Battle lines drawn in Democratic leadership race

They may not concur as to who should be the male Democratic district leader in the 60th Assembly District going forward, but the two candidates for the position agree that the race will be a “cordial” one.

Both the current District Leader, Ralph Perfetto, and his challenger, Kevin Peter Carroll, are going into the race on a positive note, even as Carroll positions himself as a future leader stepping up now, and Perfetto points to a long history of past accomplishments that, he believes, are reason enough for his re-election to the post.

“I consider him a friend,” averred Carroll, though, he added, “I am looking forward to a cordial but spirited race. It’s nothing new to me to run in an election, but I intend to win.”

“He said he reached out to me,” Perfetto remarked. “I remember one phone call and the next thing I knew, he had filed to run against me. It’s going to be a gentleman’s race,” he added.

Then, citing an email that Carroll’s campaign had sent when he made his candidacy official, Perfetto noted, “He had nice things to say about me, but there was no reference to my record. He referred to the fact that he’s the new generation. I guess I’m over the hill.”

Carroll, indeed, is one of the youngest activists in the neighborhood, at 23. And, he’s no novice to the political scene, having snagged the presidency of Brooklyn Democrats for Change, a local club, when he was 20. But, it wasn’t his peers who had carried him over the finish line. “I won it on the senior vote,” Carroll recalled.

Nonetheless, he says one of his goals is to make sure there is a new generation of activists ready to take over as the current generation bows out.

“I’m very concerned about what the future is going to look like in the Bay Ridge area and Brooklyn as a whole,” Carroll said. “It seems legislative bodies are almost in dysfunction, not because of our leaders here but it’s the nature of things and we don’t have leaders out there pushing issues, whether clean water or not allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores.”

“People say I’m a future leader,” Carroll went on. “I’m a leader today. It’s going to be people like me who take Bay Ridge and Brooklyn into the future and keep people active.” With fewer people involved, Carroll went on, “I’m trying to get younger people involved in organizations.”

Perfetto, for his part, says he is content to, “let my record speak for itself. My constituent services I will put up against anybody’s. There have been so many things that I have worked on.”

With decades of advocacy and leadership under his belt – including 33 years with the Bay Ridge Mental Health Council, which he has been president of since 1987, and 19 years as a member of the board of the South Beach Psychiatric Center, which he has been president of since 1998 – Perfetto stressed, “If people feel I still have the energy to do the job, they’ll elect me. If they feel Kevin can do a better job, they’ll elect him.”

His longevity should work in his favor, Perfetto opined, recalling that when he considered running for the City Council back in 1977, he had “only lived in Bay Ridge for nine years, and they looked on me as an outsider.”

While Carroll is gearing up for the race against Perfetto, he told this paper that he had been hopeful that Perfetto would have supported his candidacy. “He told me a while back that he was going to support me, but that changed around October,” Carroll said, noting that, previously, Perfetto had told him that the current term would be his last.

“That changed recently, though he admitted to me he remembered the conversation we had,” Carroll went on.

In fact, Perfetto told this paper that he was running, at least in part, because of a commitment he had made. “Even if I wanted to retire,” he said, “I made a personal promise to stay in at least through December, 2010.”