As the circus surrounding Anthony Weiner reached a crescendo, even as he continued to insist that he wouldn’t resign, the first name to be floated as a replacement, via The New York Times, was that of former City Councilman Eric Gioia.
“Some New York Democrats have approached former Councilman Eric N. Gioia of Queens about running for Mr. Weiner’s seat, according to two people briefed on the conversations,” the paper wrote. “Mr. Gioia, these people said, is open to the possibility. He declined to comment.”
Politicos in Queens were flabbergasted. Weiner’s seat was one of the most Jewish in the nation, which Gioia was not. And Gioia doesn’t live in the district, while a dozen or so eager pols looking to move up, do.
“It was so transparent,” said one political insider the next day. “He obviously called up The New York Times just to put his name out there.”
In the end, the decision about who would carry the Democratic line was always going to come down to one person: Congressman and Queens County Democratic Party Leader Joe Crowley. There was no formal screening process, in which candidates came before a committee and answered questions. Instead, the Congressman quietly reached out to those who were interested for a series of phone conversations.
People close to Crowley say he wanted several things out of a nominee. He wanted someone credible, so it wouldn’t look like machine politics as usual. He wanted someone who could beat the Republicans, in order to stave off the embarrassment of losing in heavily Democratic district. He wanted someone who would agree to go gracefully, if (when?) the seat got redistricted out of existence, so as not to create an awkward primary. Oh, and one more thing–he didn’t want to be strong-armed into making a choice.
In short order, the buzz ar0und Gioia’s candidacy died out. But others made their own moves. Assemblyman Rory Lancman ran the hardest, lining up support of religious leaders and labor groups. Lynn Schulman let it be known that “people from the county organization asked me if I would be interested.” Liz Holtzman gave a long interview to City Room in which she laid out why she should be the choice.
But ultimately Crowley chose the person who seemed to be the least interested in it–Assemblyman David Weprin. The reason why now seems obvious. Weprin is Jewish, has a famous name in the district, is a fierce political campaigner and is loyal to the County Party.
But perhaps the biggest reason Weprin made the cut was that he understood how the process works better than anyone else–lay out your case to Crowley, and then keep your head down the rest of the way.