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Changing lanes

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg in December.

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg in December. Credit: AFP via Getty Images / Jeff Kowalsky

Daily Point

Bloomberg looking better than Biden

Joe Biden is leaving New Hampshire before the votes are counted Tuesday night, heading to South Carolina in an urgent move to shore up his position in a state that is make-or-break for his presidential bid.

But his expected poor finish in New England and the whiff of campaign death in recent polls is spurring some Long Island and New York City elected officials eager to pivot from Biden to Michael Bloomberg even before the vice president’s viability is tested in the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29, The Point has learned.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook since Iowa,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, one of the first elected officials in New York to endorse Bloomberg. Bellone is hosting a women-for-Bloomberg event on Wednesday night at a home in Smithtown and, unlike other candidates’ events, no donations are expected or will be solicited. 

Rep. Gregory Meeks, who is chair of the Queens County Democratic Party, is likely to endorse Bloomberg before the South Carolina vote, a big blow to Biden, who is counting on support from African-Americans to keep his campaign alive. Asked for comment, a Meeks spokesman said, “The Congressman is carefully considering his options and will announce shortly.”

Other Point sources said internal New York polls show Bloomberg is ahead of Biden, who has been a candidate for moderate Democrats. 

Expect State Sen. John Brooks to come out in support of the former New York City mayor in the next few days, and Sen. Anna Kaplan, another member of the Long Island delegation to Albany, soon after that. Sen. Todd Kaminsky has already endorsed Bloomberg, who is popular in the suburbs.

New York is important to Bloomberg’s chances if he is to have a shot at winning the nomination. With a big harvest of delegates in New York — the state has the second-biggest yield of them after California — New York could stop anyone from securing the nomination before the Democrats' July convention in Milwaukee.  

—Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli

Tongue-tied

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Final Point

Drama in LD15

The well-orchestrated game of musical chairs that led to an opening in the Suffolk County Legislature’s 15th District started not long after Election Day last year. 

The announcement of incumbent DuWayne Gregory’s move to the Babylon Town board came in early December, a shift made possible by board member Jackie Gordon moving aside to run for New York’s 2nd Congressional District. In a Dec. 12 Newsday article, county Democratic leader and Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said the likely nominee for Gregory’s old seat was Jason Richberg, Gregory’s former chief of staff.

Yet the Facebook page “RichbergForSuffolk” had been created a month earlier, on Nov. 12, weeks before the news that Gregory would vacate the seat.  

Richberg said the page had been created but not yet activated after Election Day because he knew Gregory would be term-limited for 2021. He was reserving the page for then and wanted “to be ready to hit the ground running.”

He was not the only person interested in the seat. Jackie Duodu-Burbridge of Copiague said she had considered a run for office to be “a natural progression” in her career in nonprofits on Long Island. But she only learned about the early seat opening in that December Newsday article, the same one that included Schaffer labeling Richberg as the “likely nominee.” 

Duodu-Burbridge, who ended up seeking and winning the Working Families Party’s line, said she is skeptical that Richberg would have been getting the Facebook page started two years early. 

“It takes three seconds to set up a Facebook page,” she said, adding that she quickly put up hers only after receiving the WFP nod. 

Duodu-Burbridge said she reached out to Schaffer and talked about ways the community “could and should be able to get involved in the process” with openings like these. 

Schaffer defended the process, saying in an email that it ended up being a “caucus of the Democratic Committee people who live in the district since there is no primary or petition process for the recognized party lines.” 

No potential candidates besides Richberg were involved in the Jan. 18 caucus at Babylon Dems HQ, said Schaffer. And Duodu-Burbridge said she didn’t ask Schaffer for a chance for the Democratic line: "I was convinced that they knew who their person was going to be."

So now she’s putting together a WFP-supported run against the favored Democratic candidate, which is reminiscent of a recent intra-party feud when Liuba Grechen Shirley faced off against Schaffer’s favored candidate, Gregory, in the 2018 CD2 primary. 

Grechen Shirley won the primary but lost to Rep. Pete King in the general. Now she has a political action committee called Vote Mama, which has endorsed Duodu-Burbridge for the March 10 special election. 

“The days of the Long Island machine controlling this town are coming to an end — and Jackie will help get us there,” Grechen Shirley said in a statement.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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