Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY-7), who represents a district adjacent to NY-9, also serves as the Democratic Party’s chairman for the Borough of Queens. Under New York law, it is the county political party chairmen who choose special election nominees. Because approximately 70 percent of the 9th District is within Queens, Crowley alone has the virtual power to choose the Democratic general election candidate. He is expected to reach a decision in the next day or two.
The congressman reportedly wants “an elder statesman without long-term ambitions” to fill the Weiner seat. He now has the opportunity of ensuring that the new Democratic nominee will allow the 9th CD to be eliminated in redistricting so that Crowley himself can assume much of the Queens territory that was once Weiner’s. New York loses two seats in reapportionment. Such a move will allow him to jettison the Bronx portion of his current district, an area that is becoming heavily Hispanic, and give him a seat wholly within the Borough of Queens. Collapsing the 9th will also mean that Rep. Gary Ackerman’s (D) 5th district, a hybrid seat between Queens and Long Island, will likely survive the redistricting pen, as well.
The person currently being mentioned as having the inside track for the nomination is former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman (D). The ex-representative reportedly reached out to Crowley shortly after Weiner’s resignation and now appears to be the top Democratic prospect.
During her 1970’s tenure in the House (four terms; 1973-1981), Holtzman represented a portion of the current 9th District. She was succeeded by now-Sen. Chuck Schumer (D), whose own election to the Senate opened the door for Weiner to win the congressional seat. Holtzman ended her career in Congress by losing a 1980 U.S. Senate race to then-Nassau County Board of Supervisors Chairman Alfonse D’Amato. She made a political comeback of sorts at the municipal level, winning election in Kings County (Brooklyn) for district attorney and later as New York City comptroller. Her 1992 Democratic primary bid for the right to square off against D’Amato again ended in another Holtzman loss, this time a rather humiliating fourth place finish. An unsuccessful primary fight to retain her party’s nomination for the city comptroller position the next year effectively ended her career in elective politics. Now at age 70, Holtzman may fit the bill of an “elder statesman” who can win the race in September, and will then fade quietly away when the 9th district is eliminated as a casualty of reapportionment.
Should Holtzman be appointed the nominee, she will begin the special election campaign as the favorite but the seat has some chance of becoming competitive as Republicans plan to wage a significant campaign. More will be known when the GOP nominee is actually chosen.
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