for the elections board to run the special election in March, according to a January Politico story, and another $559,000 in public matching campaign funds for the six candidates who ran in the special election.
The Bronx Dems used their power to manipulate the timing of the special election, to secure the endorsement of the Bronx machine, and to allow for the wasteful spending of public funds in the special election — all to consolidate their own power.
Jeff Dinowitz, aided by the Bronx County Democratic leaders, was able to facilitate his son’s change in career and stick the bill to taxpayers. And, by the way, the cost of the special election to taxpayers could be even higher: The elections board has not responded to our multiple requests to verify its costs.
The result is that we have a father and son representing us in Albany and at City Hall — both of whom are beholden to the Bronx Democratic County Committee leaders and their donors.
As Yogi Berra used to say: “It is déjà vu all over again.” That’s because Jeff Dinowitz first won his seat in a special election, too.
Elizabeth Cooke Levy
The author is writing on behalf of the Riverdale Huddle, which includes Ellen Chapnick, Sue Dodell, Annemarie Golden, Sarah Hughes, Judith Minkoff-Grey, Ruth Mullen, Madeline Ritter and Dale Wolff.