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…And in North Brooklyn — Restler upsets Vito’s man - Brooklyn Paper

…And in North Brooklyn — Restler upsets Vito’s man

Meet the new boss? Insurgent Democratic District Leader hopeful Lincoln Restler celebrated on Tuesday night at Teddy’s after he appeared to squeak out a victory over a rival backed by the party’s Brooklyn boss, Vito Lopez. For full coverage, see page 3.
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short

The biggest news in North Brooklyn was in a race for one of the smallest seats: Insurgent reformer Lincoln Restler narrowly leads Warren Cohn for district leader as voters were split between two twenty-something candidates pitted on opposite sides of the county’s reform movement. Here’s all the news that’s fit to print on a tight, caffeine-aided deadline (all results reflect 100 percent of the precincts reporting):

District Leader

Lincoln Restler, 50.12 percent

Warren Cohn, 49.88 percent

Linda Minucci, 42.8 percent

Kate Zidar, 32.7 percent

50th Assembly District (Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Fort Greene)

The most-watched State Committee race in Brooklyn was too close to call on Wednesday morning, as a mere 19 votes separate Lincoln Restler from Warren Cohn — with nearly 1,000 ballots left to count.

Both candidates and their campaign staff were camped out at the Board of Elections headquarters in Manhattan, where workers prepared to certify the preliminary count.

As of 1:45 am on Wednesday, unofficial poll numbers had Restler narrowly ahead, with 50.12 percent of the vote to Cohn’s 49.88 percent. But scores of ballots remain outstanding, including emergency and absentee ballots, which have not been counted.

Neither candidate is ceding any ground, as Restler’s camp said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome and Cohn’s team claimed that significant numbers of emergency ballots in precincts leaning towards its candidate remained uncounted.

“We know what’s in, we know what’s outstanding, and we’re pretty confident in the outcome,” said Restler, at his post-election party at Teddy’s Restaurant in Williamsburg, early on Wednesday.

Cohn’s campaign manager Noah Marcus expressed that the results may not be known officially for several days, due to the fact that several electronic voting scanners overheated in late afternoon in a South Williamsburg polling site, causing emergency ballots to be filed.

Sources in both camps acknowledged that the male state committee race could even lead to a protracted court battle regarding the malfunctioning machines, regardless of the outcome tabulated this week.

Cohn himself called us to say it ain’t over.

Details regarding the female state committee race began to emerge this morning, as it appears that incumbent District Leader Linda Minucci won her race, beating Restler-ally Kate Zidar by about 400 votes.

Unofficial numbers tabulated by poll watchers had Minucci with 42.8 percent of the vote, while Zidar received 34.7 percent and a third candidate, Jasmine Velazquez, had 22.4 percent of the vote.

“I won,” Minucci said on Wednesday morning. “So far I’m up by 400 votes. Some emergency ballots are still coming in and we’re pretty sure that the majority of them will be our votes, and I am hopefully optimistic about Warren’s chances, too.”

Congress — Democrats

Rep. Ed Towns, 19,816

Kevin Powell, 8,991

10th District (Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Downtown)

Towns easily defeated his rival, Kevin Powell, who has constantly talked about a youthquake in the district, even as he has never generated traction among voters.

“I see my victory as a vindication, and that the voters want me to go back to Washington and work hard on health care to strengthen it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working very hard.”

Towns is currently the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Powell, the former “Real World” star turned author and public speaker, ran into trouble during the campaign when it was revealed that he owes more than $600,000 in back taxes.

“He may have won tonight, but he did not win the hearts of Brooklyn people,” Powell claimed, vowing to return to challenge Powell in 2012.

Assembly — Democrats

Joe Lentol, 5,138

Andre Soleil, 1,308

50th District (Greenpoint, Williamsburg)

North Brooklyn voters rewarded Assemblyman Joe Lentol with another term with an 80-20 percentage win over two-time challenger Andre Soleil.

Soleil, an attorney and a Williamsburg resident, ran a negative campaign that criticized Lentol for contributing to Albany’s incessant gridlock and not addressing the needs of the southern part of his district.

But the goodwill for Lentol built up over three generations particularly among Hasidic voters in South Williamsburg, Italian sections of Williamsburg, and Polish neighborhoods in Greenpoint remained immense.

And his record passing the first meaningful reforms for mandatory drug sentencing in two decades while distributing a bevy of funds to constituent groups throughout the district only enforced that benevolence — which translated to support at the voting both.

Lentol will return to Albany, where he has served as a legislator since 1972 and chairman of the assembly’s codes committee since 1992.

Soleil, though he lost the race, has promised to continue his goal of opening a soul food restaurant in Williamsburg, not far from his Kent Avenue home, before Thanksgiving.

District Leader

Vito Lopez, 4,300 (approx.)

Esteban Duran, 1,500

53rd Assembly District (Williamsburg, Bushwick)

Brooklyn’s Democratic Party chairman finally got to throw a party of his own, dismissing a feisty challenge from first-time political candidate, Esteban Duran.

On Tuesday, Lopez barely broke a sweat, defeating Duran in a landslide in the district he has represented since 1984.

“We’re very proud of the work Vito has done in the community and the support from the community has been shown in the outcome today,” said Allison Frost, a campaign volunteer and chief of staff to Lopez (D-Williamsburg).

Much of Lopez’s strength came from election districts in public housing buildings on Bushwick Avenue, senior centers near Wyckoff Avenue, and Rheingold Gardens, an affordable housing complex whose redevelopment was spurred by Lopez and the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council last decade, while Duran won pockets of support in polling sites in the south side Williamsburg neighborhood he has lived for over 30 years.

In August, Duran fended off two legal challenges filed by Lopez to bump him off the ballot for “permeation of fraud” but two courts ruled that there was not enough evidence in the case.

Duran survived the legal battle but could not win the campaign war, as he was overwhelmed by Lopez’s muscular Bushwick organization, which brought nearly 400 volunteers to the streets and spent $21,000 on campaign mail to constituents.

The chairman’s next challenge will be to tame a discordant flock of state committee members, some of whom will be gunning to topple Lopez from his perch.

State committee members will vote for the next party chairman within the month, but Lopez remains confident he will retain his position.

He has little to worry about his day job. Lopez did not face a primary opponent for his assembly seat, and is expected to easily cruise to a 14th term in the state legislature in November.

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