Sunday, September 05, 2010

In race for State Committee in the 52nd: Jo Anne Simon (finally) takes gloves off; also, Lopez candidate gains as Owens, Strauss vie for reform votes

A year after it really mattered, Jo Anne Simon has directly gone after the candidate endorsed by Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez.

This time it's for re-election to her unpaid position as State Committeewoman, or Female District Leader (Democratic) for the 52nd Assembly District (represented by Joan Millman). The vote will be during the primary election on September 14.

Like a couple of other races, it is essentially (as the Brooklyn Paper described) a referendum on Lopez, the political powerhouse, who, among other things, ensured that a new law toughening subsidies for affordable housing would not apply to Atlantic Yards. (The developer's argument was that the project was planned under the assumption 421-a subsidies would be available.)

And unlike the race for Male District Leader, in which the presence of two reformers should help the Lopez candidate, this one's one-on-one.

Jo Anne Simon Committee

What do district leaders do? Help pick the party's chairman, help pick judges--a real opportunity for patronage--hire poll workers, and help get candidates on the ballot.

Keeping the gloves on

Last year, while Simon and fellow reform candidates in the 33rd Council District (three from Brownstone Brooklyn) engaged in endless debates, Lopez aide Steve Levin worked hard, built his base in the Williamsburg part of the district, and, though gaining little more than a third of the vote, won by a good margin.

Simon didn't directly go after Levin, and without an instant runoff voting (IRV) system that allows voters to rank their preferences, the fact that most voters essentially opposed Lopez and Levin wasn't meaningful.

Taking the gloves off

Now Simon's going directly after Hope Reichbach, described in the mailer above, as having "no record of reform and too-close ties to Party insiders." Reichbach works for Levin.

Along with her running mate, Stephen Williamson, Reichbach has a good number of endorsements, including Borough President Marty Markowitz and Wyckoff Gardens tenant leader Charlene Nimmons, head of an Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatory, Public Housing Communities.

Reichbach's issues page offers a saccharine description of the importance of political engagement; there's no mention of Lopez. (She told the Daily News that "I recruited myself.")

The Male District Leader race

Reichbach's running mate, Williamson, also worked on Levin's campaign. He was set to challenge incumbent Alan Fleishman, a Lopez foe.

But Fleishman has since withdrawn, which has set up an interesting situation. Simon's mailer says that Jesse Strauss has "taken Fleishman's place on the ballot," which isn't quite true.

Strauss, a CB2 member and a member of the executive committee of the Independent Neighborhood Democrats (IND), has been endorsed, as has Simon, by Joan Millman and the IND.

Chris Owens, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2006 and has a long history of activism challenging Atlantic Yards (among other things), got endorsements from the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (of which he was once president) and the Lambda Independent Democrats.

In such obscure races on a primary day with no major race to bring voters to the polls--the biggest statewide contest is the Attorney General primary--the candidates understandably want most to get voters out in the first place.

But without IRV, Strauss and Owens should be doing their best to remind reform-minded voters not merely that they are reformers, but that only one of them has the best chance to beat the candidate favored by Lopez and Markowitz.

(By the way, the race for Female District Leader in the 57th Assembly District is getting rather tabloid, at least according to The Local.)
Simon 2

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