Burning Bushwick! Second anti-Lopez activist files for Espinal Assembly seat

Maybe the third time’s the charm.

Community Board 4 member Cyril Joseph has filed to run for the vacant Assembly seat of now-Councilman Rafael Espinal (D–Bushwick) — following unsuccessful bids against ex-Assemblyman Darryl Towns for the same seat, and against Councilman Erik Dilan for a spot the area’s Democratic district manager.

Towns got Joseph kicked off the ballot in the 2004 primary for failing to collect sufficient signatures from Democrats in the Bushwick-Cypress Hills district, while Dilan defeated him by nearly 1,400 votes in the 2012 contest for the unpaid role of representing the seat in the County Democratic Party.

But with the Assembly seat empty since Espinal, Dilan’s protege, stepped down to take his mentor’s old Council post last year, Joseph believes this is his year.

East New York activist Kimberly Council, who lost to Espinal in the race for the Council seat, has also filed to run for the abdicated Assembly seat. Most party insiders expect Dilan to seek the vacant seat as well, though he has yet to file.

Curiously, both Council and Joseph hail from the anti-Vito Lopez wing of the Democratic Party — whereas Dilan and Espinal are longtime allies of the disgraced former party boss.

Joseph was a founding member of the Greenpoint-based anti-Lopez New Kings Democrats club 2008, despite working a custodian job for Lopez’s pet community group, Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council. The 70-year-old St. Lucia native was abruptly fired from that job in 2010 after he voted at a New Kings meeting to give the club’s endorsement to then-Councilwoman Diana Reyna instead of Lopez’s handpicked challenger Maritza Davila. Reyna is today the deputy borough president, while Davila now holds Lopez’s old Assembly seat.

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Rumors that Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D–Ditmas Park) will retire from her 18-term seat after this year got a major boost at a meeting of the Bay Democrats on April 9.

L. Rickie Tulloch, chair of the assemblywoman’s community advisory council, told the Sheepshead Bay club that the 36-year incumbent had indicated to him that she is planning to retire and back him as her successor to the Flatbush-Midwood seat.

“The Assemblywoman said that she is seriously thinking about retiring, and that I will definitely be the one she supports to replace her,” the Jamaica native told the Bay Dems in his bid for their endorsement.

Tulloch, who challenged Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D–Flatbush) in 2009, will face district leader Rodneyse Bichotte in the race for the seat. The Jewish Jacobs crushed a challenge from the Haitian-born Bichotte two years ago, even though the district is now 63 percent black.

Bichotte appears to have some substantial political muscle behind her this time around, having allied herself with the city’s progressive movement by giving an early endorsement to Mayor DeBlasio in last year’s primary. The district leader held a fund-raiser on March 25 with Public Advocate Letitia James and Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Fort Greene).

Jacobs did not respond to requests for comment.

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Marybeth Melendez, the Democratic challenger to Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R–Bay Ridge), is getting help from some interesting corners.

The Staten Islander told an April 10 meeting of the Bay Ridge Democrats that controversial former Governor David Paterson will throw her a fund-raiser in Manhattan on April 22.

Paterson succeeded disgraced Governor Eliot Spitzer in 2008 following the latter’s prostitution debacle, and immediately announced his intention to run for a full term in the 2010 election. But he bowed out under pressure from Democratic leaders — including President Obama — after a series of simultaneous scandals rocked his office.

Paterson found himself entangled in the growing scandal over alleged political favoritism in the selection of a private operator for a casino at Queens’s Aqueduct Racetrack, after the New York Times reported in Feb. 2010 that — days after awarding the multi-billion-dollar contract to the Aqueduct Entertainment Group — he had met with one of its investors to discuss his impending campaign. That same month, the Times reported that Paterson aide David Johnson had assaulted his girlfriend. Shortly after conversations with Paterson, his staffers, and the state police, the woman failed to attend a hearing for Johnson, leading to the charges getting dropped — and prompting accusations of witness tampering on the part of the governor. The following month, Paterson denied under oath that he had instructed Johnson to solicit free tickets to the 2009 World Series from the New York Yankees. A state commission determined that to be a lie, and fined Paterson more than $62,000.

Melendez — who, like Paterson, is sight-impaired — referred to the ex-guv as “my very dear friend.”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.