As Americans on Monday celebrated the birthday of slain civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Haitian American legislator in New York created history by becoming the first woman and first Caribbean American to be elected chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, otherwise known as the Kings County Democratic Party.
New York State Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, replaced Frank Seddio, 74, who retired last Wednesday as chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.
Bichotte, who is also a Democratic State Committeewoman for the 42nd District, was the first Haitian American in New York City to be elected to the New York State Assembly.
“With a new decade comes the need for a fresh perspective and a commitment to transparency as Brooklyn’s diverse group of District Leaders gathered to determine who would best unify and strengthen the Democratic stronghold in upcoming election cycles,” said Bichotte on Monday soon after her uncontested election. “I thank Frank Seddio for his leadership, service, and effort to unify the party.
“Over the last few years, we have developed mutual respect as colleagues and friends,” she added. “Although we did not agree on every issue, we never lost sight of what matters most – working together to advance the Democratic Party agenda.”
Bichotte said the historic vote, proving that the future of the burgeoning political party is female, “will help increase the number of women — especially women of color — running for and elected to public office across the city and state of New York.”
With Brooklyn Democratic Party comprising people of all backgrounds and all walks of life, the newly-elected chair said “it is more important than ever that our leadership reflects the diverse communities that have kept Brooklyn and our Democratic Party going for decades.”
She noted that more women of color and descendants of immigrants, like her, are running for public office “to amplify the voices of their local communities and add to the public discourse.”
“Moreover, community and grassroots engagement are necessary to increase civic engagement across the borough,” Bichotte said.
From the judicial bench to Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the Mayor of New York, Bichotte said she has weighed in on local and citywide races, “providing critical support in organizing, petitioning, fundraising, canvassing and community outreach.”
Although she has helped elect a number of male candidates to higher office, most notably New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, Bichotte said she has “made it a point to support qualified female candidates.”
Those elected officials comprise, among others, New York State Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James; Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants; New York State Senator Guyanese-born Roxanne Persaud; New York Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Farah N. Louis, the daughter of Haitian immigrants; New York State Assembly Members Latrice Walker, Tremaine Wright, Mathylde Frontus, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, and Diana Richardson, the daughter of Aruban and St. Martin immigrants; and Judges Caroline Cohen, Grenadian Derefim Neckles and Margarita Lopez.
Although she resides in Brooklyn, Bichotte said she has also helped a number of candidates beyond the Kings County lines, including Queens and Nassau counties in New York.
The three-term incumbent in the New York State, who has also served as district leader for 10 years, said has “a record of helping secure campaign victories for progressive candidates and promoting civic engagement” in her local community through voting rights forums and voter registration initiatives.
Last year, she was named among City & State’s Brooklyn Power 100 and Black 100 lists for her effectiveness.
“Given the importance of this year’s presidential election and next year’s municipal elections, I am honored to have been elected as the first female Democratic County Leader in New York City at such a pivotal time,” Bichotte said.
“I want to thank the Kings County Democratic District Leaders for their confidence and partnership as we move forward into a new decade of opportunities to truly transform New York City’s political landscape,” she added.
In the coming weeks, Bichotte said the executive committee and district leaders will convene to discuss the future outlook for the Democratic Party in Brooklyn and effective strategies to win more seats, build up the financial treasury, enact transparency and accountability, and bring about civic engagement throughout the county.
“I want to congratulate Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte on this incredible accomplishment and for her new role at the helm of the Brooklyn Democratic Party,” James said. “For years, I have worked with Rodneyse and witnessed firsthand her commitment to public service and work to uplift communities across Brooklyn.
“As the first woman to be elected to this post, we are sending an important message to all of our communities and encouraging them to become engaged in our civic process, and have a voice in the issues that impact us every day,” she added.
Annette Robinson, female district leader for the 56th Assembly District and vice chair of the Kings County Executive Committee, said she worked with Bichotte in the State Assembly and as district leader, adding that “she has consistently been one of the hardest working elected officials I know.
“She has been instrumental in helping to elect a number of Democrats in Brooklyn,” Robinson said. “As Vice Chair of the Kings County Executive Committee, I look forward to working with Rodneyse as our chairperson.”
Cumbo, who is also Majority Leader in New York City Council, said she was “so happy to congratulate my friend and colleague Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte as Brooklyn’s newest Democratic Party Leader.
“As the first woman to hold this title, I am extremely proud of her leadership and tenacity,” she said. “Rodneyse’s passion and dedication will continue to keep Brooklyn thriving. Well done!”
In describing Bichotte as her “sister, friend, mentor and trailblazer,” Louis said she “could not be more excited to congratulate and celebrate one of the hardest working women in New York State, Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte.
“She has worked tirelessly to close the gender gap through sound policies and in practice — helping (to) elect and elevate more women in public office,” Louis said. “She is an exemplary leader who has always shown her support without reservation, proving time and time again that we are stronger when we uplift each other and work together.
“I am inspired by this historic vote, progressive direction and creation of new opportunities to not only unify but (to) strengthen our borough with the first-ever woman elected as chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party,” she added. “Congratulations to a dear Rodneyse!”