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District Leader races: Lopez issue gets more play in Voice than Brooklyn Paper; an Orwellian mailing in the 52nd; a debate tonight in the 57th

There a primary election Tuesday, with some hard-fought races, especially on the District Leader level.

So what does the Brooklyn Paper put on the quite-diverse front page (right) of its new issue? Tabloid stuff, mostly, stories to get people talking but not that address that boring but important issue of power.

So, along with some news, we get a report on the Brooklyn Cyclones (hm, the Cyclones page inside is sponsored by stadium sponsor MCU, which means there's another article), an article about kickball (!), and a story plus major graphics about an all-insect dinner.

The editorial page? No endorsements, but a safe enough stand for religious tolerance.

There's a full page ad about using the new voting machines. On page 12, there's an Election Guide that takes up about one-third of a page, with brief descriptions of contested legislative races, but not District Leader races.

(It's the first mention, as far as I can tell, of the 18th District Senate primary between incumbent Velmanette Montgomery and challenger Mark Pollard; I'll have more on that race Monday. I should note that my local edition of the Courier-Life, does mention one District Leader race, as shown below, so it's possible zoned editions of the Brooklyn Paper address them. But this edition is zoned for the 52nd District, more or less.)

The District Leader races

And, while the Brooklyn Paper in May led by explaining that some District Leader races (for Democratic Party committees in each Assembly District) include candidates allied with or opposed to Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez, that gets ignored in this issue.

That's dismaying, because there's a smaller ad from the Independent Neighborhood Democrats warning, "Tell the Party Bosses to Stay Out of Brownstone Brooklyn."

The State Committee Members endorsed are Jo Anne Simon and Jesse Strauss. On the Brooklyn Heights Blog, Simon Wednesday wrote a blistering post explaining what's at stake:
The recent unrest in County politics has been punctuated by certain key races and who the 52nd supported. For example, we supported reform Judge Margarita Lopez-Torres for reelection to the Civil Court and two years later, for Surrogate Judge. This is only a bone of contention because years earlier, Judge Lopez-Torres refused to hire a newly-minted lawyer to be her law clerk – a position usually going to those with a minimum of 3-5 years of legal experience. The Party tried to intimidate her into making the hire. She wouldn’t; incurring the eternal wrath of the recent grad’s father – Assembly member Vito Lopez. (Read about this in New York State Board of Elections v. Lopez-Torres.)

But someone did hire her — Civil Court Judge Gustin L. Reichbach, who the following year was elevated to a spot on the NYS Supreme Court. Now, Reichbach’s daughter, Hope – fresh out of college – is running for District Leader. Who could doubt she would be a solid vote for Lopez? Progressive politics? New ideas? Not so much.
The other reform candidate in the 52nd, for Male District Leader, is Chris Owens. While he has endorsements from more political clubs, Strauss has an ad in the paper, and it's all about turnout. Let's see if Owens and Strauss split the reform vote and, in the absence of instant runoff voting, allow Lopez candidate Stephen Williamson to get through.

An Orwellian mailing

Yesterday, I just got a rather Orwellian mailing from the joint campaign of Williamson and Reichbach, which not only pledged they'd work on education, parks, transportation, and environment--as if they're Council candidates, work outside the scope of the unpaid job--but also claimed:
For years the 52nd Assembly District has suffered because its District Leaders were more interested in old party politics than new ideas. Hope Reichbach and Stephen Williamson are about energy, passion, independence, and fresh progressive thinking.

(Well, here's Reichbach's response to Simon's blog post, criticizing the incumbent for ignoring some issues and claiming Simon was, until recently, "pro-Atlantic Yards." As a commenter states, that's false. Simon, as a BrooklynSpeaks stalwart, was in the "mend it don't end it" camp, which isn't support.)

From the Courier Life

The Brooklyn Paper's sibling, the Courier-Life chain, in my local (Park Slope) edition does offer a summary of the District Leader race in the 52nd. (Click to enlarge)

While the summaries do set out the battle between reformers and regulars, they also can be questioned. For example:
Reichbach was criticized for mentioning her supposedly apolitical dad in ads, while Simon has been chided for claiming that Reichbach is too young for the job.
Are those alleged "sins" of equal measure?

Other reform races

This week, the Village Voice's Tom Robbins explains what's at stake in the 50th Assembly District and 53rd Assembly District in the District Leader races:
Since [Lopez] took over, he has used the party's biggest remaining clout—the ability to name judges—to put friends and cronies on the bench, regardless of ability or experience. His girlfriend's brother now sits on State Supreme Court, as does a disgraced former Councilman named Noach Dear who never practiced law. Last year, he put one of his oldest friends on the Civil Court, even though she was found unqualified by two bar associations. Since the courts are where New Yorkers go in pursuit of justice, this is not unimportant territory. Still, the party's district leaders rubber-stamped these moves, and for good reason. Most hold political jobs. One vote the wrong way and they could lose them.

Fortunately, even party bosses still must hold elections, and next week Lopez will find out if these nervy kids who came calling two years ago are as good at organizing as they claimed. One contest is taking place in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, where a leader of the New Kings Democrats named Lincoln Restler is running for the local district leader post. Restler, a Brooklyn native who works for the city helping poor people manage their funds, is up against a Lopez-backed candidate named Warren Cohn, whose father, Steve, held the seat for 27 years. Steve Cohn put his position to work by winning more lucrative court appointments from judges he helped elect than anyone else in Brooklyn. Restler, a tousle-headed young man with horn-rimmed glasses, says his race is about "building a new progressive coalition." It also wouldn't hurt, he adds, if he beats Lopez "right in his backyard."

There is a challenge in Lopez's front yard as well. In Bushwick, a 32-year-old man named Esteban Duran is running with the support of the New Kings Democrats for Lopez's own district leader post.
Also running with Restler is Kate Zidar.

Other media

See more commentary from Errol Louis in the Daily News

Room 8's Gatemouth observes that the press isn't necessarily at fault, citing the 52nd Assembly District race between Joan Millman and challenger Doug Biviano:
Even article after article of constant attention in the local press would not win Biviano, a janitor, a seat in the Assembly representing Brooklyn Heights. What might win it for him is mail and the elbow grease of door knocking. When the press (though generally not the dailies) sees evidence of that, they do tend to show some interest, and in actuality, Biviano has done better than many. Last year, Biviano’s Council race got a him a full blown in the Observer, when that Paper had previously refused to acknowledge any of the race's serious candidates, except for Vito Lopez’s handpicked choice Steve Levin. (Biviano ran six in a field of seven, but was by far the most aggressive in attacking the only candidate who could have beaten Levin)...

Moreover, even with the limited number of primaries to cover, resources, which have diminished with each passing year, are such that covering every race is probably beyond the capabilities of the dailies. They will sometimes cover a race, but only after triage ascertains that it meets certain metrics.
I think the District Leader races actually have crossed that boundary.

Through the looking glass

WNYC political reporter Azi Paybarah told Capital NY that the races could be confusing:
Anti-machine insurgents and vestiges of the Obama-inspired new-politics people versus the Vito Lopez/Brooklyn Democratic machine. The best part of that fight is that Lopez is employing trojan horses: nice, clean-cut, young people allied with him to run against old reformers who probably don't know the difference between a tweet and iPad.
Well, the only "old reformer" is Simon, and she seems to be blogging these days.

In the 57th, a debate tonight

I got a message from Medhanie Estiphanos, who ran a distant third last year for the Democratic nomination for the 35th District Council seat, regarding the first debate between the two candidates for Female District Leader in the 57th Election District.

Given that incumbent Olanike Alabi and challenger Renee Collymore have some apparent bad blood, according to the Local, it could be interesting.

At the very least, voters should be informed the candidates' alliances; which elected officials support them, and vice versa; where do they stand on Lopez, etc.

Humble Martial Arts Dojo,
997 Fulton Street (between St. James and Cambridge Place)
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Friday, September 10, 2010


  1. This is by far the most comprehensive analysis of the District Leader races in the 52nd. Thank you Atlantic Yards Report! Chris and I have spent a long, hot, summer educating voters about what is at stake in this race and, thankfully, not going after each other. As long as voters know what Lopez is up to, this reform district will get a reformer.

  2. Thanks for the link to ONE of our stories on the District Leader races, Norman, but you conveniently omitted other pieces from our coverage, which prompted Robbins's Voice subsequent coverage:

    and this editorial:

    And, yes, you are right: The zoned editions of the Courier feature all the local district leader races in easy-to-digest summaries.

    The Brooklyn Paper/Courier-Life

  3. Sure, the Brooklyn Paper has done good coverage in the past. And I linked to the editorial in a previous post.

    But voters aren't walking around this week planning to a megasearch of all Brooklyn Paper coverage.

    If you want to serve the readers regarding these important issues, don't give them bread and circuses on election week.


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