The dean of the Queens Assembly delegation, Ivan Lafayette, is declining his party’s nomination for re-election and taking a job with the state, in effect creating an emergency vacancy on the ballot.
“It’s been 32 years in Albany, it’s a long time. It’s almost like a career,” Layfayette told me over the phone just now.
Because nominating petitions have already been turned in, the candidate who will run on the Democratic ticket will be chosen by the committee to fill vacancies that Lafayette selected while preparing his own petition. The assemblyman declined to specify the new job.
“I was offered a position and I thought I could do a lot more for the public in this new position,” he said. He also thanked David Paterson for giving him the opportunity to continue serving the public.
Lafayette said he regretting the timing of his announcement, but added that it was necessary because discussions about the new job didn’t conclude until last week. Layfayette said if he had vacated his seat earlier in the term, there would have been a special election, and added that if that had been the case, a nominee would have been chosen through essentially the same process.
“Let’s assume I had accepted a position six months ago, OK? They would have called a special election. Then, the county organization and myself would have decided who replaced me,” he said.
State Senator John Sabini, whose district overlaps with Lafayette’s, recently retired from his seat to take a job as head of the Racing and Wagering Board to avoid a difficult re-election campaign against Hiram Monserrate, who is more aligned with the changing demographics of the district. Those changes are a major reason why the Democratic Party opted to back Monserrate instead of the Sabini.
Lafayette said changing demographics in his district did not influence his decision to leave. “In 32 years, I’ve had three complete different turnovers as far as demographics are concerned,” he said. “Although most of my assembly district is within that senate district, if you look at the demographics, and how they’re broken down, I have a much more mixed district.”
“Or, had,” he said, using the past tense.
This last-minute maneuvering is reminiscent of the way the former Queens County Democratic Leader, Tom Manton, relinquished his Congressional seat in 1998 and avoided a contentious race for re-election. Manton hand-picked his successor, Joe Crowley, who still holds the seat.
UPDATE: Lafayette’s remarks that stepping down now or six months earlier would have yielded a similar process for picking a successor is not quite accurate. Had Lafayette stepped down earlier this year, a special election would have been called to fill the remainder of his current term, then, another election would have been held this November for his upcoming term (see: Matthieu Eugene).
Also, there is a pretty contentious City Council race taking place in his neighborhood between Danny Dromm and Alfonso Quiroz–theoretically, one of them could have opted to run for Lafayette’s vacated seat.
UPDATE: A reader called to say that the Dromm doesn’t live in Lafeyette’s district. Either way, the point still stands someone still could have launched a candidacy for the seat.