MANHATTAN – An invitation to speak to the Four Freedoms Democratic club— a group of Upper East Side progressives— was supposed to open the door to a chance at a coveted endorsement in the upcoming Assembly District 76 primary election, but instead of a fair opportunity, candidate Patrick Bobilin walked into what appeared to be an ambush by supporters of incumbent Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright.
Thursday night, the Four Freedoms club gathered for their all-important endorsement meeting, where each candidate was given fifteen minutes to speak and take questions to win over members.
Mr. Bobilin was selected to go first and walked the group through his platform with a slide presentation, before accepting questions from club members.
“If you don’t mind, Jerry, I’d like to call on people,” Bobilin asked.
“We generally call on them in order…” said Four Freedoms Club President Jerry Ferguson before being cut off.
Former City Council candidate Kim Moscaritolo— who would reveal herself to be a staunch Rebecca Seawright supporter during the closed portion of the meeting— quickly chimed in to request they follow their normal procedure.
“I think we should do it the way we’ve done it for other candidates, no?” said Moscaritolo, inserting herself into the discussion despite not being an event host.
Since Mr. Ferguson agreed to stick to the normal procedure, Bobilin, a former public school teacher, made a point to note he would not answer questions from current or former staffers, volunteers or family members of Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright.
That’s because among the Four Freedoms Democratic Club’s members present at last night’s meeting, was at least one prominent Seawright campaign volunteer as well as the Assembly Member’s own husband— who took issue with that characterization during the closed portion of the meeting.
“I would just like to say for the record, I am a dues paying member of this club,” said Assembly Member Seawright’s husband Jay Hershenson, “I am an individual and I have a name.”
Meanwhile, that ‘normal’ procedure for the question-and-answer session included two legitimate questions, about MTA costs and nuclear energy, before the meeting was derailed by a member who told a calm and composed Mr. Bobilin he was too angry— then asked, “can you be less angry?”
“I am angry about injustice, I’m angry that we have abusers in office. I’m angry that my assemblywoman didn’t speak out against Governor Cuomo,” Patrick Bobilin told the group.
“If you’re not angry, I ask you to do some soul searching why,” the community organizer added.
“My anger is passion that’s motivated toward justice.”
Next up, Four Freedoms President Jerry Ferguson called on member Peter Patch to ask a question, in a decision that at-best could be called questionable, given Mr. Patch’s long history with Bobilin.
As Upper East Site previously reported, Seawright’s team sued Mr. Bobilin in 2020 to get the candidate removed from the ballot in the race against Assembly Member Seawright.
That suit was filed by Peter Patch, who initially lost in a lower court ruling before prevailing in getting Mr. Bobilin booted from the ballot with an appellate court decision.
Mr. Ferguson defended his group’s actions in an interview with Upper East Site Friday afternoon.
“We followed the same procedure we always follow,” said Jerry Ferguson.
“When questions are asked, I call on people in the order they ask their questions.”
Peter Patch was also seen in videos in 2020 seemingly shadowing Bobilin as he worked to get signatures for his petition to run— apparently attempting to get duplicate signatures for Assembly Member Seawright’s campaign petition— which would nix them from being counted at all, per Board of Elections rules.
Despite all that, Four Freedoms Democratic Club members pressed for Bobilin to allow Mr. Patch to ask a question— understandably frustrating the candidate— though a question was never asked.
“If [Mr. Patch] would have asked an inappropriate question I would have moderated him,” Ferguson told Upper East Site.
“But he was never given the opportunity to ask his question.”
The back-and-forth over Mr. Patch would monopolize Mr. Bobilin’s time.
Assembly Member Seawright then laid out her accomplishments and agenda— taking a swipe at Bobilin and the lawsuit by Mr. Patch over residency requirements for political candidates.
“Ballot access is central to our democracy, including being a resident of the State of New York!” Assembly Member Seawright declared, raising her hand in the air as she spoke.
Seawright then took only one question from a single club member.
After that, both candidates were asked to leave so that members could privately discuss the presentations— though Seawright’s husband, who is a member of Four Freedoms, was allowed to stay despite the clear conflict of interest.
“He is a member of the club, there are other members of the club closely associated with Patrick,” said Mr. Ferguson.
Once the meeting was closed, some Four Freedoms Democratic Club members spoke harshly about Bobilin, though others called for a ‘no endorsement’ vote.
The club voted overwhelmingly to endorse Assembly Member Seawright’s reelection campaign.
The primary election pitting challenger Patrick Bobilin against incumbent Rebecca Seawright is scheduled for Tuesday, June 28, 2022.