Noam Bramson, concerned that a Democratic candidate for City Judge might create problems for the chosen candidate successfully sought to require each candidate to take a pledge before any decision was made that they would not mount a Democratic primary challenge and would decline the nomination of any other political party in the November general election. In effect, Bramson sought to curtail the candidates rights under election law and to dictate a position to the Democratic Committee while claiming the opposite.
It is generally frowned upon by New York State’s judicial ethics board for judicial candidates to take any sort of “pledge” and certain types of pledges are specifically banned. The Judicial Campaign Ethics Handbook does not speak directly to the issue in New Rochelle but does offer numerous rulings which stress the requirement for judges and judicial candidates to avoid making pledges.
Bramson rounded up support for his pledge from Westchester County Clerk Timothy Idoni and City Council Members James Stowe, Barry Fertel, and Marianne Sussman. It is common for major party candidates to seek nominations from other parties. Bramson has run on other party lines in the past.
Dear Fellow District Leaders:
New Rochelle Democrats are very fortunate to have such outstanding choices for City Court Judge. Whatever the outcome of the convention on May 24th, we can be certain that Democrats will be represented effectively in the November election and, more importantly, that our city will be well-served by its next Judge.
None of us has made an endorsement in this contest, nor has Chairman Klugman. It is likely that we will cast our own ballots differently on May 24th and, of course, no one can predict with certainty which candidate will emerge on top.
Whatever our personal preferences, however, we are firmly united in pledging our full support to whomever the Committee designates and in expressing our hope that all candidates will respect the outcome of the convention.
In recent months, District Leaders have had multiple opportunities to speak with the candidates in both small and large settings. The process of discussion and dialogue has been thoughtful, respectful and unprecedented in its deliberative nature. It is important that this process count.
Further, it is likely that the November general election will be very competitive. Democrats must work together as a team, and we cannot afford to expend energy and resources on divisions that pit Democrats against each other.
We request that Chairman Klugman pose two straightforward questions to the candidates at the beginning of our meeting on May 24th and that each of the candidates be given an opportunity to reply:
If you do not receive the Committee’s designation, will you pledge to refrain from mounting a Democratic primary?
If you do not receive the Committee’s designation, will you also pledge to decline the nomination of any other political party in the November general election?
District leaders deserve to know the candidates’ positions on these subjects before selecting a designee.
It is not our place or intent to curtail anyone’s rights under election law, nor to dictate a position to the Democratic Committee – every District Leader and every candidate is entitled to make his or her own judgment. As elected officials, however, we feel a special responsibility to make our own views and intentions clear.
We look forward to working with the entire Democratic Committee – as well as Democrats, Republicans and Independents throughout New Rochelle – to ensure that our local judiciary demonstrates the highest standards of ethics, competence, intelligence and commitment to justice.
Timothy Idoni, County Clerk
Noam Bramson, Mayor
James Stowe, Council Member
Barry Fertel, Council Member
Marianne Sussman, Council Member