Siegal drops council bid, endorsed for judgeship

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In an unexpected move, Bernice Siegal dropped out of the race to succeed City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis) and accepted the Queens Democratic Party’s endorsement for a judgeship in the Civil Court of the City of New York.

Her departure left two Democratic candidates — David Weprin, son of former state Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin, and J.D. Thakral — in the running. Philip Sica is running on the Republican ticket.

“It was offered to her because the chairman of the party did not want to see a split within the 23rd Council District,” said Honey Miller, a Democratic district leader and president of the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club.

Miller said her relationship with the Weprin family goes back many years and the Queens Democratic machine did not want to see her bond with the Weprins broken since she was a strong supporter of Siegal, who had been legal counsel to Leffler.

One political insider said when the news broke about the deal that Queens Dem Party boss Tom Manton had brokered with Siegal, the election was over and Weprin had effectively won the seat in the heavily Democratic district, which stretches from Glen Oaks to Jamaica Estates and from Hollis to Little Neck.

Miller said Mike Reich, the Queens Democratic Party’s executive leader, told her the machine would have to support Weprin because he was a district leader. She said it seemed likely her candidate, Siegal, who is a member of the Eleanor Roosevelt club, would have beaten Weprin.

Thus, the county Democrats offered to run Siegel for the civil court post, she said.

“I told them, ‘I am not happy about it. I think she can win and do not want to lose her, but it is Bernice’s decision,” Miller said.

She said at first Siegal turned down the job. But then after discussing it with her husband and Miller, Siegal decided to accept the endorsement.

Miller said she told Siegal the judgeship would be more stable and provide her with the opportunity to spend time with her family. She pointed out that an elected official is constantly campaigning.

“I knew this was an opportunity to provide a high level of public service for New York City, which is what I want to do,” Siegal said. “They provided me with that opportunity.”

The civil court has 120 judges citywide who are elected to 10-year terms at an annual salary of $125,600. There are 16 civil court justices in the borough.

Siegal said she would make sure that she would be one of the finest judges in Queens. Her next step is to obtain enough signatures to get on the November ballot.

Siegal, a lawyer, was a longtime aide to Leffler and for the last few years had worked as his legal counsel. She has also been a tireless worker defending the city’s rent regulations and tenants’ rights.

“It is an exciting opportunity for someone like me to administer justice,” she said.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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