Candidates savage each other in district leader debate

Candidates savage each other in district leader debate
Incumbent Ralph Perfetto (left) and challenger Kevin Peter Carroll savaged each other for about an hour in the first Web-cast debate for a district leader position in Brooklyn history.
Community Newspaper Group / Andy Campbell

Incumbent Democratic District Leader Ralph Perfetto says that a vote for his inexperienced challenger Kevin Peter Carroll would be a vote for the Republicans.

Swinging his mightiest blow to date against the 24-year-old Carroll, the lifelong pugilist — who has held the unpaid leadership post for nearly 18 years — said that Carroll’s support for redrawing state assembly lines so that Bay Ridge could have only one assemblymember would play right into the GOP’s slimy hands.

In particular, he slammed Carroll’s willingness to team up with Fran Vella-Marrone, the vice chairwoman of the Kings County Conservative Party, on the redistricting effort.

“I wouldn’t work with her unless I wanted to make it a Republican district,” Perfetto said in a rip-roaring 50-minute debate in our Downtown offices last Thursday, as the two candidates traded punches in an effort to claim the reform mantle.

But Carroll fought right back, saying that members of the borough’s political establishment, including Perfetto, have allowed party leaders to maneuver for their personal benefit rather than working for the benefit of the community.

“[Bay Ridge] the minority in five assembly districts,” said Carroll. “We don’t have one person in Albany fighting for our representation.

“The only reason why Bay Ridge hasn’t been put into one assembly district is because the people who are supporting Ralph Perfetto right now have said we don’t want Bay Ridge to have one voice,” he added.

Perfetto is endorsed by Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Bushwick), the county Democratic leader — a strong indication that the incumbent is not as independent as he claims to be, Carroll also said.

“I am the independent reform candidate in this election,” Carroll proclaimed. “He is the county candidate in this election.”

But Perfetto said he prides himself on bucking Lopez. He even ran against Lopez for the position.

“There’s still a bit of ice” between him and Lopez, he said. “It’s gotten a little warmer, but I still need a coat.”

The jabs and counter-jabs continued for the entire debate:

• Perfetto said a district leader’s role was to get Democrats elected, then hold them accountable. But he admitted that his political club, the United Americans Democratic Organization, has already endorsed Rep. Mike McMahon (D-Bay Ridge) — even though the group condemned his vote against the president’s health care legislation earlier this year.

“I don’t think the leaders across the borough have shown any accountability in holding politicians’ feet to the fire,” Carroll charged — though later was forced to admit that his club, Brooklyn Democrats for Change, has also endorsed McMahon after the falling out over health care.

• The role of the district leader was also a bone of contention. Perfetto said he uses the position to advocate for individuals in need of help, such as immigration assistance, removing an abandoned car, and disability funding for a veteran who had been denied, he recalled.

“Initially,” Perfetto said, “I was criticized for turning a political club into a civic association, but I felt if you want the people to vote for you, you have to do something for them in return.”

But Carroll said he would move the job away from “nuts and bolts.” “Leader is implied in the term ‘district leader,’ ” Carroll added. “We have to be promoting various issues that affect not only our community, not only our borough, but our city and our state,” such as the future of the city’s upstate watershed, which has been threatened by potentially devastating gas-drilling, and getting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to meet the needs of area residents.

The election will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 14 — and we will be covering it every step of the way. The entire debate can be viewed on our Web site, www.boropolitics.com.

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