Danny O’Donnell endorses Eli Northrup to succeed him in Assembly

The longtime Assembly member is breaking from many Upper West Side political power brokers to endorse Northrup over opponent Micah Lasher.

Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell, pictured here in 2018, is retiring.

Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell, pictured here in 2018, is retiring.

Longtime Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell is endorsing public defender Eli Northrup in a crowded Democratic primary to succeed him as the representative for Assembly District 69 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

"Similar to my own path, Eli has taken on the challenging yet fulfilling role of a public defender – standing up for people at their most vulnerable and serving the community with compassion,” O’Donnell told City & State in a statement. “Eli's dedication to defending the rights of the underserved and his commitment to justice are more than just words – they are actions that define his career and character. His passion for justice is a core part of his identity and is exactly why he’s the right pick for the next Assembly member of the 69th District.”

Criminal justice reformers

O’Donnell is one of just a handful of state legislators who worked as a public defender, and he has been a reliable supporter of criminal justice reform efforts in Albany. Northrup, who has made criminal justice reform a cornerstone of his campaign, told City & State that he has long admired O’Donnell’s history of advocating for formerly incarcerated individuals.

“Danny has really been the one to stand up and push back when there will be laws that impact that community, because he really understands it and he can speak to it. I think it's an important role that he plays up there, and one that will be missed when he leaves,” Northrup said.

For his part, O’Donnell praised Northrup’s background in criminal law, which he said is essential to ensuring that laws are crafted correctly.

“Writing laws is a detailed process where every word and every clause holds immense weight,” the Assembly member said in a statement. “Eli's background as an attorney underscores his profound understanding of the subtle intricacies of legislation and its deep impact on individuals' lives. He knows that effective law making transcends mere good intentions – it demands a thorough understanding of how each word and decision can significantly shape the legal landscape for years to come. This deep knowledge, coupled with Eli's unwavering passion for justice, firmly establishes him as the ideal representative for the 69th District.”

Northrup said that he hopes to continue O’Donnell’s legacy of criminal justice reform in Albany. As an example, he mentioned one specific piece of legislation: the Youth Justice and Opportunities Act, which would give judges greater discretion to impose lower sentences on people under 25 years old. “Danny is the sponsor of that piece of legislation. It's something I care deeply about and would seek to drive forward, if I were to take over and succeed him,” he said.

But first he has to win the Democratic primary.

Competitive primary

The current front-runner to succeed O’Donnell is Micah Lasher, the former policy director for Gov. Kathy Hochul. Lasher launched his campaign in January and has received endorsements from virtually every elected official with pull on the Upper West Side: Reps. Jerry Nadler and Adriano Espaillat, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, city Comptroller Brad Lander, state Sens. Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Robert Jackson, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, Council Members Gale Brewer and Shaun Abreu, former city Comptroller Scott Stringer and former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger. The one elected official conspicuously missing from that list was O’Donnell, who initially declined to weigh in on the race.

Lasher has also been endorsed by all three major Democratic clubs in the district – Broadway Democrats, West Side Democrats and Three Parks Independent Democrats – as well as the Stonewall Democrats and the labor unions United Federation of Teachers, New York State United Teachers, Unified Hotel and Gaming Trades Council and Civil Service Employees Association. He has also raised the most money in the race, with nearly $400,000 in donations (not including $175,000 in state matching funds).

Northrup has been able to consolidate support on the left, winning endorsements from the state Working Families Party, Sunrise Movement, New York Communities for Change, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club and The Jewish Vote, a political action committee affiliated with the progressive Jewish group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. He’s also been endorsed by Assembly Members Anna Kelles, Latrice Walker and Amanda Septimo, as well as state Sen. Gustavo Rivera and Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham law professor who ran for state attorney general. The United Auto Workers Region 9A, which has a significant presence in the district since it represents Columbia University graduate students and employees, is the only labor union backing his candidacy. Northrup has raised over $150,000 in donations so far (not including $175,000 in state matching funds).

Three other candidates are also running in the Democratic primary: real estate lobbyist Melissa Rosenberg, NYCHA residents association head Carmen Quiñones and physician Jack Kellner. A sixth candidate, community board vice-chair Barry Weinberg, entered the race last year but later dropped out. Rosenberg has been endorsed by Run for Something, but the other candidates have few notable endorsements.

Northrup is hoping that O’Donnell’s endorsement will shake up the increasingly competitive race. O’Donnell is both well-known and well-liked within the district, which he’s represented for over two decades.

“I think more than anybody else who has weighed in on this race, his endorsement carries a lot of meaning because of that history and that legacy,” Northrup said. “If you talk to an average voter or resident of Morningside Heights or the Upper West Side or Manhattan Valley, they admire and respect Danny O’Donnell.”

This story has been updated to note that Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger and New York State United Teachers have also endorsed Micah Lasher.

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