Insiders call ‘shenanigans’ on Conservative Party’s Ridge Council candidate • Brooklyn Paper

Insiders call ‘shenanigans’ on Conservative Party’s Ridge Council candidate

The Brooklyn Conservative and Republican parties are gearing up for a back-room deal to switch out a placeholder candidate on the Conservative line for the winner the Grand Old Party nomination after the Sept. 12 primary, according to insiders.

Both the Conservative and Independent parties gave their lines to Dyker Heights attorney John Bruno, but his name is on the ballot only to hold the lines until the judicial convention — held in late September, after the primary — where he will be nominated to run for a spot on the state supreme court, freeing up the minor party lines for the Republican favorite, said one insider.

“They never intended on supporting him for Council, so the issue is: is that fraud or not?” the source said. “It’s disgraceful that they can get away with it all the time — they play games with candidates.”

Bruno — who did not return multiple requests for comment — has not campaigned nor raised a single dollar, according to city records, and was nowhere to be found at the Aug. 15 43rd District candidates debate, hosted by The Home Reporter and Brooklyn Spectator. His name may be on the ballot, but he’s certainly not a true candidate, said another insider.

“This is the mystery 10th candidate — candidate number 10 with a question mark,” the source said.

Bruno is registered with the city’s Campaign Finance Board, but is exempt from following the same level of scrutiny for filing financial disclosures because of the nature of his campaign, according to a spokesman with the city agency.

“It is a standard practice that candidates are on the ballot who have little to no financial activity and we allow them to register with us as ‘small campaigns,’ which reduces their disclosure,” the spokesman said.

The planned switcheroo, which came right after Republican candidate Liam McCabe’s attempt to fiddle with the Working Families Party line, is all an attempt to control as many ballot lines as possible in November — since even left-leaning voters will be more inclined to vote for a Republican candidate who also appears on the Independent and Conservative lines, the insiders said.

“It’s about controlling the party lines in the 43rd District,” said the source. “It’s not a matter of who is going to win, it’s a matter of who is going to control the line.”

But the practice is perfectly legal and happens fairly frequently, said election law attorney Jerry Goldfeder, who is representing Democratic candidate Nancy Tong in the same race.

“It’s legal and it’s relatively common,” he said. “You can’t run for two offices, so once you accept running for supreme court justice, you can no longer run for another position, in this case city Council.”

But insiders beg to differ, and say this is the same type of machinations that tore apart the county’s Republican organization years ago, and why it’s still breaking off into competing factions, said one of the sources.

“This is the foundation for some serious shenanigans in the future,” the source said.

But Brooklyn Conservative Party chairman Jerry Kassar — who gave Bruno the ballot line but said he was unable to put this paper in touch with his candidate — denies any such placeholder plot, calling the suggestion “completely inaccurate.”

During a sit-down with Community News Group editors and reporters last week, Republican candidate John Quaglione, said the swap was bound to happen.

“The winner at the primary, winner of the Republican primary, is going to get the Conservative line. They put a placeholder in,” said Quaglione, who is on leave as spokesman for state Sen. Marty Golden to make his run for Council. “[Bruno’s] the candidate for now, but the committee to fill vacancies, he’s going to become a judge if the election works out well.”

When told about Quaglione’s statement, Kassar, who also serves also serves as Golden’s chief of staff, claimed Quaglione got it all wrong.

“John is providing you with no accurate information — maybe he’s hoping for something that has never been discussed with us,” said Kassar. “I’m not involved in this whole process. I don’t know what anybody is talking about. [Bruno] has to take an interest in running for judge, which he has not expressed.”

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In the crowded race of attorneys vying to become Brooklyn’s next top prosecutor — which is reportedly more up in the air than many may think — five out of the six candidates were deemed qualified by both the New York City and Brooklyn Bar Associations.

The two organizations released their ratings for the candidates, and all got the stamp of approval except for Marc Fliedner. Fliedner chose not to appear before the two panels because he says the organizations have too cozy of a relationship with the incumbent, Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.

“It is well established that certain leaders and members of the bar associations have not only advocated aggressively for Mr. Gonzalez since well before he entered the race, but have also spearheaded extraordinary efforts to raise vast amounts of money for his campaign,” said Fliedner in an e-mailed statement. “In the context of my own campaign, I have faced overt hostility from some private criminal attorneys who are entrenched members of these Bar Associations, who were angry that I would criticize his leadership and even questioned the propriety of others like me running against him in the primary. These relationships had obvious potential to result in an unfair process.”

Fliedner — a civil rights attorney who helped convict police officer Peter Liang for fatally shooting Akai Gurley in 2014 — says the voters have all they need to know for primary day.

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Midwood Council candidate Yoni Hikind has collected 4,000 signatures to get on the independent “Our Neighborhood” ballot line in a contentious race against Councilman David Greenfield’s (D–Midwood) handpicked successor, Kalman Yeger.

Hikind threw his hat into the ring on Aug. 1 and has already collected enough signatures to secure his spot on the ballot in November, the candidate said.

“From the moment I launched this campaign, I saw this process as a job interview,” said Hikind, son of Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D–Midwood). “I’m overwhelmed and humbled by the positive initial response from so many of my potential employers, and I look forward to continue to make the case for why I’m the best fit to do, and ultimately be hired for, the job. I want to thank everyone who has been so supportive thus far.”

• • •

Endorsement roundup:

Democratic Bay Ridge city Council candidate Justin Brannan is racking up the endorsements — Citizens Union, the United Federation of Teachers, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D–Bay Ridge) all threw their support behind him this week.

Citizens Union is also backing Crown Heights Democratic candidate Ede Fox over incumbent Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo running for re-election, Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park), East Flatbush Democratic candidate Alicka Ampry-Samuel to replace term-limited Councilwoman Darlene Mealy. Citizens Union also endorsed Republican Bay Ridge candidate John Quaglione — since it’s the only competitive Republican primary in the city — but the non-partisan organization will make a single endorsement for the general election, according to executive director Dick Dadey.

The United Federation of Teachers endorsed Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D–Sunset Park) over incumbent Menchaca, Williamsburg Democratic candidate Tommy Torres over incumbent Councilman Antonio Reynoso, Ampre-Samuel, and Kalman Yeger.

Menchaca endorsed Democrat Bay Ridge candidate Rev. Khader El-Yateem for the open seat.

The progressive group Our Revolution, which campaigned for Bernie Sanders, has endorsed Menchaca for re-election.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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