Fresh coats of paint are still drying in the offices of the winners of the 2013 elections, but the 2014 campaign season is already underway.
Democratic sources are suggesting one longtime member of the state Assembly may face a serious challenge in this year’s Democratic primary.
Dmytro Fedkowskyj, who served as Queens’ member on the Panel for Educational Policy, the city Department of Education’s policy-making arm, from 2008 through 2013, may run for the Assembly seat in the 30th District.
That would put Fedkowskyj, a Middle Village resident, up against 15-year-incumbent Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth). The 30th District is based in Maspeth, but also includes Woodside and parts of Astoria, Long Island City, Middle Village and Sunnyside.
In a statement, Fedkowskyj said he has not yet decided if he would enter the race, but kept the option open.
“I’m humbled by the thought of serving in the State Assembly, but haven’t made any decision yet,” he said. “Right now, I’m exploring all possible options.”
Judy Bertrum, a Whitestone resident who served on the PEP with Fedkowskyj as an appointee of former Mayor Bloomberg, said that despite disagreeing with him often, she enjoyed working with Fedkowskyj.
“I was really impressed with him. He defended his constituents and he did it the right way,” she said. “You have to be able to disagree and still be able to walk away and shake hands.”
Before serving on the PEP, Fedkowskyj was on the Community Education Council in District 24. Nick Comaianni, president of CEC District 24, endorsed the idea of a Fedkowskyj candidacy.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “I think he would be a great asset in the State Assembly, especially with regards to education issues.”
Comaianni said Fedkowskyj was instrumental in helping add more seats to notoriously overcrowded District 24 during his time on the CEC, where he chaired the school construction and zoning committee.
Michelle Norris, a member of District 30’s CEC, said Fedkowskyj has helped her on a number of issues including changing DOE policy to allow children with suicidal tendencies to apply for what is called a “504,” special accommodations provided by federal law for students with disabilities.
“He’s really good on helping me move issues along,” Norris said. “There’s a lot of people who talk to you and say ‘call me, ‘and never get back to you. But he’s very supportive and he’s there.”
Fedkowskyj also serves on Community Board 5 and sits on the land use and education committees. Most recently, he served as an advisor on educational matters to Mayor de Blasio during his transition and in the search for a new schools chancellor.
During his time on the PEP, he also served as an advisor to former Borough President Helen Marshall on education issues.
Markey was elected to the Assembly in 1998, succeeding Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), now chairman of the Queens Democratic Party.
Some Democrats see Markey as vulnerable because she has rarely faced a competitive election. Since taking office, she has never had a competitive Democratic primary race and was unopposed by Republicans between 2000 and 2006.
In the last three election cycles, she has faced Maspeth businessman Anthony Nunziato, winning over 60 percent of the vote in every race, the closest, a 21-point win, in 2010. Nunziato has not yet said if he plans on making another run.
According to several Democratic insiders, Fedkowskyj may be just the first of many Queens Democrats eyeing challenges to incumbents this year.
“Many see the party leadership as being the weakest it’s been in a while,” said one longtime Democratic insider, saying Crowley’s defeat in the mayoral race, in which he backed former Council Speaker Christine Quinn; public advocate’s race, wherein the party initially backed Reshma Saujani who failed to make the runoff; and in the speaker’s election, during which Crowley endorsed the ill-fated bid of Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan), may have left the impression that the party’s establishment is weak.
“You may see a number of challenges against incumbents this year,” the insider said, noting that those candidates could have the support of groups that backed de Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito last year, which have long champed at the bit at taking on the Democratic Party leadership and are emboldened by the results of the 2013 elections.
Democrats hold every state legislative seat in Queens and few, if any, are competitive in general elections. That leaves the Democratic primary the real race in many districts. Republicans haven’t held an Assembly seat in Queens since 1996.
The state legislative primaries are typically in September, but Albany is mulling a change that would move them to June 24 to coincide with the primaries for the state’s congressional elections.