Flatbush fight! Assembly race could become retirement party

Who will be the Dutchess of Flatbush?

A former challenger to longtime Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D–Ditmas Park) is stepping up again — and insiders say the 18-term incumbent is likely to step down.

Rodneyse Bichotte, who unsuccessfully challenged Jacobs in a Democratic primary in 2012, is making another bid for the Flatbush-Midwood seat. Bichotte currently serves as the area’s district leader — an unpaid, low-level position representing Assembly districts inside the county machine — and sent out an invite last week to a March 25 fund-raiser, asking that all checks be made out to “Bichotte for Assembly.”

Public Advocate Letitia James is scheduled to attend the event, and Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Fort Greene) will be the keynote speaker. Neither pol’s office responded to questions about whether they would endorse Bichotte, but Bichotte was an early supporter of Mayor Bill DeBlasio, which sources said endeared her to the city’s insurgent progressive movement.

Jacobs crushed Bichotte by more than 2,000 votes in 2012, even though the challenger’s fellow Caribbean-Americans considerably outnumber the incumbent’s Orthodox Jewish supporters in the district. But Bichotte — who did not respond to repeated calls for comment — is reportedly taking heart from talk that Jacobs will retire.

Jacobs’ office did not deny the rumors that the veteran pol is planning to step down. Such gossip has circulated for years, but several sources said the whispers are especially strong and persistent this year. Also, insiders noted that Jacobs has been introducing Democratic power players to perennial candidate L. Rickie Tulloch, and talking up Tulloch and his Visionary Political Action Committee — a Flatbush advocacy group — in her official literature.

Tulloch could not be reached for comment.

Another possible obstacle to a Bichotte victory is her poor relationship with Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D–Flatbush), who has reportedly long viewed Bichotte as a threat, as they share the same Haitian-American background and political base. Eugene declined to comment.

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Could ex-state Sen. David Storobin make another stand?

GOP sources said that the former Mill Basin legislator and failed Council candidate is weighing a challenge Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay).

Storobin became a Republican star after he pulled off a razor-thin upset victory over former Councilman Lew Fidler in the 2012 special election to replace disgraced state Sen. Carl Kruger. But redistricting dissolved the district just months after Storobin took office, and the newly-minted GOP leader squandered considerable political capital by launching a hopeless campaign against Simcha Felder for the new “Super-Jewish” state Senate seat.

Storobin was favored to win the “Super-Russian” Council seat last year, but failed to anticipate a strong campaign by Councilman Chaim Deutsch and the surprise write-in candidacy of Russian media mogul Gregory Davidzon.

The former state Senator denied he was seeking Cymbrowitz’s seat — and told a Sheepshead Bay blog after his Council loss that he was done with politics — but sources pointed out that he is making the rounds in GOP circles, with upcoming appearances scheduled at the Brooklyn Young Republican Club and the Brooklyn South Conservative Club.

“It’s in his blood,” one insider said. “He’s either running, or he’s at least looking to be a big player.”

Several Democratic leaders said that Storobin would stand a good chance of unseating Cymbrowitz, given his name recognition in both the Russian and Orthodox Jewish community, and his intense, energetic style.

Storobin is known as a fierce fund-raiser and a streetfighter on the campaign trail. But his aggressive approach has alienated some members of his own party, including Kings County Republican Party chairman Craig Eaton. Several insiders also recalled a scene at Storobin’s Council campaign headquarters on election night, when campaign workers raised a furor over not getting paid.

Thsi column broke the news three weeks ago that Cymbrowitz will face a primary challenge from right-leaning Bay Democrats president Ben Akselrod — who nearly defeated the then-six term incumbent in 2012.

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Former Council candidate Kimberly Council has filed to run for the Assembly seat of her former opponent, Councilman Rafael Espinal (D–Bushwick). Council, an East New York civic activist and reference librarian on Wall Street, lost the 2013 Democratic primary for the Council post to Espinal by more than 1,000 votes — despite receiving the backing of several powerful unions in a year when organized labor showed impressive strength. Council carried on her campaign on the union-backed Working Families Party line, but garnered just 11 percent of the vote in November.

Most Democratic Party insiders anticipate that Espinal’s mentor and former boss, ex-Councilman Erik Dilan, will seek his protege’s vacant position in Albany, though Dilan has yet to file. Both Espinal and Dilan are old allies of disgraced political boss Vito Lopez, and remain close to the official Kings County Democratic machine under new chairman Frank Seddio.

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

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