Down To The Wire in Assembly Race

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:14

Two candidates get big endorsements, one commits a gaffe during televised debate

Uppper East Side Assembly candidate Rebecca Seawright landed a big endorsement recently when longtime East Side Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney publicly voiced her support for the campaign.

Maloney, considered by many insiders to be the matriarch of Manhattan's Democrat establishment, had previously avoided endorsing anyone in the race.

One such insider told Our Town, "I think [Maloney] felt very strongly this was a chance to boost the rather disappointing number of women in the assembly."

In accepting the endorsement, Seawright said, "Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is a golden name on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island because of her unbeatable record on women's equality, gun safety, and expanding access to childhood education."

But not all is rosy in Camp Seawright. At a NY1 debate last Friday night, Seawright, who has significant union backing from the likes of 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU and the Hotel Trades Council, was asked by fellow candidate David Menegon whether she would support the passage of right to work legislation if elected. Right to work legislation seeks to prohibit any established union from compelling an employee, current or prospective, to join a union and pays dues, and is anathema to union philosophy. New York is not currently a right to work state.

"Absolutely, I think [New York] should be a right to work state and I would totally support that," replied Seawright.

Apparently finished with her response, debate moderator Errol Louis asked her to expand on her seemingly odd answer.

"I think it helps the economic base of the city and I think that the unions backing me would agree," said Seawright.

Menegon said he doubts the unions would agree, to which Seawright replied that that would depend on what the legislation says.

"And the legislation that I would sponsor would definitely be right to work, and it would be something that the unions who support me would support or I wouldn't sponsor it," said Seawright, before ticking off her union sponsors.

Given the opportunity to follow up, fellow candidate Gus Christensen declined but got a shot in when he compared her to a drowning man. Seawright fired back, asking Christensen to explain the $250,000 check he wrote his campaign, and a Daily News article that alleged he bought his position in the Lenox Hill Democratic Club, of which he is president.

A spokesperson for the Seawright campaign later told Our Town that she had misunderstood the right to work question.

"We are pro-union, pro-labor," said the spokesperson. "Rebecca is opposed to right to work laws and as long as she's in the assembly she'll vote against legislation like that."

Meanwhile, the Christensen campaign received a boost by way of an endorsement from the good government group Citizens Union. As reported earlier this month, Our Town co-sponsored a debate with Citizens Union between the four Democratic candidates vying for the assembly seat. The group said it would endorse after the campaign, and chose Christensen last week.

Our Town is declining to endorse a candidate in the race, which also features Community Board 8 member and lawyer Ed Hartzog, in addition to Seawright, Christensen and Menegon.

In analyzing the race, a Democratic insider said Seawright and Christensen would be the candidates to watch, and the upcoming endorsement from the New York Times would play a crucial role.

"Also, you can expect to see [Maloney] stepping up her campaign for Rebecca," said the insider. "Having now endorsed a candidate, she'll want to make sure she's with a winner."

The Democratic Primary will be held on Sept. 9.