Lopez strengthens his ‘Vito’ power with ‘loyal’ lackeys

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Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman Vito Lopez has made a controversial move to bolster his own power base by packing an obscure, but powerful, state committee with unelected loyalists.

Lopez, who is also a longtime assemblyman from Bushwick, has appointed five “at large” state committeemen to an otherwise elected body that is comprised of two “district leaders” from each assembly district in the state.

Lopez filled the new spots with longtime supporters, including former Assemblyman Frank Seddio (D-Bergen Beach) and state Sen. Martin Dilan (D-Bushwick).

As a result of Lopez’s secret move, one longtime critic of the chairman who was planning to run for re-election as district leader dropped out of the race immediately.

“These [at-large committeemen] have been put in place to dilute our position,” said Alan Fleishman, who has represented Brownstone Brooklyn for eight years and was just ramping up his re-election race against Stephen Williamson, a newcomer who is backed by Lopez.

“It was bad enough that [Lopez] had complete control over every single move, but now there are five more seats loyal to him,” Fleishman added.

“There’s really no democracy under Vito. It’s always been his way or the highway, but now you can’t even fight it because he’ll win every vote.”

Lopez’s move to pack the state committee with loyalists began late last year, but needed the blessing of federal Department of Justice, which, since 1968, has reviewed all voting changes in Kings County due to the county’s history of electorial discrimination.

The feds gave approval, though stated in a letter that “the approval does not bar subsequent litigation” — which is likely.

Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Mill Basin), who is also a Democratic district leader, initially objected to Lopez’s power grab, but now is OK with it.

“[Disgraced former party chairman] Clarence Norman wanted to do the same thing, but people like myself and [former Assemblyman] Tony Genovese fought it,” he said. “But now that it’s here, at least Vito has distributed the positions in a reasonably diverse way.”

Other district leaders at large include Ingrid Martin, chief of staff to state Sen. Eric Adams (D–Fort Greene); Henry Bolis, a longtime party loyalist who is currently the president of the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club in Canarsie; and Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D-Williamsburg), who had a falling out with Lopez, but has been mending ties, political sources said.

“I’m not crazy about [the new district leaders],” Fidler said. “Whoever’s in those positions will tend to support the status quo.”

Yet one of the new hand-picked leaders said he’ll remain independent when he’s called to vote.

“[Vito Lopez] and I have a relationship and we have a friendship, but at the same time we represent two different parts of borough,” said Seddio. “I’ve never been someone who voted the way someone tells me to vote. Expect me to vote for what’s good for Brooklyn.”

District leaders are unpaid party officials responsible for collecting candidate petition signatures, finding viable judicial candidates and hiring poll workers on Election Day, but their main job is selecting the party’s county chairman — a post that Lopez apparently wants to keep.

As a result, this year’s contests are turning into a desperate battle for the soul of Brooklyn’s Democratic Party, with loyalists to Lopez squaring off against longtime incumbents, and insurgents preparing to pick off Lopez-backed incumbents. For example:

• In the neighboring 50th Assembly District, Lincoln Restler of the progressive New Kings Democrats, has challenged longtime district leader, and Lopez supporter, Steve Cohn. It now appears that Cohn has dropped out of that race in hopes of having his son succeed him.

• And in the same district as Fleishman, another Lopez-backed newcomer, Hope Reichbach, is challenging anti-Lopez district leader Jo Anne Simon.

• In Bay Ridge, Kevin Peter Carroll is savaging longtime leader Ralph Perfetto on the campaign trail, saying that Perfetto is too close to Lopez.

Lopez wants to retain his job so badly that he’s stacking the deck in his favor, some say.

“Nobody cares about [district leader] jobs except Vito,” said Restler.

Fleishman’s departure from the race does not mean that Williamson has an easy path to victory. Former Council candidates Bob Zuckerman and Gary Reilly, former Congressional candidate Chris Owens and attorney Jesse Strauss have also said they are interested.

Lopez has not returned calls.

Updated 4:03 pm, May 19, 2010: Updated with some more context — and Lew Fidler!
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Reader Feedback

In the Know from Brooklyn says:
Ralph Perfetto, along with Alan Fleishman, Joanne Seminara and Jo Anne Simon, are the only four district leaders who consistently stand-up against the County Leadership.

What twisted little world is Ms. Carroll living in? When you have a man from Syracuse with the worst fake British accent in the history of mankind as your advisor, well, then, I guess that explains that.

Besides packing and ruining a once wonderful progressive Democratic club, what other accomplishments has Ms. Carroll done?
May 17, 2010, 12:09 pm
Moshe Aron Kestenbaum from Williamsburg ODA says:
"The Twisted World of Vito Lopez or how they say in Hungarian "LOPAT" " is the eleventh episode of the the Cat with 9 lives that Vito had till now. But I think that this is it, now he has shown his true colors that he only cares about his ass not the constituents .
May 17, 2010, 1:18 pm
Voter from On The Run says:
May 17, 2010, 1:42 pm
Dav from Greenpoint says:
OH YA… its time to bake the donates… he lost his chance this time, we need somebody with fresh blood working for the communities... he is already to old.....
May 17, 2010, 1:45 pm
Steve from Bushwick says:
its time to vote him out, he is such a trouble maker.........
May 17, 2010, 1:48 pm
Debra says:
We need to take on this monster lopez, let's vote this bum out of bushwick
Vito, need to be out in this years election
May 17, 2010, 11:41 pm
Gail from The South says:
Oh yea Ralph Perfetto is so Independent of Vito Lopez that he has accepted his endorsement and proudly puts it on his website.

He is so Independent of the county organization that every state committeeman and elected official that has ties to Vito is supporting his candidacy including Republican Dov Hikind . When you Lie Down with Dogs your bound to catch flees.

He is so Independent that when he runs his Democratic clubs (that right folks he has founded 2) He runs them with Ralphs Rules and prints petitions with out even having club members endorse first.

Here's a novel idea "In the Know" Why not instead of claiming to know everything why not present fact instead of rumor and innuendo. You are the worst type of blogger someone who tells people how to think and really has nothing to say.
Everyone look up the facts for yourself and you will see that Kevin Peter Carroll is the True Independent Candidate in the race
May 18, 2010, 1:08 am
Voter from Brooklyn says:
Vito Lopez is the best thing that has happened to the Brooklyn Democratic Party in a very long time.

One question I have though is, if not Lopez who else would be able to organize and run the Brooklyn Democratic Party? Simon? Chris Owens? These two has-beens represent the narrowest ends of the Brooklyn political spectrum, and couldn’t even organize either of their respective political clubs for their own previous competitive campaigns, let alone the largest Countywide Democratic Party in the US, so why make it seem like this election is a challenge to Lopez' leadership?

He has the support of the great majority of Brooklyn Democratic Party activists, with the exception of a few small time "reformers" who have made a cottage industry of making big promises and delivering very, very little.
May 18, 2010, 6:52 pm
Bay Ridger from Bay Ridge says:
Gail, you must be a good friend of Kevin Peter or just dumb and unaware of what's gone on in Bay Ridge.

First, Ralph Profetto has oppossed Lopez since the day he took over for Clarence Norman. But Lopez knows who's the best candidate and is Ralph Profetto.

Kevin Peter destoryed Brooklyn Democrats for Change, doesn't fart without his father's approval and is an immature, ignorant child. He's only running for District Leader in the 60th because daddy told him to do it and if you think this kid has any backbone you'd better do the MRI yourself.
May 18, 2010, 7:45 pm
Voter in the 53rd from Williamsburg says:
This isn't regularly updated but it is still fun

Vito is the worst kind of machine politician. He doesn't live in district - he lives in Queens - he is chair of the Housing Committee had has all the housing non-profits and retirement homes up his sleeve and then the paid non-profit staff wheel them up to the polls. He even stooped so low as to oppose Mart Needleman. Running against Vito in a primary is political suicide for a Democrat. I was excited when a Green ran against him in 2004. It made me happy.
May 18, 2010, 8:34 pm
Bay Ridgeite from Bay Ridge says:
If Mr. Carroll is old enough to run for office, is he not old enough to just use one name, or is he so hell bent on not being mistaken for his obnoxious, loudmouth, drunken father?

Mr. Carroll has an agenda people. District leader is a stepping stone and if he finds he "needs" to sidle up to Vito Lopez in the future to further his ambitions, he will, make no mistake about it. This guy is a smug, immature egomaniac.

No fan of Ralph either, the people of the 60th are really screwed in this race.
May 19, 2010, 9:53 am
henrycolon from brooklyn says:
I amtorundistrictleader 2012
Nov. 10, 2011, 11:06 am

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