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Black leaders decry lack of Democratic endorsement of Justice Michele Woodard

Attorney Fred Brewington sits at his Hempstead office

Attorney Fred Brewington sits at his Hempstead office on Aug. 8, 2014. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Black leaders who met Friday to back state Supreme Court Justice Michele M. Woodard for re-election expressed dismay and bitterness at the Nassau Democratic Party's intent not to endorse Woodard, the only African-American ever elected to the post on Long Island.

Hempstead attorney Frederick Brewington criticized Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs for making a deal with Republicans to cross endorse two of their candidates in exchange for GOP endorsement of Democrat Sharon Gianelli, a Nassau District Court judge who is black. Justices serve 14-year terms.

"It's unheard of for the incumbent not to be renominated," Brewington said at the African-American Museum in Hempstead, where a breakfast was held in support of Woodard.

Jacobs responded that Woodard is not a Democrat.

"She was a Liberal Party candidate 131/2 years ago, and we supported her . . . in a cross-endorsement deal with the Liberal Party. Look, she had 13 years to become a Democrat and didn't.

"It's my job to get Democrats elected, and I don't think she's electable as a Democrat, and Republicans won't cross endorse her. That's reality," he said.

About 40 people attended the Hempstead breakfast, representing organizations including the Nassau County Economic Opportunity Commission, a county agency that focuses on poverty; the Leadership Training Institute, a nonprofit that seeks to develop leadership skills in the black community; and the nonprofit National Council Of Negro Women Inc., Long Island Cross County, which helps women improve their quality of life.

Woodard, 59, of Westbury, said she had expected to serve another 14 years. "I think I'm good at the job, and I work very hard to be fair," she said. "I was perplexed when I started hearing I would not be nominated."

Brewington urged a write-in vote for Woodard if necessary. "If . . . our community does not vote for anybody else but Woodard, we will send a message."

The breakfast followed a short video of Thursday's morning prayer at the opening session of the House of Representatives by visiting chaplain the Rev. Seretta McKnight of the Union Baptist Church in Hempstead, who was invited by outgoing Rep. Carolyn McCarthy and spoke of having spirituality in Congress.

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