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Queens Chronicle

Candidates, pols sign on to reform pledge

State Sen. Michael Gianaris to not run for re-election as district leader

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Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2019 10:30 am

In a sign of non-machine Democrats’ increasing clout, 14 candidates and incumbent officials have signed the Queens County Committee for All’s accountability pledge.

It commits those who sign to

• not run for district leader;

• not carry petitions for public office that also have candidates for party offices, like district leader, on them;

• not make donations from campaign accounts to candidates for party positions; and

• encourage community participation and knowledge of the party without discrimination.

The borough’s 72 district leaders have the power to elect the chairman of the Democratic Organization of Queens County, a position that Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens, Nassau) won this year.

He, like 16 other borough lawmakers, is also a district leader. Critics say the politicians’ simultaneously being district leaders represents a conflict of interest, protects incumbents and concentrates party power.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) — the second-ranking official in his chamber — has signed on, meaning that he will abandon his post as district leader.

Similarly, City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), who is running for borough president, told the Queens Daily Eagle that he would not run for re-election as district leader. While the lawmaker has not signed the Queens County Committee for All’s pledge, he did commit to a set of transparency principles created by another new group of borough Democrats, the New Reformers.

Other incumbents are on board with the pledge, too. City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who is also running for borough president, and Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth) have signed.

The list of other 2020 candidates who’ve done the same thus far includes:

• 34th Assembly District candidates Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Nuala O’Doherty-Naranjo and Joy Chowdhury;

• 37th Assembly District candidate Mary Jobaida;

• 3rd Congressional District candidate Melanie D’Arrigo;

• 5th Congressional District candidate Shaniyat Chowdhury;

• 6th Congressional District candidate Melquiades Gagarin; and

• 12th Congressional District candidates Lauren Ashcraft, Erica Vladimer and Peter Harrison;

• along with 2021 26th City Council District candidate Brent O’Leary.

“Those that have taken this step to sign our pledge are taking a bold position that will empower their communities to work at the grassroots level to bring forth fresh perspectives on leadership for the County Party,” Queens County Committee for All member Melissa Bair said in a statement.

More nonincumbent candidates and two incumbent candidates, neither of whom is a district leader, are scheduled to meet soon with the Queens County Committee for All, Bair said.

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