By Robert Press
Klein Wins Big at Ben Franklin Dem Club
Before I get into what happened at the Ben Franklin Democratic Club endorsement for the 34th State Senate district, Congratulations go out to Mr. William Rivera the new Chairman of Community Board 9. William has worked hard on CB 9 as the chair of the Public Safety/Housing Committee, and was rewarded by being voted in as the youngest Community Board Chair in New York City.
Just a few days after Riverdale Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Councilman Andrew Cohen, both Democratic district leaders, and several other prominent Riverdalians endorsed incumbent state senator Jeff Klein for re-election the Ben Franklin Democratic Club met for the purpose of a club endorsement vote for the Democratic Primary. Former Councilman Oliver Koppell had finally announced his candidacy for the 34th state senate seat so this club vote had three options. Option one, a club endorsement for incumbent State Senator Jeff Klein. Option two, an endorsement of challenger Oliver Koppell. Option three, a vote of no endorsement of either candidate in the race.
It seemed that the Koppell strategy at the Ben Franklin Club was to have the club not endorse any candidate in the 34th district. This would seem to be a victory for Koppell as the club as a whole would not carry petitions for Klein. It became evident that during the floor fight of how to vote on the matter of the club endorsing or not that Oliver Koppell was not going to have the club behind him. The vote to endorse a candidate turned out to be 84 Ayes, 23 Nays, and 0 abstentions.
BFDC President Ellen Feld then went over the rules of how the candidates would speak, answer questions, and then have surrogates speak on their behalf, something she had done many times before. She mentioned that the club usually goes by alphabetical order but that both candidates have agreed to let Oliver Koppell go first.
Oliver Koppell went over his vast experience in public office. He continued that he had endorsed Jeff Klein in the past against Steve Kaufman, When Kaufman said if he was elected that he would work with the Republicans in the state senate. Koppell then attacked Klein for betraying the Senate Democratic Conference majority by empowering Republican Leader Dean Skellows to stay in power, and ended by saying “Have you no decency Mr. Klein.” Questions were next, and Koppell was drilled on having overturned the will of the people of the city by extending term limits for himself and allowing Republican Mayor Bloomberg to serve four more years. Other questions included just what did you do besides overturning term limits? Koppell answered by saying that in the state assembly he created the “Bottle Bill”, was chair of the City Council Mental Health Committee, opposed term limits when June Eisland was the Councilwoman before Mayor Bloomberg, and ended by saying that Klein has been in office for 20 years now.
Jeff Klein spoke of growing up in the Bronx. At age 12 his grandfather told him that Democrats are people like us, and that he is the first Democrat to represent the 34th State Senate district in 100 years. Klein told of traveling the state to help get a Democratic majority a few years ago with many promises made by the Democrats who took over that were never fulfilled. He added that the Democratic majority only created dysfunction and bred corruption throwing out a few names of the De State Senators who have gone to jail after the Democratic takeover. He said that was the reason for the creation of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). He said that items such as the money for Pre-K and many other Democratic ideals never came to the senate floor under Republican or even Democratic leadership that have under the IDC co-leadership. Klein was then asked several questions that included how much money he had received from charter school advocates, his pro death penalty stance, failure of the Dream Act, and where he stands on hydrofracking. Klein said he did not know how much or just who donated to his campaign from the charter school advocates, that he is in favor of the death penalty being brought back,.Klein added that it was him who brought the Dream Act to the senate floor, that all IDC members voted for it, but not all Senate Democrats did. Klein closed by saying that he is opposed to hydrofracking adding that the Sierra Club and NCLV have endorsed him. Oliver Koppel;ls wife Lorraine tried to take a shot at Senator Klein by asking him why there were no minority members of the IDC.
The surrogate speakers were next, and Koppell's wife called Klein a racist for not having a minority member of the IDC. Several Koppell supporters said that Klein is not a real Democrat and has let the Republicans stay in power in the state senate. 33rd State Senator Gustavo Rivera who has been at odds with Klein in the state senate gave a lukewarm speech at times praising Klein, but ended asking the club to endorse Oliver Koppell in the 34th district.
On the Klein side Councilman Cohen spoke of how Senator Klein has helped him in dealing with some problems in his council district. Others who spoke for Senator Klein spoke of his experience and compared Klein to getting rid of the gridlock that had been holding things up in Albany, including having an on time state budget for the past four years. The clincher was the last speaker Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz who answered the calls of his disloyalty to Koppell by saying “Where was Oliver Koppell at the Paradise Theater when all but two of the Ben Franklin Club members were supporting him to become the new Bronx Democratic County Committee Chair?' Dinowitz then said as he was being assaulted in the back Oliver Koppell and his wife were on stage with Jose Rivera, Maria Baez, and Larry Seabrook trying to keep them in power over me and the eventual winners that night. As Dinowitz continued and one could hear by his voice that he did not want to say what he was, but it was Oliver Koppell who wanted Loyalty and Democratic values over a very effective legislator. Dinowitz continued that in the 2009 mayors race Oliver Koppell did not endorse the Democratic candidate Bill Thompson. That Koppell choose to sponsor legislation to extend his term and the term of Republican Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and then endorsed the Republican candidate Bloomberg over the Democratic candidate. Dinowits ended by saying if it was an open seat things would be different, but Senator Jeff Klein is doing an excellent job and deserves to be re-elected.
The final vote was Klein – 96, Koppell – 38, with 11 votes for no endorsement. Senator Klein said that he now has the endorsement of all the Democratic clubs in his district. Lorraine Coyle Koppell said “It is a sad day for the Ben Franklin Club, it has lost its reason for its existence.” Check my blog for photos of the endorsement meeting.
Former Governor David Patterson has taken over as New York State Democratic Party chair, and has said that taking over control of the state senate is not his number one priority, party unity is.
Lastly Saturday June 7th is Family Day 2014 at Vidalia Park from 12 – 5 PM. The park is located on East 187th Street between Daly & Vyse Avenues. There will be food, fun, games, and musical entertainment by toby Rivera.
If you have any comments about this column or would like to have an event listed or covered in this column or on my blog you can e-mail us at 100percentbronxnews@gmail .com or call 718-644-4199 Mr. Robert Press.