For former governor, presidential nominee and progressive Democrat champion Howard Dean, promises made at parties can get sticky.
Considered the “latest and most famous” Democrat to endorse City Council hopeful Josh Skaller, Dean had to admit Tuesday that he was not just endorsing the former Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats president in the fight for the 39th council district.
He’s endorsing Skaller’s opponent, Brad Lander, as well.
“I thought it was the fair thing to do,” Dean explained, as he recounted how Lander, who had worked on his 2004 presidential campaign, asked for Dean’s endorsement during a party sponsored by Congressman Jerrold Nadler.
When Lander explained that Skaller — who had co−founded Democracy for New York, an offshoot of Dean’s Democracy for America, and had also helped out in his bid for president — was also running for the seat, Dean said that he would stay out of the race.
“But I didn’t realize that this was the district and Josh was the guy,” Dean told over two dozen supporters during the endorsement announcement at Skaller’s 10th Street headquarters, before the two men went out in the rain to hand out Skaller literature at the Seventh Avenue F stop.
When Dean announced that he was going to endorse Skaller, Lander’s camp came calling, wondering about the promise that was made.
“I got on the phone with both camps,” he said. “It was a delicate situation, but I thought it was fair that both of them could use my name. If I had been a little more research oriented and had done my homework, we wouldn’t have had this problem.”
Dean said that both Skaller and Lander’s people were awfully genteel as they fought over his support.
“Neither side said anything bad about the other,” he said. “They would say that their opponent was a good progressive, but they felt they were better.”
While Dean is double dipping in the 39th council district pool, he said that Democracy for America, which he founded with his brother and now consults for, is only backing Skaller.
“[They’re] for Josh and Josh only,” he said.
The double endorsement bombshell did little to deflate Skaller, who was smiling from ear to ear over Dean’s support.
“This is a real honor,” he said when accepting the endorsement. “If it wasn’t for Howard Dean, I would not be here today. Like millions of Americans I was inspired by Governor Dean’s message of reform, by the courage he showed for speaking the truth long before it was popular and his commitment to grassroots democracy. Reform is the order of the day in New York and we need our leaders to stop ignoring the voices of ordinary New Yorkers.”
Skaller was floating so high that he didn’t want anything to sully the moment. When asked about Dean’s double endorsement, all Skaller would say was that he was “excited and happy” that he had received the presidential candidate’s support.
As of this writing, Dean was not scheduled to publicly endorse Lander, who said he was “happy to have the Howard Dean seal of approval.”
“[Dean] is a strong progressive champion and I am proud to be one of the two candidates in the race he is supporting,” Lander said.
Still, even the copacetic conclusion to this conundrum didn’t come without controversy.
Some in Skaller’s camp are convinced that the person who raised the question about the double endorsement at the press conference was a plant from Lander’s people. He had been directed to raise the question so he could tarnish the moment for Skaller, they allege.
Lander refused to comment on the allegation.