Candidates & Ballot Questions: Your 2019 New York City Voters’ Guide

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Public Advocate candidates

Office of the Public Advocate, William Alatriste for the NYC Council, Murphy

The candidates for public advocate, from left to right: Democratic incumbent Jumaane Williams, City Councilmember and Republican/Conservative nominee Joseph Borelli and Libertarian Devin Balkind.

2019 is considered an off-year in New York City politics, with last year’s statewide and legislative elections in the rear-view mirror, the 2020 presidential race and federal & state legislative contests ahead and the 2021 city elections even further off. Despite the first-ever offer of early voting (which ended Sunday), turnout in the event that ends on Election Day (Tuesday, November 5, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.) is expected to be low.

Those voters who do show up will make important decisions on citywide offices, changes to the city’s governing structure and judicial posts. Voters in Queens face a contested race for district attorney and there is a contest in one City Council district. (A complete candidate list is here, and a way to find your voting place is here.)

Click on these links for the basics of this year’s ballot:

Public Advocate
Ballot Questions
District Attorney
City Council
Judicial posts


Public Advocate

What’s the office?
The public advocate is a citywide official. New York has had one since 1994. The advocate serves as an ombudsperson for city residents and is empowered to investigate complaints and propose City Council legislation. S/he also presides at general Council meetings, has appointments to some city boards and takes over on an interim basis if the mayor vacates the office. Bill de Blasio was public advocate before becoming mayor.

Why are we voting on this?
Letitia James was re-elected public advocate in the fall of 2017 but vacated the office after becoming state attorney general last January. Jumaane Williams won a February special election and has served in the post since. The winner of this general election will serve out the remainder of James’ term, which ends December 31, 2021.

Who can vote?
All registered voters.

Who are the candidates?
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams (Democrat) [Incumbent]
Campaign website · Twitter · Facebook · NYC Campaign Finance Board: List of Donations · Campaign Finance Board: Voters’ Guide Page

Councilmember Joseph Borelli (Republican-Conservative)
Campaign website · Twitter · Facebook · NYC Campaign Finance Board: List of Donations · Campaign Finance Board: Voters’ Guide Page

Devin Balkind (Libertarian)
Campaign website · Twitter · Facebook · NYC Campaign Finance Board: List of Donations· Campaign Finance Board: Voters’ Guide Page

Background reading:
Early Voting Starts Soon. Meet the Citywide Candidates You Can Vote For.


Charter Revision Questions

What’s the charter?
The charter is like the city’s constitution, spelling out the way we elect officials, the power they have, and the way the mechanics of government are supposed to work.

Why are we voting on this?
This will be at least the 12th effort to change the charter since World War II. Last year, the mayor empaneled a narrowly-focused commission that proposed three changes related to improving civic engagement that voters approved. This year, the City Council created a commission with a broader remit. It considered some 300 suggestions for changes before settling on five proposals.

Who can vote?
All registered voters.

What are the the questions about (in summary)?

Question 1: Would establish ranked-choice voting in primaries and special elections for all city offices, longer vacancies before special elections and a new calendar for changing Council district lines.

Question 2: Would change the composition of the Civilian Complaint Review Board and provide it with new powers.

Question 3: Would change lobbying rules, alter the composition of the Conflicts of Interest Board, restrict political participation by COIB members, formalize governance of the city’s M/WBE program and change the way the Corporation Counsel is selected.

Question 4: Would establish independent budgets for some city offices, facilitate creation of a “rainy day” fund and establish new deadlines for the mayor within the annual budget process.

Question 5: Would tweak notification and timing in the city’s Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure.

Background reading:
Read the full questions here, abstracts here and background information here.

The Proposed New York City Charter Changes Translated into Plain English (Literally)

Charter Reform Proposals: One Big Change and Lots of Modest (But Important) Tweaks

Our other coverage


District Attorney

Darcel Clark mailer

Jarrett Murphy

Bronx voters received this mailer from incumbent District Attorney Darcel Clark, who is running unopposed.

What’s the office?
The district attorney oversees prosecutions in state courts in the county as well as some criminal investigations and crime-prevention programs. DAs play a critical role in setting the tone and parameters of law-enforcement in each borough, from helping to shape police enforcement priorities to determining what kinds of punishment will be sought against people who plead or are found guilty.

Why is there voting on this?
District attorneys serve four-year terms. Manhattan’s and Brooklyn’s DAs are elected on the same calendar as the mayor, but the other three boroughs elect their DA in the “off-year.” As is often the case in local DA races, the incumbents in the Bronx and Staten Island are running unopposed. In Queens, long-time incumbent Richard Brown resigned and then died earlier this year. Democrat Melinda Katz narrowly won the June primary against a crowded field led by public defender Tiffany Caban.

Who can vote?
Registered voters who live in one of the boroughs where there is a DA’s race can vote in that race.

Who are the candidates?
Bronx
Darcel Clark [Incumbent]
Bio · Twitter · Facebook

Staten Island
Michael McMahon [Incumbent]
Bio · Twitter · Facebook

Queens
Melinda Katz (Democrat)
Campaign Website · Twitter · Facebook

Joseph W. Murray (Republican)
Campaign Website · Twitter · Facebook


45th District Councilmember

What’s the office?
The 45th district encompasses Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood, Marine Park, Flatlands and Kensington. The Councilmember votes on city laws and the city budget, wields informal power over land-use approvals, directs the spending of millions in discretionary funds and names some members of the local community boards.

Why is there voting on this?
Jumaane Williams vacated this office when he won the special election for public advocate. Farah Louis won a subsequent special election in May and took office then. She also prevailed in a June primary. Whoever wins this general election will serve the balance of the term, which ends December 31, 2021.

Who can vote?
Registered voters who live in the 45th district. Check your ballot here or this district map.

Who are the candidates?
Farah N. Louis (Democratic) [Incumbent]
Campaign website · Twitter · Facebook · NYC Campaign Finance Board: List of Donations · Campaign Finance Board: Voters’ Guide Page

David Fite (Libertarian)
Campaign website · Twitter · Facebook · NYC Campaign Finance Board: List of Donations

Anthony Beckford (Liberal)
Campaign website · Twitter · Facebook · NYC Campaign Finance Board: List of Donations · Campaign Finance Board: Voters’ Guide Page


Judges

What’s are the offices?
Three judicial posts are on the ballot this year, although not all voters will see races for each type of judge. Surrogate Judges deal with wills, estates, probate and guardianship, and has a role in adoption cases. Civil Court justices are local judges who preside mostly over cases involving up to $25,000 in claims. Supreme Court justices preside over higher-value civil cases, all divorce cases and felony criminal cases.

Why are we voting on this?
New York State has a hybrid system: Some judges are appointed by the governor or the mayor, but the rest are elected. Surrogates are elected from each county for a term of 14 years. Supreme Court judges are elected from judicial districts every 14 years. And civil court judges are elected from municipal court districts for 10-year terms. (Mandatory retirement age can truncate terms).

Who can vote?

Registered voters who live districts or counties where there are judicial elections.

The races and candidates (Click on a borough to see the relevant contests):
Bronx
Brooklyn
Manhattan
Queens
Staten Island

* * * *
 

Manhattan (New York County)

Justice of the Supreme Court – 1st Judicial District
(Vote for three)

Martin Schulman (incumbent)
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Shulman is a current Justice for the New York Supreme Court 1st District seeking a second term. Beginning his career as an attorney, Judge Shulman worked in housing and real estate law before becoming a NYC Civil Court judge in 1995. In 1999 he became an acting NY Supreme Court Justice and has since become a Presiding Justice for the New York Supreme Court Appellate Term, to which he was appointed in 2009.

Shawn T. Kelly (incumbent)
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

A judge for the NYC Civil Court 6th District until he was designated an Acting Supreme Court Justice for the 1st Judicial District in 2017, Judge Kelly is running to become a permanent fixture on the high court. He holds the title of hybrid justice and currently serves on both the Civil and Supreme courts.

Jennifer Shecter (incumbent)
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved
Campaign website

Having spent over a decade as a litigation associate and law clerk, Judge Schecter began her career as a judge in 2009 after being elected to the NYC Civil Court 2009. An Acting Supreme Court Justice since 2015, she is running in the general election to remain on the court.

 

Judge of the Civil Court
(Vote for two)

 

Ashlee Crawford
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

An appellate attorney with a long history of civil service, Crawford works on appeals cases in the Bronx and Manhattan’s Supreme, Family, and Criminal courts providing Justices with advice and recommendations. In her spare time she volunteers as a Small Claims Court arbitrator. Her current campaign for election to NYC Civil Court is her first attempt to acquire a judicial position.

Robert Rosenthal
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Currently serving as Interim Civil Court Judge after being appointed in January of 2019, Judge Rosenthal is seeking a Civil Court Judgeship having spent his career as a solo practitioner specializing in an array of areas ranging from civil rights to medical malpractice appeals.

 

Judge of the Civil Court – 3rd Municipal Court District

Anna Lewis
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved
Campaign website

With a career in law spanning over thirty years, Anna Lewis currently serves as an attorney for the New York State Health department prosecuting doctors for sexual abuse as well as other professional misconduct. Her current campaign advocates for fairness in the city’s courtrooms and equal justice for all. She is running unopposed.

 

Judge of the Civil Court – 4th Municipal Court District

 

E. Grace Park
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved
Campaign Facebook page

A highly-educated attorney who holds four degrees from four different Ivy League schools, E. Grace Park currently as an assistant attorney for Legal Aid representing at-risk youth. She is unopposed in seeking her first judgeship in the upcoming general election for the Civil Court, 4th Municipal District.

 

Judge of the Civil Court – 9th Municipal Court District

Erik L. Gray
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Not Approved
Campaign website

A New Jersey police officer turned lawyer, Erik Gray currently works as a Senior Trial Associate for Lerner, Arnold & Winston, LLP, a firm specializing in personal injury and property damage cases.

* * * *
 

Bronx County

Justice of the Supreme Court – 12th Judicial District
(Vote for three)

Wilma Guzman (incumbent)
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Born and raised in the Bronx, Justice Guzman began her career in law as a personal injury litigator before becoming a Civil Court judge in 1999, and a Supreme Court justice in 2005. She is seeking her second term as a Supreme Court Justice.

Bahaati E. Pitt
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Born in Guyana, Pitt moved to the Bronx as a child where she was raised by her mother. Upon graduation from SUNY Buffalo, she served with the Legal Aid Scoeity before becoming a court attorney in Family and Civil Court and the principal Law Clerk in the Bronx County Supreme Court. She has been a Criminal Court judge since 2017.

John R. Higgitt (incumbent)
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Hon. Higgitt was appointed as Supreme Court Justice last year. He is now seeking a full term. Prior to becoming a judge, Hon. Higgit worked in various positions in the New York State Court System, working his way from being a Law Clerk to the Chief Court Attorney for the NYS Unified Court System.

 

Judge of the Civil Court
(Vote for two)

Matthew P. Raso
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Matthew P. Raso is a first-time judicial candidate running in the upcoming Civil Court Judge election in Bronx county. As an attorney, he specialized in intellectual property law, civil and human rights and business law.

Michael A. Frishman
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Frishman currently serves as a court attorney for Justice Wilma Guzman. In his spare time he works as a mock trial coach for the Mock Trial Club at Cardinal Spellman High School and the Preparatory Academy at P.S. 71’s Junior Mock Trials 7th grade division. This is his first time running for a judicial seat.

 

Judge of the Civil Court – 1st Municipal Court District

Jessica I. Bourbon
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved
Campaign Facebook page

Jessica I. Bourbon currently works as a Court Attorney in Bronx Civil Court. She is running unopposed for the county’s Civil Court judgeship. This is her first time running for a judicial seat.

 

Judge of the Civil Court – 2nd Municipal Court District

John A. Howard-Algarin
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

A Bronx resident and Parks Committee Chairman, Howard-Algarin is running unopposed in the election for the Bronx County Civil Court judge seat. He currently works as an associate counsel for Con Edison.

* * * *
 

Brooklyn (Kings County)

Judge of Surrogate’s Court

Margarita Torres Lopez
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved
Campaign website

The first Latina elected to the New York City Civil Court, Judge Torres Lopez has over 13 years of Surrogate Court experience, along with a decade’s worth of additional judicial experience. Much of her work pertains to advising those who choose to represent themselves. She has established a Help Center aimed at assisting such pro se litigants in Brooklyn.

 

Justice of the Supreme Court, 2nd Judicial District
(Vote for five)

 

Donald S. Kurtz (incumbent)
Parties: Democratic, Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

One of three incumbent candidates with nearly 20 years of judicial experience. He is currently seeking a second term.

Esther Morgenstern (incumbent)
Parties: Democratic, Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

One of three incumbent candidates with over 20 years of judicial experience. She is currently seeking a second term. She presides over the Kings County Integrated Domestic Violence Court which aims to streamline the court process for victims of domestic violence.

Reinaldo E. Rivera (incumbent)
Parties: Democratic, Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

A current Supreme Court Appellate judge, Judge Rivera began his career as a private practice attorney and spent nearly fifteen years practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense, Civil Litigation, Matrimonial and Family Law, Administrative Law, Real Estate and Commercial Business Transactions, and Surrogate Court matters.

Rosemarie Montalbano
Parties: Democratic, Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Judge Montalbano has served as a Criminal Court judge since 2015. Her career began as a law clerk for the New York State Supreme Court. An advocate for domestic violence victims, in 2018 Montalbano addressed The Columbian Lawyers Association about the often hidden effects domestic violence has on families.

Steven Z. Mostofsky
Parties: Democratic, Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

A Civil Court judge elected in 2012, judge Mostofsky has significant experience in The Mental Hygiene Court, handling cases in which determination is made in regards to an individual’s need of psychiatric help.

 

Judge of the Civil Court
(Vote for one)

 

Bernadette Neckles
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved
Campaign Facebook page

Born and raised in Grenada, Neckles moved to Brooklyn at a young age and went on to attend Brooklyn College and the University of Miami. As an attorney she has handled cases in the areas of employment discrimination, civil rights, immigration, criminal law, landlord/tenant, contract, and real estate. In her spare time she serves as a volunteer Arbitrator in the Small Claims Part of Brooklyn’s Civil Court.

Vincent F. Martusciello
Parties: Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Not Approved

A rare republican candidate, Martusciello has ran and lost in eight previous elections.

 

Judge of the Civil Court – District – 6th Municipal Court District

 

Caroline P. Cohen
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved
Campaign website

Cohen currently works as a civil rights attorney for Crumiller P.C., which styles itself as a feminist litigation firm. Her work with discrimination cases heavily informs her campaign, which seeks courtroom reform aimed at providing equitable treatment for individuals of all identities and backgrounds. She is also the founder of Ditmas Art, a quarterly mixed media arts event focused on political discourse. She is running unopposed.

* * * *
 

Queens County

Justice of the Supreme Court – 11th Judicial District
(Vote for six)

 

Donna-Marie E. Golia
Parties: Democratic, Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Hon. Golia has served as a Civil Court judge since 2013. Prior to her judgeship she worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Queens County.

Maurice E. Muir
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Muir currently serves as a Civil Court judge in Queens county. He previously served as an attorney for Queens Legal Services of NYC, which represents tenants facing foreclosure and other housing issues. He has been a judge since 2017.

Joseph F. Kasper
Parties: Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Not Approved

Kasper has ran and lost as a republican and/or conservative candidate in six elections spanning from 2009 to the present in both supreme and civil court elections. One online lawyer profile bearing his name listed an address that is the same one used by the law offices of John Napolitano, a lawyer specializing in family, divorce, and child custody law.

Phillip Hom
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Second Asian-American to join the bench in the history of Queens County. In the past he has helped author transportation laws for the city of New York as well as other cities across the country as well as Canada. He conducted his past work as a lawyer in the areas of regulatory law, corporate law, and litigation. He is currently a Civil Court judge in Queens County.

Daniel Kogan
Parties: Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Not Approved

Daniel Kogan is a private practitioner specializing in the areas of intellectual property, industry specialties, landlord tenant relations, and wills.

Stephen A. Knopf (incumbent)
Parties: Democratic, Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

An incumbent with nearly fifteen years of Supreme Court experience, Hon. Knopf began his judicial career as a Civil Court judge in Queens County in 1996. Like two other Supreme Court hopefuls, he is running as a Democrat, Republican, and conservative.

Wyatt N. Gibbons
Parties: Democratic, Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Gibbons is a long-time private practitioner specializing in the area of criminal defense. In June, despite being the Democratic party nominee, Gibbons lost the primary for the judge of NYC Civil Court of Queens County to a candidate who ran in opposition of the County democrats’ pick for a seat on the bench. He is once again the party nominee for the Supreme Court.

Lourdes M. Ventura
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

The first latina president of the Queens County Women’s Bar Association, Ventura began her law career when she won a four year fellowship to SUNY Buffalo, which she used to complete her Juris Doctor degree. Since graduating she went on to become a prosecutor for the Queens County DA and then a judge. She currently sits on the NYC Civil Court of Queen County.

John C. Spataro
Party: Republican
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved
Campaign Facebook page

John Spataro is an insurance defense litigator with over twenty years of experience. He is endorsed by the Queens Young Republican Club.

 

Judge of the Civil Court
(Vote for three)

 

Michele R. Titus
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Not Approved

Michele R. Titus has been a Democratic member of the New York State Assembly for over fifteen years. She entered politics as the Chief of Staff to Senator Ada Smith. Prior to taking that position, Titus worked as an attorney for the New York City Board of Education specializing in special education law. She is a lifelong resident of Queens.

Kevin J. Hanratty
Party: Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Hanratty is a lawyer, solicitor, and accountant with extensive experience in both law and finance. He currently works for the Agricultural Bank of China as a compliance consultant. He is the only representative of the Republican and Conservative parties running for Civil Court judge seat in Queens.

Lumarie Maldonado-Cruz
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Not Approved
Campaign website

Maldonado-Cruz broke onto the scene earlier this year by running against and defeating the Queens Democratic party leadership’s nomination, Wyatt N. Gibbons, in the Civil Court primary, the first person to do so in decades. She is currently an attorney for the Character and Fitness Committee of the state’s Supreme Court Appellate Division, which conducts background checks on those seeking admission to the bar.

Claudia Lanzetta
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Claudia is the only candidate running for for the Civil Court of Queens with the NYC Bar approval. She is the principal law clerk at the Office of Court Administration.

 

Judge of the Civil Court – District – 5th Municipal Court District

 

Alan J. Schiff
Parties: Democratic, Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

A candidate with little to no campaign information available online. At least two online lawyer profiles with his name list addresses to law offices in Queens. He is running unopposed.

* * * *
Richmond County (Staten Island)

Justice of the Supreme Court – 13th Judicial District

 

Orlando Marrazzo Jr.
Parties: Democratic, Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved
Campaign Facebook page

A District Court Judge with nearly a decade of experience, Hon. Marrazzo Jr. began his law career as a private practitioner. He has an extensive history of public service in New York City, particularly in the Staten Island area. Due to restrictions, Marrazzo, 69, will only be able to fill the position until the age of 76, nearly seven years shy of the fourteen year term limit. He is running unopposed.

 

Judge of the Civil Court

 

Matthew P. Blum
Parties: Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Not Approved
Campaign website

A former Assistant District Attorney who retired in order to start his own private practice, Matthew Blum is running unopposed as a Republican and Conservative candidate after an internal party dispute led the Richmond County Democrats failure to nominate a candidate. He currently practices in the areas of criminal defense and family court matters.

 

Judge of the Civil Court – 1st Municipal Court District
(Vote for one)

 

Edwina Winnie Martin
Party: Democratic
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved
Campaign website

Martin enters the Civil Court election having been freshly selected to serve as the Richmond County Public Administrator earlier this year. Party leaders cite her experience as a Law Clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals, a litigator, and financial as evidence of her qualifications for the judgeship. On Staten Island, Martin is known for her annual outdoor summer soiree and barbecue, held nearly every year since 2005.

Bob Helbock
Party: Republican, Conservative
NYC Bar Association Rating: Approved

Born and raised in Staten Island, Bob Helbock is a partner at a law firm specializing in the areas of workers’ compensation law, wills and probate and Social Security Disability. This is his first time running in a public election. He lives with his two children in West Brighton.

Shawn Malachovsky
Party: Independence
NYC Bar Association Rating: Not Approved

An immigrant who went on to become an immigration Lawyer, Shawn Malachovsky. In September, a Supreme Court Justice struck the independence party’s candidate from the ballot due to the fact that party leaders, relying on incorrect deadline guidance provided by the Board of Elections, filed candidacy paperwork past the official due date. He was later restored.

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