In his farewell speech at city hall in December, departing 42nd District councilman Charles Barron gave a shout out to his successor: “I will leave you with a better half. You think I was something — when she finishes with you, you’re gonna ask me to come back!”
He and his wife, 60th District state assemblywoman Inez Barron, had completed the first half of their planned seat swap. She had won the election for his seat, and he seemed on the verge of taking over her vacated seat.
“I’m sure that Governor Cuomo and [Assembly Speaker] Shelly Silver can’t wait till I get to Albany,” he continued. “I’ll try not to disappoint them and get there as soon as I can.”
He wore a sarcastic grin as he said this, of course. And in the months since, Cuomo has shown that, in fact, he can wait for Charles Barron to get to Albany. Rather than call for a special election to fill the 60th district seat in the spring or in June, Cuomo appears satisfied to keep the seat open until the normal fall election cycle. Which means Barron won’t get the ceremonial baton pass he hoped for.
Cuomo has not announced a final decision, but it has been four months since the new term started and each day that goes by is one less day to organize a special election. The governor has suggested that he is concerned by a special election’s price tag: “they’re very expensive to do,” he told The Capitol Pressroom.
His decision doesn’t just affect Barron, to be sure. There are 11 open seats in the state legislature. No special election means 11 districts without representation for the rest of 2014.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was the latest to call out Cuomo about this. (His own state senate district, the seat he left to take his current job, is one of the open ones). “There is no dollar amount that could be attached to the right of representation by New Yorkers,” he said on Wednesday, according to DNAinfo. “It looks like all of these seats are going to go up in September.”
In February, the New York City Council passed a resolution calling on Cuomo to initiate a special election. Inez Barron, one of the resolution’s sponsors, leads the charge. On Wednesday, she and Councilman Rafael Espinal, Jr. held a press conference on the issue.
“Gov. Cuomo is single-handedly denying representation to seven downstate communities of black and Latino residents by not allowing for their vacant assembly and senate seats to be filled,” she said, according to JPUpdates. “These black and Latino communities do not have a seat at the table or a voice in the current budget and legislative negotiations.”
Her own family’s interest in Cuomo’s decision is no secret. With no special election, Charles Barron will have to fight for Inez’s seat the way she did for his. Against the same opponent even. Chris Banks, who finished second to Inez Barron in the Democratic primary race for Charles’s seat, has good name recognition in East New York, as well as an endorsement from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who defeated Charles Barron in the 2012 U.S. Congressional race.
A special election would make the Barron seat-swap much easier. As we explained in our January feature on the power couple:
Brooklyn’s Democratic Committee selects the nominee in a special election, and nearly every member representing the 42nd District is a Barron ally. Charles and Inez serve as the party’s two district leaders.
As Banks puts it: “If it’s a special election he’s guaranteed to get the democratic nomination.”