Primary Fight Looms in Battle for District Leader in 76th A.D.

Ben Akselrod won endorsement of the influential Four Freedoms Dem Club for district leader in the 76th A.D., Part A, but faces primary fight with Todd Stein.

| 27 Feb 2023 | 10:28

The victor gets a primary. Three candidates for district leader in the 76th Assembly District, Part A--Ben Akselrod, Billy Freeland and Todd Stein--sought the endorsement of the Four Freedoms Democratic Club. All three are members of the influential club. The endorsement meeting held Feb. 16th at the usual meeting place, the Church of the Holy Trinity on East 88th St., drew 100 members and the endorsement went to 27-year-old executive committee member Akselrod.

In the first ranked voting round, Akselrod won 44.8 percent, Stein got 24.8 percent and Freeland won 30.5 percent.

In the second round, Stein, who is 57, was eliminated and Akselrod got 57 percent of the vote--and the FF endorsement. Freeland immediately endorsed Akselrod. Stein promised a primary fight.

Petitioning begins Feb. 28th. Akselrod’s name will appear on FF’s petitions, along with other candidates endorsed by FF, including incumbent city council member Julie Menin, who is running for reelection in District 5, and Anna Mikhaleva and Andrea Krugman for two open civil court seats. The primary is set for June 27, 2023. The General election is Nov. 7.

After the vote, I reached out to Akselrod, Freeland and Stein for statements. Here they are, edited lightly.

Ben Akselrod: “I’m thrilled to have been endorsed for district leader by the Four Freedoms Democratic Club, the largest Democratic Club representing the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island. Over 100 Democrats showed up to decide how we support and strengthen the Democratic Party, ensuring it remains accessible and transparent. Thank you to my opponents, Billy Freeland and Todd Stein, for highlighting important issues. I look forward to continue to build relationships with fellow Democrats in the district throughout my campaign. Next I’ll be petitioning to get on the ballot, sharing more of my vision as I achieve the required number of signatures”.

Todd Stein: “I am running for District Leader. AD76, Part A, and intend to be on the ballot in the June primary. As a participating member of the Four Freedoms, I respect the club’s values and would have welcomed their endorsement.

“Having a candidate who fills the gap of both the baby boomer/gen-X populations would offer diversity and representation in our community. I would like to add my individuality to the position. Advocacy is my passion and paramount to my platform are senior and elder care, safer streets, small business, affordable housing and green space. The merging of my goals will result in a sucessful blend of the role of a DL for AD76, Part A.”

Bill Freeland: “As I said in my presentation to FFDC and in my Facebook post on the discussion group, I’m heartily endorsing the club’s nominee, Ben Akselrod. This is independent of the decision Todd makes. While I think competitive primaries are healthy for democracy, I think being able to secure the support of the local club and the strength of relationships that requires, suggests Ben is going to be very capable as district leader. I have a lot of respect for Todd, so my decision is more about Ben and the Club.”

Prior to a change in state law, there was one male district leader and one female district leader. The new law, sponsored by State Senator Zellnor Marie and Assembly Member Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, was signed into law by Gov. Hochul in June 2022. It requires parties to change their rules to permit people who do not identify as a binary gender to be elected to party positions. Prior to this endorsement, party rules required candidates to select “male” or “female” when seeking office, excluding non-binary people or requiring them to select a gender that they do not identify with. This legislation ensures that non-binary New Yorkers can fullly participate in the democratic system and that the state’s political parties have the opportunity to be reflective of NY’s diversity. With the change in law, two people must fill the two positions with two different identities. 1 male/1 female; 1 female/1 non-binary; 1 male/1 non-binary. (Thanks to Democrat State Committee Member Erica Vladimer for brining the changes to my attention.

Four Freedoms endorsed candidates for City Council are Julie Menin in District 5 and Keith Powers in District 4. Civil Court endorsements of Dana Catanzaro, Countywide seat, and Anna Mikhaleva in the 6th District.

NOTE: In original column I erroneously wrote that FF endorsed Andrea Krugman.