Frank Seddio had a pretty good night.
The former judge became Brooklyn’s new Democratic Party Chairman in an anticlimactic 36-2-3 vote in which he was the only candidate (Charles and Inez Barron voted no, and Jo Anne Simon, Chris Owens, and Mabel Brown abstained). The county committee meeting that preceded the vote at Kingsborough Community College in Manhattan Beach was a veritable lovefest among Brooklyn’s disparate factions. And his scandal-plagued predecessor, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, didn’t even bother to show up.
The only thing missing was a pillar of white smoke emanating from the roof of the college’s Performing Arts Center.
“It’s a new day in Brooklyn,” said Seddio, adding, “We are all united, and the change that we do makes us feel positive abou the direction of the party.”
Seddio had broad support among the county’s traditional power brokers in southern and central Brooklyn, including rank-and-file members of the influential Thomas Jefferson Club, where he remains its president. Assemblyman Alan Maisel, who has known Seddio for 35 years, was excited his friend will get the chance to lead the party.
“He’s going to work with everyone and he’s going to bring people together,” he said. “He’s a very kind and generous person.”
In the past week, Seddio reached out to Brownstone Brooklyn and North Brooklyn’s political reform groups, including the New Kings Democrats, who had felt excluded from the party’s decisions. He already began dismantling several of the policies Lopez introduced in recent years, including the elimination of at-large district leaders, and offered one of his rivals, District Leader Jo Anne Simon, a position to co-chair the Rules Committee. Simon dropped her challenge to the party chairmanship and abstained from the final vote.
“[The reforms] are overdue and an essential step in the right direction,” she said. “I am confident we will carry out these changes and the rules committee will be fair and balanced.”
Not everyone was pleased by the results.
Councilman Charles Barron warned that district leaders would regret their decision and suggested that the rules be changed to allow the county’s committee members to pick the party’s leader.
“This is going to be a sequel to Vito Lopez,” he said. “This committee has made several mistakes selecting the county leader and this is about to be another one. We need integrity and respectability.”
But Councilman Lew Fidler, a vociferous Lopez critic who manages to earn Lopez’s respect, was optimistic that Seddio would bring changes to the party.
“We’re going to pass reforms that would have been unthinkable under Vito, and with unanimous support,” said Fidler, who chastised Lopez for adding at-large members at a county committee meeting two years ago. “We have Republicans to beat in this county. We have to stop beating each other up.”
Updated to include more information about the vote.