Campaigns & Elections

Former community board chair Barry Weinberg will run for O’Donnell’s Upper West Side Assembly seat

Weinberg is first vice chair of Community Board 9 and secretary of the Manhattan Democratic Party. Hochul staffer Micah Lasher is also considering a run, sources say.

Barry Weinberg is well-connected within the Manhattan Democratic Party.

Barry Weinberg is well-connected within the Manhattan Democratic Party. Submitted

Barry Weinberg, a well-connected community board member and top official in the Manhattan Democratic Party, confirmed to City & State that he plans to run for an open Assembly seat on the Upper West Side in 2024. Weinberg is looking to replace Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell, who has represented the 69th Assembly District for the past 20 years but recently announced his retirement.

“I had the pleasure of working with O’Donnell, who was one of our most effective state electeds,” Weinberg said in an interview. “While I was very sorry to learn he wasn’t running for reelection, I wanted to make sure that the community still had a strong advocate in Albany.”

A well-connected progressive

The 69th Assembly District encompasses Manhattan’s Upper West Side and the Morningside Heights and Manhattanville neighborhoods around Columbia University. Weinberg has been deeply involved in Upper West Side politics since graduating from Columbia in 2012. He was appointed to Community Board 9 in 2013, elected to the Manhattan Democratic County Committee in 2015 and hired as the executive director of the Manhattan Democratic Party in 2017. From 2019 until earlier this year, he served as chair of Community Board 9. He is currently first vice chair of the community board and secretary of the Manhattan Democratic Party. 

In addition to all his volunteer political work, Weinberg works as a data analyst at controversial government contractor Palantir Technologies. The company has attracted negative headlines for its work with the National Security Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local police departments, but Weinberg said that his work specifically focused on the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic and mpox crises.

Within the insular world of Manhattan politics, Weinberg has his fair share of detractors, who complain that he is too closely aligned with Manhattan Democratic Party boss Keith Wright. An attempt last year by the county party to appoint him to the city Board of Elections failed, after his opponents claimed that he would just do Wright’s bidding and dug up some mildly rude tweets.

Weinberg objected to the idea that he is Wright’s protégé. “Keith is a very good friend,” he wrote in a text message. “I would distinguish it from some other political relationships young people have, though, in that Keith has never told me what to do. He gives me advice, which I value. I do not see my desire to serve in the Assembly (as) having much of a connection to my time volunteering for the Party, though.”

Weinberg said that he would never ask Wright or the county party to get involved in the race, since the party does not endorse in primaries. Instead, he is hoping to gain the support of local Democratic clubs like Broadway Democrats, Three Parks Independent Democrats and West Side Democrats.

Despite his connections to the county party, Weinberg is ideologically progressive. He said that he “unequivocally” supports the “good cause” eviction legislation to establish stronger tenant protections – a bill that has been championed by socialists and fiercely opposed by the real estate lobby. He also supports progressive criminal justice policies and opposes attempts to roll back bail reform. Weinberg will unveil his full platform when he formally launches his campaign next month.

One potential issue for Weinberg could be his residency. He currently lives in the neighboring 70th Assembly district, rather than the 69th District. Under the state constitution, Assembly and state Senate candidates generally must reside in their district for at least a year prior to their election. But the Assembly districts were redrawn earlier this year, and the residency requirements are looser in redistricting years. Weinberg is eligible to run so long as he moves to the 69th District before election day, which he said he plans to do. 

Weinberg is not concerned that opponents will accuse him of district-hopping. “The fact that I'm currently ~12 blocks north of a district I've spent the past 15 years volunteering to serve is something I think voters will be able to understand,” he wrote in a text message.

Crowded primary

The open seat in the heart of Manhattan has already attracted a number of candidates. As City & State previously reported, both public defender Eli Northrup and real estate lobbyist Melissa Rosenberg have publicly announced their Democratic primary campaigns. 

Multiple sources also told City & State that another candidate is waiting in the wings – Micah Lasher, who currently serves as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s policy director. Lasher declined to comment on his possible candidacy, telling City & State that he was focused on the governor’s upcoming State of the State address on Jan. 9. 

But a political consultant active in the district told City & State that Lasher has been taking meetings with potential campaign staff in recent weeks and just settled on a campaign manager. “He has told multiple people he is running and his campaign is actively hiring,” the consultant wrote in a text message. “Barring an act of the god I don't believe in, he's running and it's already happening, regardless of his public positioning.” 

A state legislator told City & State that Lasher has been “doing all the things one would do if they were planning to run” though they cautioned that Lasher could always decide at the last minute not to go forward with the campaign. “But my guess is it’s very likely,” the legislator wrote in a text message. “And he’s certainly preparing to be able to (run).”

This would not be Lasher’s first run for office. In 2016, after Rep. Adriano Espaillat vacated his state Senate seat in Harlem to join Congress, Lasher ran in the open primary to replace him but lost to Marisol Alcantara. After managing Scott Stringer’s unsuccessful mayoral campaign, Lasher joined the Hochul administration as the governor’s director of policy in 2021.