Even if Senator Chuck Schumer wins his personal reelection effort in November, the Democrats are likely to lose control of the Senate and oust Schumer as Leader of the Democratic Party caucus in the chamber. That has young and aspiring Democratic Party officials privately asking Schumer to step aside, suggesting now would be an opportune time to pass the torch to the next generation of emerging leaders inside the party.
At the behest of the party’s most influential African American political figures — including the Reverend Al Sharpton — Schumer insists that he intends to step aside early, prior to the end of his next term. In that scenario, a vacancy in the office would allow Governor Kathy Hochul to appoint someone from an underrepresented portion of the electorate to fill the vacancy until a special election can be held.
The African American power structure inside the State wants Schumer to ‘make room’ for an underrepresented portion of the electorate, because it is unlikely he will ever serve as Majority Leader again and his longtime ties to the banking industry have always been cause for concern.
In the event that Schumer vacates his seat very early in his term — at the opening of the next year’s legislative session in January — likely for an ambassadorship to Israel and a board seat at Goldman Sachs — then Governor Hochul would be required to appoint a successor to fill the vacancy until a special election can be held in November of 2023 to fill the remainder of the six year term.
“In a lot of ways, Chuck is checked out and wants to get into the private sector and start making money in the final decades of his working life,” one source familiar with his thinking confesses. “He’s great at fundraising money, why isn’t he raising in the private markets to get tangible things built and make some money for himself while he’s at it?”
Political operatives from across New York State are speculating who could succeed Schumer as the dean of New York politics? And who has a loyal enough relationship with Hochul to earn her trust? Insiders are ranking these contenders, in this order:
- Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, Assemblywoman
- Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Assembly Majority Leader
- Jessica Ramos, State Senator
- Byron Brown, Mayor of Buffalo
- Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate Majority Leader
- Grace Meng, Congresswoman
- Gregory Meeks, Congressman
- Kathleen Rice, Congresswoman
- Donavan Richards, Queens Borough President
- Diana Reyna, Councilwoman
Let’s take a quick look at the top three contenders.
Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn
Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn was elected in 2014 to represent the 42nd Assembly District, representing portions of East Flatbush, Flatbush, Ditmas Park, and Midwood, in Brooklyn. Bichotte-Hermelyn was the first Haitian-American to be elected to the State Legislature from New York City. She is the first woman to serve as Chair of the Kings County Democratic Committee.
Bichotte-Hermelyn was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York to Haitian immigrants, and attended public schools, graduating from LaGuardia High School. She has a B.S. in electrical engineering from SUNY Buffalo, a B.S. in mathematics in secondary education and a B.T. in electrical engineering from Buffalo State College, an M.B.A from Northwestern University, and an M.S. from the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Prior to public service, Bichotte-Hermelyn was an engineer working in Japan and China.
In the Assembly, she serves as Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs).
Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Assembly Majority Leader
Peoples-Stokes serves as Majority Leader of the New York State Assembly and represents the 141st Assembly District, which includes portions of the city of Buffalo. Peoples-Stokes attended Buffalo State College, where she earned her B.S. degree in elementary education and master’s degree in student personnel administration.
She served as a member of the Erie County Legislature representing the 7th District from 1993 to 2002. In 2000, Peoples-Stokes, a member of the powerful political organization known as Grassroots, and at the time the Majority Leader of the Erie County Legislature, Peoples-Stokes against powerful incumbent Deputy Speaker, the Assemblyman Arthur O. Eve. The race was described by The New York Times as the toughest election contest of Eve’s political career. Peoples-Stokes’s Democratic primary election challenge was almost successful, and it was widely credited with energizing minority voters to elect Byron Brown as a New York State Senator.
Peoples-Stokes was elected to the State Assembly in November 2002, after Eve’s retirement. She ran uncontested in the November 2008 and November 2010 general elections. On December 17, 2018, Peoples-Stokes was appointed Majority Leader of the New York State Assembly, becoming the first woman and first African American to serve in the role.
Jessica Ramos, State Senator
Jessica Ramos represents the 13th State Senate District, which includes the Queens neighborhoods of Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and parts of Astoria and Woodside.
Ramos was born at Elmhurst Hospital and raised in Queens, the daughter of Colombian immigrants. She graduated from the Academy of American Studies and attended Hofstra University before working in the office of Hiram Monserrate.
Ramos served as the director of Latino media from April 2016 to December 2017. She previously served as communications adviser to the deputy mayor for strategic policy and initiatives. Prior to that, she was the communications director for Build Up NYC. She has also done communications work with a local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and a regional branch of the Service Employees International Union.
In January 2018, Ramos challenged Jose Peralta, a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference, in the Democratic Party primary election. Ramos defeated Peralta and won the general election. In the Senate, Ramos is serving as the chair on the Committee on Labor.