Flight Squadron! Downtown’s state senator renounces seat in surprise move


Associated Press / Mike Groll
State Sen. Daniel Squadron announced on Wednesday that he’s leaving the GOP-dominated Senate to launch a nationwide activist organization aimed at confronting corruption and the influence of right-wing money in state governments across the country.


Veteran Manhattan legislator Daniel Squadron announced his resignation from the state Senate Wednesday morning, claiming that rampant corruption in Albany drove him to leave his post after nearly a decade in office and pursue change on a national level.

“Whether you talk about the huge influence of heavily invested special interests, or ‘three-men-in-a-room’ negotiating, there are a lot of limits to what an individual member can do,” Squadron said. “It’s very frustrating when you can’t even get a vote on bills that would have an enormous impact, when you have to comprise local bills just to get a vote on it.”

Squadron, who was elected in 2008 to represent Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, will end his nine-year tenure with Albany’s upper house on Friday, although his office will remain open to serve constituents until his replacement takes the reigns.

Squadron is confident that a democrat will reclaim his seat in a special election in November, but due to the timing of the his resignation, voters will be unable to elect candidates in September’s primary, according to Manhattan election lawyer Jerry Goldfeder.

Instead, Democratic and Republican party bosses will choose candidates for the November ballot, and because the district straddles the East River, county committees in Manhattan and Brooklyn will both have a say in who get a shot at the seat — though not an equal voice.

Due to arcane state Democratic Party rules, the vote is weighted heavily in favor of the Manhattan committee members — meaning a Big Apple Democrat is likely to replace the current Brooklyn resident, according to Goldfeder.

“They’ll never pick a Brooklyn person,” Goldfeder said. “They’ll pick a Manhattan person.”

Squadron called the practice of choosing candidates via county committee “a lousy process,” and said he’d be working with committee chairs to ensure that “activists from both sides of the harbor get counted.”

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (D–Lower East Side) announced his candidacy for the 26th Senate District just hours after Squadron declared his intention to resign.

Squadron called Kavanagh a friend, saying, “he’s great,” but didn’t go so far as to endorse his colleague in the lower house.

Brooklyn Heights attorney Martin Connor, who served in the state Senate for 30-years before Squadron ousted him, said he has no plans to reclaim his old seat.

“Somebody would have to give me a lot of good reason to run,” Connor said. “I can’t think of any.”

In announcing his resignation, the soon-to-be former lawmaker complained of the de facto control Republicans enjoy in the senate, despite Democrats owning a slim electoral majority, due to a cabal of eight aisle-hoppers calling themselves the Independent Democratic Conference.

That complaint was familiar to acquaintances of the senator, according to Community Board 1 Chairman Anthony Notaro, who said that Squadron’s efforts were often frustrated by Republicans.

“He’s worked hard for us and fought for our issues, but in many cases the Republican majority just had their way, and I know he’s had mounting frustration for that,” Notaro said

Squadron also pointed to the political influence wielded by billionaire donors such as the right-wing Koch brothers, and his fear of how their financial power could affect the national political landscape when allied with the Trump Administration.

To combat that threat, the senator said he plans to launch a nationwide advocacy organization focused on political and policy work at the state level, where he hopes he’ll have a greater opportunity to effect change than in his current role as senator.

“I think having the opportunity to impact multiple states, even if I’m not part of the legislative body, is a real opportunity to make a difference,” Squadron said.

Photo by Milo Hess
During his nine years in the state Senate, Squadron served his Downtown constituents in many ways, including serving up stir-fry chicken with celery at this 2016 cook-off with Councilwoman Margaret Chin at a Chinatown senior center.