Outgoing City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito hoped to "steamroll" ally Andrew Praschak into a Board of Elections post, said Manhattan Democratic Party Executive Director Barry Weinberg, but "in the end she was the only one pushing the steamroller.” (Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News)
By Erin Durkin
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
With weeks left in her term, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is pushing to install a pal for the Manhattan seat on the city Board of Elections.
But other Council members have balked — and a potential vote on Andrew Praschak, a lawyer and close ally of the speaker, at Tuesday’s Democratic conference meeting was called off after Manhattan pols resisted Mark-Viverito’s move, sources said.
“She’s trying to hold on to whatever political power she can,” said Barry Weinberg, executive director of the Manhattan Democratic Party.
“Even people who like Melissa aren’t willing to circumvent proper procedure,” he said. “She was going to steamroll her person in, and then in the end she was the only one pushing the steamroller.”
The Manhattan Democratic commissioner seat is now held by Alan Schulkin — who was caught on tape making wild claims about voter fraud, and whose term expired at the end of 2016 but will remain on the job until his replacement is approved.
Schulkin faced pressure to resign after a video — secretly filmed by the right-wing group Project Veritas — emerged where he claimed organizations in black, Hispanic and Chinese neighborhoods “bus people around” to vote at multiple poll sites and said there’s “a lot of voter fraud” in New York. He also claimed the city’s municipal ID program was enabling “all kinds of fraud.”
The Manhattan Dems, led by ex-Assemblyman and Mark-Viverito rival Keith Wright, nominated Wright aide Jeanine Johnson for the seat late last year.
Johnson, the county party’s pick, had baggage of her own, including a drunken driving case that ended in a plea deal in 2015.
But the Council squelched the nomination by not voting on it in time — so under the arcane rules that govern the elections board, power shifts to the Council’s Democratic caucus to make the pick internally.
Mark-Viverito put up Praschak for the seat — but members of the Manhattan delegation objected that they hadn’t gone through their usual process of interviewing picks for a seat, sources said.
They now expect to interview Praschak, a longtime federal lawyer and LGBT activist, and potentially other candidates in the coming weeks.
A spokeswoman said only that the Council is considering all options. Praschak could not be reached.
Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, blasted the move.
“If he gets on to the Board of Elections, he will have one master, and he’ll serve her,” he said.