There is one man behind the scramble to fill a New York Congressional seat — one that isn’t even vacant.
That man is Rep. Joe Crowley.
New York’s quirky election laws give local county chairmen unique power to select each party’s nominees in the event of a special election. And Crowley, as the Queens County Democratic chairman, will have the ultimate say over which Democrat would run in the Empire State’s 9th district should Rep. Anthony Weiner (D) resign.
Queens County constitutes roughly 70 percent of Weiner’s district.
New York Democratic operatives believe that a resignation is increasingly likely following the Wednesday publication of yet another damaging photo – this one claiming to depict a full view of the married Congressman’s genitalia – that Weiner sent to one of the six women he communicated with via social media in recent years.
Multiple New York Democratic operatives with knowledge of the situation said Crowley’s judgment in the event of a resignation would be clouded by his personal ambitions.
The operatives said Crowley is likely to appoint someone who is merely a placeholder, with the understanding that the nominee would not seek re-election in 2012. And his motivation has everything to do with redistricting. Crowley wants to expand his strong minority 7th district, which currently borders Weiner’s 9th, to include a segment of white Catholic voters who currently reside in Weiner’s district.
“It’s perfect Crowley territory. He wants to move out of the Bronx, where he is now, and more into Queens,” one Democratic operative said.
And that likely means that Crowley would avoid nominating any ambitious Democrat who would presumably fight to keep the district during the redistricting process.
Of the three Democrats currently included in any discussion to succeed Weiner, each roughly falls into that category.
City Councilman Mark Weprin is chairman of an influential subcommittee that he would likely be reluctant to give up, even if he won Crowley’s support. Former City Councilman Eric Gioia is considered young and ambitious, and he has been known to clash with Crowley. And former City Councilwoman Melinda Katz, who narrowly lost to Weiner in the 1998 Democratic primary when the 9th district was last an open seat, is considered closer to Crowley but ambitious as well.
“None of those three are going to Congress,” another Democratic operative said.
So, to whom would Crowley give the Democratic nomination in the event of a Weiner resignation? That’s the biggest question in New York politics right now, according to local Democratic operatives.
“Everyone’s looking to break who it will be, and the decision really hasn’t been made yet,” said a New York Democrat with knowledge of the situation.
A Crowley spokesman did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.