By Dan Murphy
The Yonkers Democratic Party held its convention last Thursday, with the biggest news being who they did not endorse for council president, City Council and County Board of Legislators. Council President Four Democrats have announced that they will run for City Council president, seeking to replace Chuck Lesnick who is term-limited. Two of the four Democrats, Ivy Reeves and Michael Rotananelli, attended the convention with each having a strong group of supporters. The other two hopefuls, Frank Spotorno and Bill Nuckel, did not attend the convention. Many Democrats believed that Rotanelli would get the Democratic nomination for council president at the convention, and some worked at the convention to make sure he did not get the nomination. A motion was made by Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins, who chaired the convention and was later named co-chair of the Yonkers Democratic Party along with Symra Brandon, not to endorse a candidate for City Council. Jenkins’ motion passed on a voice vote, without a challenge for a vote by the district leaders.
If Rotanelli thought he had the support of the Democratic district leaders and proxies, then he should have called for a vote. But it was a bad night for Rotanelli at the convention, which walk in hoping to get the nomination and walked out having to collect signatures for a possible four-way Democratic primary for council president. After the convention, Rotanelli said: “We all feel disappointed in the convention results, but I have been a candidate since January and have worked hard to get the majority support. I am not going to stop because this is too important for Yonkers. Taxes, education and affordable housing – that’s what I’ve been hearing. I expect to be on the ballot in September with support from the Democratic Party and I look forward to eventually securing the party’s nomination.” Ivy Reeves was not going to win the convention. She does not have the support of the leadership of the party, and since she decided to run, was preparing to collect signatures and run in the primary in September. If she can collect the more than 1,500 signatures and get on the ballot, Reeves is the most intriguing Democratic council president candidate. If all four candidates – Reeves, Rotanelli, Spotorno and Nuckel – get on the ballot, Reeves, as the only African-American and only woman in the race, has an excellent chance to win the primary. Spotorno will also collect signatures to get in the Democratic primary, as will Nuckel, a former city councilman whose campaign has been quiet to date. Terrero Denied Endorsement The other big news from the convention was that in the second council district, the party again declined to endorse a candidate, despite having a Democratic incumbent, Wilson Terrero, seeking re-election.
Jenkins’ motion not to endorse in the second district was challenged and a vote was taken of district leaders, and no endorsement was made. While the decision by Brandon, Jenkins and the Executive Committee not to endorse for council president may have been for a lack of a good candidate, the denial of Terrero’s endorsement appears to be more complicated. Terrero has recently joined with Democratic Mayor Mike Spano and three Republicans on the City Council on a few issues, most notably the re-redistricting plan for City Council districts and votes on development in downtown. Council President Lesnick, at several meetings, has criticized Terrero for not being a true Democrat for his votes. Lesnick and many Yonkers Democrats wanted, and got, retribution for Terrero’s votes. The problem is that the decision not to give Terrero the line has angered Latino Democrats and Terrero supporters in southwest Yonkers and throughout the city.
The decision by the party could also not have pleased Mayor Spano, who attended the convention but did not participate. In addition to denying the endorsement of the highest-ranking Latino in Yonkers, and the majority leader of the City Council, Terrero currently doesn’t have a Democratic opponent.After the convention, Terrero said: “While the events of Thursday’s Democratic Convention were unfortunate, I am past that now and look forward to continuing my work with the community and addressing, as I always have, their many needs and concerns. I look forward to running a positive and productive campaign that will deliver the reality of an improving Yonkers; one that has had positive impact on all citizens regardless of political affiliation. As a friend of mine always reminds me, it’s about people before politics.”County Board Races Yonkers Democrats endorsed Rachelle “Rocky” Richard to run for County Board in the 14th district, against incumbent Republican Bernice Spreckman. Richard said she hopes “to say ‘bon voyage’” to Spreckman, who is a former Democrat and has served for 18 years on the County Board .Chairman Jenkins was also unanimously selected to run for re-election in the 16th district; no candidate was endorsed to run in the 15th district against Republican Gordon Burrows. In the 17th district, Democratic incumbent Virginia Perez was not given the party’s endorsement. Two other Democrats, Nerissa Peña and Jose Roman, are running against Perez. All three had supporters at the convention. Perez was not surprised by the decision not to endorse her. She sided with County Executive Astorino and Legislators Michael Kaplowitz, a Democrat, and seven board Republicans to support a compromise budget last year.“The endorsement that really counts is the one from the voters,” she said.
But Perez won her seat on the County Board without the help of the party two years ago, defeating incumbent Democrat Jose Alvarado. She can do it again, but will need financial help and assistance from someone to do it. Both Pena and Roman will be actively campaigning. The lack of endorsement for both Perez and Terrero (who have no love for each other) has created a split in the Yonkers Democratic Party, which will play out this summer and fall.
Rising Newspapers received the following letter from Laura Sanchez, from Yonkers Latinos on the Move: Yonkers’ Latino Community Silenced at Dem Convention “The Democratic Party has always been a party of inclusion, standing as a voice for people of all races, ethnicity and backgrounds. At last night’s Yonkers Democratic Convention, the city’s Democratic Committee, led by Westchester County Legislator Ken Jenkins, turned the party into one of disenfranchisement, silencing the voice of our city’s Latino community. “Neither of Yonkers’ only two Latino elected leaders was allowed the opportunity to speak and openly participate in the “democratic “nomination process, despite their long support of democratic policies that best serve the interests of the people they represent. Instead of showing honest leadership in providing for a fair, open democratic process that allows all to be heard, Mr. Jenkins selfishly took the Democratic Party to an all-time low, utilizing his role at the convention to retaliate against our community’s leaders due to personal differences.“We, the Latino community of Yonkers, are offended by the actions of Mr. Jenkins and the Yonkers Democratic Party which disrespected our growing Latino population and all who believe in democratic values.”(End of letter)Yonkers Democratic Co-Chair Symra Brandon told Newsday: “You never vote against the party,” while Co-Chair Jenkins pointed out that the 12-member Executive Committee made the decision not to endorse Perez and Terrero, and that both can still run as Democrats in the primary.
Yonkers Democrats endorsed two first-time candidates for City Council in the fourth and sixth districts. Real estate agent Jason Hungreder will run against Republican Councilman John Larkin in the sixth district, and Democratic Ward Leader Euthimios Theotokatos will run against Republican councilman Dennis Shepherd in the fourth district.