When it comes to this year’s endorsements, it’s been far from a fiesta for the Working Families Party. As James Bradley reports in the June issue of City Limits, in an election year where dozens of City Council seats around the city are up for grabs, the fledgling political party is facing some tough choices between pleasing its members and staying friendly with the established powers-that-be.
One such dilemma recently surfaced in a Brooklyn race, in which at least 10 political hopefuls are vying for outgoing Councilwoman Mary Pinkett’s seat. Among the candidates are Letitia James, a Democratic Party loyalist and one-time staffer to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Assemblymember Al Vann, and Errol Louis, a community advocate and WFP devotee. At the end of the day, James has received the party’s nod. “Errol’s a nice guy, but the choice was overwhelming,” said WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor, pointing to James’ impressive record in Albany. This explanation leaves some party insiders far from pleased. “They are too fascinated with winning and too little concerned with building a party that stands for something,” said a party member on condition of anonymity.
In Queens, the party seemed to be headed for a similar showdown, faced with the quandary of choosing between labor and tenant advocates within its own membership. Joe Heaphy, executive director of New York State Tenants and Neighbors, and Elizabeth Crowley, a member of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and cousin to Congressman Joe, were both campaigning for the council seat held by Walter McCaffrey. The party was able to escape unscathed when Crowley, at the suggestion of Queen’s Democratic leader Tom Manton, decided late last month to run in Tom Ognibene’s district. McCaffrey is reportedly planning to step down in the next couple of months to take a judgeship, giving Crowley the chance to run in a special election in that district, where her machine and union backing will come in handy. With the coast clear, Working Families recently voted to support Heaphy.