After controversy, angry Heyer bails on ‘rigged’ debate!

John Heyer — is he really a Democrat?

Controversial City Council candidate John Heyer abruptly dropped out of tonight’s political forum, claiming that the event was “rigged” against him because of comments made by “front men for opposing candidates” on The Brooklyn Paper’s Web site yesterday.

Heyer, whose positions against abortion rights and the expansion of civil marriage to include homosexual couples, put out a press release just hours before Tuesday night’s Independent Neighborhood Democrats/Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats debate at Gethsemane Church in Park Slope.

“John Heyer is being attacked by front men for opposing candidates for being a committed Democrat and a person of faith,” the statement said.

Heyer was specifically responding to an article posted on Monday on the award-winning BrooklynPaper.com that quoted Independent Neighborhood Democrats President Kenn Lowy as saying that Heyer’s position on abortion and same-sex marriage “calls into question his commitment to the separation of church and state.”

Lowy was joined by Democratic District Leader Alan Fleishman, who supports Bob Zuckerman in the race to succeed Councilman Bill DeBlasio in the Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Windsor Terrace district, in saying that Heyer was too “conservative” to run as a Democrat.

“Let me be clear: John Heyer is a nice guy and a decent fellow, but when it comes to choice and same-sex marriage, his views are much more conservative then those of most IND members,” Fleishman wrote in a letter to club members that was leaked to BrooklynPaper.com on Monday. “John is clearly out of step with the progressive principles of IND and our district.”

Political insiders believe that despite Lowy’s out-front opposition to Heyer, the 27-year-old candidate still has a shot of getting the IND endorsement because he has worked with the club for many years and has strong support with one of the club’s faction.

“I will not be forced out of my club or my party,” Heyer said in the statement. “I began working for the Independent Neighborhood Democrats when I was a teenager. I have been a member of IND since before the other candidates in this race even moved to Brooklyn. I have every right to call upon IND for its support. I have gone everywhere I’ve been invited. But when the allegedly impartial moderator of a forum singles me out for attack, I say: ‘No thank you.’”

In the interest of fair play, The Brooklyn Paper offers Heyer’s full statement below (any typos are Heyer’s):

“It’s extremely unfortunate that some supporters of other candidates have sought to make caricatures of my views, reducing them to ugly extremes. In one sense, these ad hominem attacks are simply the dirty politics we might expect from seasoned operatives in a contentious field of well-funded candidates. But taken another way, these attacks also bear the distinctive whiff of another time: an era when the anti-Catholic politics of fear prevented the immigrants who built our neighborhoods from attaining political power. Of course, we can’t know the real motives of those who mischaracterize my words and beliefs. I can only ask the voters to judge my views on their merits, and not to believe the distortions of those who seek to marginalize my candidacy for their own political gain, no matter the cost.

“First: I am a Democrat. I’m in favor of strong gun control laws and I’m against the death penalty. I’m in favor of progressive taxation and I’m against union busting. I think the fate of our city is inextricably linked to the futures of our blue-collar workers, middle-class families, and mom-and-pop businesses. I believe in growing our great city, and this great borough, in an environmentally sustainable way. I believe that a real investment in our public schools is one we can’t afford not to make. And as a Democrat, I respect others regardless of their positions on difficult subjects.

“With regard to choice: the residents of this district are overwhelmingly pro-choice, and I have pledged to represent them on this issue as Councilman. It’s true that personally I consider myself to be anti-abortion. That doesn’t mean I have any agenda to chip away at the federally-guaranteed rights of women. To the contrary: I supported the Clinic Access Bill, and will continue to support legislation that prevents intimidation, promotes civil discourse, and enforces the law of the land. Like President Obama, I think we also have a responsibility to reduce the number of abortions whenever possible. This is my stance.

“With regard to gay marriage: I am advocating for a wholesale change to the law under which the state would offer legal unions for all couples, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Under this system, “marriages” would be performed only by spiritual institutions, and would carry no legal weight. This would achieve the goal of total marriage equality, while effectively separating church from state, which is the problem I see at the root of this contentious debate. There are those who say this goal is impossible; I respectfully disagree. The point is: I do support total equality of rights for all couples. I only propose a different method. This is my stance.

“I’m running for City Council because I believe that this job, when we cut through all the rhetoric, essentially comes down to a very simple concept: serving the residents of our neighborhoods. We need someone on the Council who understands our neighborhoods — who knows where we’ve been and where we want to go. My family has been here for five generations. I know what hard times have done to the people of this district, and I want to fight to make sure we don’t have to go through that again. My wife Maria and I are expecting our first child. Our family plans to make a home in this neighborhood for the next five generations. That means my commitments to affordable housing, to education reform, to small businesses and to our quality of life are intensely personal.

“My earnest hope is that we can refocus this campaign on the issues really facing the voters of our district: safe streets, open firehouses, good schools, affordable housing, clean parks, and public transportation.”

Meanwhile, the other big news in the race today was the endorsement of Brad Lander, a Park Sloper who runs the Pratt Center for Community Development, by the 30,000-member New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council union. Unions typically set up phone banks for endorsed candidates, but if nothing else, the union said it has 14,000 members in Brooklyn — and it won’t take too many votes to provide the margin of victory in a five-person race.

Other candidates include Josh Skaller, who has been endorsed by CBID, and Gary Reilly.

Candidate debate for pols seeking the 39th council seat (currently held by Bill DeBlasio), Church of Gethsemane [1012 Eighth Ave., between 10th and 11th streets in Park Slope, (718) 855 0345], May 19, 7 pm.

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