Steve Harrison at a 2007 anti-war protest in Brooklyn
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Late last night the Democratic Committee of Richmond County (Staten Island) selected conservative Mike McMahon as their designated nominee for the 13th Congressional District race. Progressive Democrat Steve Harrison called the selection process a “betrayal of democracy”, citing the refusal of the Democratic County Committee Convention to allow him to speak before the voting.
Many of those in attendance viewed the selection process as flawed. One “guest” — until recently a committee member — told NLN that the DCCC had thrown a number of progressives off the committee in the last two weeks. Two seated members of the committee confirmed that a number of pro-Harrison committee members had been removed recently. No explanations were offered to those who were tossed by Democratic Party bosses.
McMahon, who was endorsed in a closed door meeting of the DCCC executive committee prior to the general meeting, was nominated by Jerome X. O’Donovan. He was seconded by a committee member who identified herself as a “friend and neighbor”.
Kelvin Alexander, founder of 100 Blacks In Law Enforcement, nominated Harrison in a fiery speech. Alexander told the crowd, “the winds of change are blowing, don’t let them blow past Staten Island.”
Harrison’s nomination was seconded by campaign manager Laura Sword who said that Harrison almost beat incumbent Vito Fossella two years ago, has name recognition in Brooklyn and has been against George Bush’s war in Iraq “from day one.”
Sword said that while McMahon, who also interviewed with the Conservative Party earlier this week, is unknown in Brooklyn, Harrison has been campaigning and fundraising there for months. McMahon entered the race very late, deciding to run after scandal ridden Republican Vito Fossella announced his decision not to seek re-election. Sword said that Harrison had the courage to face Fossella when no other Democrat had been willing to do so. Harrison got 43.2 percent of the vote in the 2006 race, surprising observers.
The voting process itself was also a source of contention – although several committee members called for a roll call vote, this request was denied by the DCCC chair and the vote was completed by a show of hands.
After the convention, candidate Steve Harrison told reporters that despite assurances he would be allowed to address the committee he hadn’t been given a chance to speak until AFTER the vote. These irregularities angered Harrison supporters who cheered when their candidate vowed to fight on — and to win in the upcoming September primary.
“I think what we are looking at here is basically a setup…they were afraid that I’d be able to speak and sway enough people, and get through under the circumstances to the people that are out there, on the issues,” said Harrison describing the DCCC’s refusal to let him speak.
Speaking of official designee McMahon, Harrison said, “we do not know on the national issues what Mike McMahon stands for. In respect to the war, he hasn’t been vetted…we don’t know his positions with respect to abortion, we don’t know his positions with respect to the LGBT community.”
Referring to the thinking behind the DCCC’s executive committee’s endorsement Harrison described it as a panic reaction. “They gave up an advantage. I had 43 percent of the vote in my pocket,” Harrison said.
Although Harrison and his supporters were frustrated with the process and the outcome they were united in their desire to mobilize quickly for a primary.
“I’m in this race until the end,” Harrison said.