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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Saturday, September 25, 2010

    Brooklyn Primary Night Roundup and its Aftermath

    Over the years I have cataloged the decline and then recovery of corrupt Party Boss Vito Lopez. His big ticket judicial candidates (e.g. both Surrogate Judge positions) lost to candidates backed by the reform movement that seeks to be Vito's nemesis, though probably is usually more of a nuisance to Vito because it serves as its own nemesis. Vito's prominent judicial race losses seemed to signify a decline in his fortunes. That decline seemed halted last year when self-nemesising reformers basically handed Vito one of their city council seats right in the heart of reform territory. Vito's boy Steve Levin seemed to lead a Vito comeback. Of course behind the smiles at Levin's win for the corrupt side was Vito's big loss when he tried to take out former ally turned independent-minded woman Diana Reyna. He lost that one and I bet it still rankles. His hatred for his former ally was so great he even endorsed the WFP candidate over the Democratic candidate (Reyna) even though he is SUPPOSED to be the Democratic Party leader. His hatred for Reyna was even so great he began to threaten other allies who didn't follow his lead against Reyna (like Lew Fidler) with challenges. So even amid victory Vito was suffering defeat. And it is a sign of his perhaps slipping grip that his threats to allies who still supported Reyna were laughed off.

    This year Vito tried to follow up on his Levin win. Among the very, very few District Leaders/State Committeemen who actually stood up to Vito were Jo Anne Simon and Alan Fleishman, whose district overlaps with the City Council district that Vito just won for his boy Levin. So he went gunning for Simon and Fleishman. Sadly, Fleishman, who had been rumbling about retiring for some years, didn't have the heart for a fight so bowed out. Pity. He would have won easily, I believe. But reformer Chris Owens and unwitting or witting tool of the Vito Lopez wannabe Buddy Scotto (he likes to run his club with tactics akin to Vito's) Jesse Strauss played the self-nemesis reformer roles and BOTH stepped up to challenge Vito Lopez's choice Williamson (keep forgetting his first name...it's Steve, but why bother remembering...he lost). Jo Anne Simon also was suffering from the reformer's self-nemesis syndrome in a different way. She had sided with Buddy Scotto in an internal fight and alienated a good number of those who supported her City Council bid. She was the only reformer who was going up against Vito's Hope, so perhaps she realized most people would vote for her anyway, but it reduced the enthusiasm. Furthermore, her insistence of not being associated with Chris Owens (who won last night) meant many who supported Chris Owens felt unable to campaign for Jo Anne Simon.

    All in all, I was sure that the reformers had killed themselves again and Vito was poised to continue his rollover in my neighborhood.

    Chris Owens TROUNCED both Jesse Strauss and What'shisname Williamson. So Scotto and Vito both took a big hit yesterday. Congratulations Chris. Chris ran a low key, low budget campaign. He got the diverse endorsements of Gatemouth (often my personal nemesis and sometime Vito apologist, or so it has seemed), Rock Hackshaw and myself. A trio that should represent broad support but last time we all agreed it didn't work out so well (Josh Skaller for City Council).

    Jo Anne Simon won, but in a much closer race than it should have been. Congratulations Jo Anne. I greatly respect and like Jo Anne Simon. But her alienating of the more progressive of the reformers for no good reason other than to please the ego of Buddy Scotto (whose sole political agenda seems to be controlling IND with an iron fist and not cleaning up the Gowanus Canal). Joan Millman (see below) and Jo Anne Simon went out on limbs for Scotto to support John Heyer for City Council last year and Jesse Strauss this year, toeing a line Buddy Scotto drew for them. In doing so they betrayed one past IND president and scapegoated the then-current president for the club divisions they themselves created. Jo Anne Simon deserved to win both the City Council seat and her current position. But her toeing Buddy Scotto's line was a factor in losing the former and it made the latter much closer than it should have been. Jo Anne...you are better than Buddy. Make him toe the line rather than the other way around. You will do better.

    A third district leader/state committee race also went against Vito Lopez, though this time it was so close it took days to sort out. Lincoln Restler, one of the founders of New Kings Democrats, beat Lopez ally William Cohn by 120 votes.

    Joan Millman had a challenger this year too. But it wasn't a Vito Lopez backed challenger. In fact, it was Doug Biviano, a candidate whose campaign manager is one of Vito Lopez's most avid enemies. Last year I was highly critical of Biviano for coming into the City Council race against Jo Anne Simon and basically pulling a lot of shit out of his ass, lecturing the reform movement on reform as if he was the expert and the rest of us newcomers. He came off like an asshole and alienated many who initially liked his message. Had he stuck with his message and not campaigned mainly by trying to disparage (often based on bullshit) not even the Vito Lopez candidate so much as the front runner reformer, he wouldn't have made so many enemies. And in this year of Jo Anne Simon and Joan Millman alienating so many progressive reformers, he might even have picked up the endorsement of a club like CBID or NKD. But even if many of us were angry at Jo Anne and Joan for their toeing the Scotto line, very few people were willing to back someone as obnoxious and crazy seeming as Biviano. But let me give some credit here to Biviano and Gary Tilzer: they did far better than I expected against Joan...and far better than they should have. Biviano got almost 27% of the vote. I predicted he wouldn't break 20% and thought I was being generous. But he beat my expectations and deserves credit for it. Biviano worked his ass off for that 27%, though he also was helped by the fact that Joan, like Jo Anne, threw so many supporters under the bus to feed the ego of Buddy Scotto. Now I greatly respect and like Joan Millman. But Joan: you are MUCH better than Buddy and would have done even better than you did had you not pushed so many supporters away and scapegoated Lowey for the divisions the Scottos caused. Joan Millman, even more than Jo Anne Simon, should be making Buddy Scotto toe the line rather than the other way around. Joan earned herself a challenge from the left over the past 2 years. I am glad she won, but she is lucky that she only had Biviano to beat. I wonder if Biviano's relatively good showing will encourage others, perhaps more savvy and better funded to try next time. I suggest mending some fences, Joan.

    The last race in my neighborhood was also good news. Velmanette Montgomery, my State Senator, soundly trounced the Hedge Fund Shill Pollard despite the tons of money Hedge Fund execs poured into the race. Velmanette Montgomery is one of the best State Senators in the state, and though that may be damning with faint praise, she is good by any standards. The bills she sponsors are excellent and her voting record is pretty much 100%. Integrity won out over greed in this race.

    One thing I should note is that this was, in addition to being a beating for Vito Lopez, was a big win for the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats. Most of their endorsed candidates who had ANY chance of winning actually won.

    I should also note that brawling jerk Kevin Parker (I'm ready to duck now) won over Wellington Sharpe. I have met Sharpe several times and like him. Pity he didn't have what it took to take out the bad boy of Brooklyn politics, Kevin "Hothead" Parker.

    The outcome of the beating Vito Lopez took could be game changing. He found his authority attacked even in his usually carefully scripted County Committee meeting. The machine was spooked and tried, unsuccessfully, to intimidate the reformers. The reformers, though they were unable to enact any reforms in the end, did maintain a united front while some machine members started showing a tendency to work with the reformers. And my City Councilman, Steve "Vito's Kid" Levin looked distinctly nervous and unhappy after the meeting, having seen that a large percentage of the opposition to his boss Vito came from his district.

    But these aren't Vito Lopez's only woes. He is currently under no fewer than THREE criminal investigations now, including a Federal one. Here are some articles on the various investigations and scandals:

    Amid allegations, city, state examine $100M annual funding to Bklyn Dem boss Vito Lopez's empire

    Friends of Vito Lopez have a leg up when it comes to jobs as judges, even if 'unqualified'

    Probe finds Brooklyn Dem Vito Lopez's non-profit empire riddled with fraud

    Things are changing in Brooklyn, and clubs like CBID and NKD are leading the way. I would in fact like to highlight four clubs, including a brand new one, that you can join to help bring that change to Brooklyn.

    First I want to mention the club that has led the reform fight the longest with the most dedication...and which my wife, Joy, is an officer in. Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats.

    CBID is among the most unabashedly liberal as well as reform of the local clubs. It mainly covers the 52nd and 44th Assembly districts but often gets involved in other areas as inclination permits. Furthest left, old school liberal and always reform. Their meetings are the ones where politicians get asked the toughest questions. Comptroller John Liu has claimed it was the toughest club to face and Vito Lopez crony Hope Reichbach refused to talk to them because she was afraid of them. Sometimes dogmatic in their liberalism, they still are one of the most respected clubs and played a major role in recent events.

    Next I'd like to highlight a major newcomer: Lincoln Restler's New Kings Democrats

    NKD grew out of the local Obama campaign and remain somewhat raw and inexperienced. Still, they have achieved amazing things in a short time. I think they still have a lot to learn, but they have been learning fast and though they are not yet considered one of the top reform clubs, I predict they will be soon. After last night, where they led the charge closely backed by CBID, they deserve considerable respect...particularly if Lincoln Restler, one of their leaders, actually in the end succeeds in defeating the machine candidate. MAJOR kudos to NKD...I am considering joining if I can find my way to their meetings. As far as I know, they are Brooklyn wide, though they have focused on the 52nd, 50th and 53rd Assembly districts to date. With some money and expansion, they could do wonders.

    Next I'd like to mention one of the less rowdy but still powerful clubs: Lambda Independent Democrats.

    Issue rather than geography oriented, their main focus is LGBT, but they also almost always focus on reform candidates...with some exceptions. I witnessed their power in one judicial race where a series of Lambda voters came out at the end of the night for a particular candidate in opposition to a candidate who had done work for the anti-marriage equality movement and I was impressed. When they want to they can get out the vote big time. They played a smaller role in the reform victories of late, but still an important role. When other reform clubs are divided, it is often Lambda that determines who wins. Theoretically city wide, but their main focus is Brooklyn. NKD and CBID tend to lead the progressive/reform fight but Lambda often provides the important muscle and pragmatism that the others need.

    Next I want to highlight a brand new club led by some great people in a critical district: Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform

    I know at least the key people starting this club and it is a neighborhood that has been ripe for expansion of the reform movement for some time. I am kicking myself because I realize I just missed their very first meeting. I don't find a website yet but if anyone lives in the Prospect Heights neighborhood, now is the time to get involved, Let me know and I can connect you with the organizers. I will try to donate and join if/when I can because I know they can be a great addition to the reform mix if they can get off the ground...and I think one of the things we can do as reform Democrats is help them get off the ground. Email me if you are interested in this club. Or attend their next meeting:

    Sunday, October 17th
    Duryea Presbyterian Church
    362 Sterling Place (at Underhill)

    Please contact Ede at edefox6@yahoo.com for more info


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