The Democratic candidate running for the vacant seat of disgraced ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver claimed to have the endorsements of a slew of high-profile politicians when she sought the support of a prominent Democratic club—even though all but one of them had not backed her.
On a questionnaire for the 504 Democratic club, district leader Alice Cancel listed Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Councilwoman Rosie Mendez and Councilwoman Margaret Chin under “Key Endorsements.” In fact, only Ms. Mendez had come out publicly behind Ms. Cancel’s candidacy.
Spokespersons for Ms. Velazquez, Mr. Nadler, Ms. Chin and Mr. Squadron all informed the Observer that none of them had endorsed Ms. Cancel. Ms. Maloney could not be reached for comment. Ms. Cancel’s campaign manager, John Quinn, told the Observer that Ms. Mendez is the only official listed who has actually backed her for the seat.
Mr. Quinn said that he had filled out the survey on Ms. Cancel’s behalf, and had mistakenly believed it was asking what political leaders she had supported in the past.
“It was just a screw-up, that’s all it was,” he said. “We always supported all of our local elected officials.”
Mr. Quinn, who is also Ms. Cancel’s husband, was a longtime local ally to Mr. Silver and a leader in the Lower East Side Democrats club. The president of that club, Monica Guardiola—who worked as a community liaison for Mr. Silver for more than a decade—is Ms. Cancel’s treasurer, campaign manager and occasional spokeswoman.
The Lower East Side Democrats and Mr. Silver’s Harry Truman Democratic Club played a crucial role in securing the Democratic line for Ms. Cancel in the race for Mr. Silver’s old Lower Manhattan territory. Special elections for state office, like the one scheduled to fill the Silver seat next month, do not have open primaries. Instead, the Democratic county committee—consisting of political insiders—selects the candidate that will run on the party’s line.
Among Ms. Cancel’s supporters at the committee meeting in February was Mr. Silver’s former chief of staff, Judy Rapfogel—wife of his close friend William Rapfogel, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to using his post as CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty to embezzle $9 million.
Ms. Cancel praised Mr. Silver, who is due for sentencing on corruption charges on April 13, after her nomination.
“I can only say he did wonderful things in our district,” she said.
The special election is scheduled for April 19. Voters will choose between Ms. Cancel, Working Families Party candidate Yuh-Line Niou and Republican Lester Chang. Ms. Niou, a registered Democrat and two-year resident of the district, works as chief of staff to Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim, and enjoys the backing of most labor unions and the Democratic power structure in the Assembly.
Whoever triumphs next month will almost certainly face several challengers in the September Democratic primary. District leaders Paul Newell and Jenifer Rajkumar, and local community board chairwoman Gigi Li—all of whom lost in the county committee vote—told the Observer they intend to seek the seat again. So will Don Lee, a Democratic activist from Chinatown.