At most political debates, it’s surprising if a large audience shows up — but at a debate for an open City Council seat on Tuesday night, it will be a shock if one of the candidates attends.
So far in the race to succeed Councilman David Yassky and represent the 33rd District — which stretches through Greenpoint, Williamsburg, DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Park Slope — candidate Steve Levin has missed three such campaign forums in the Brownstone Brooklyn portion of the district, sparking concerns that the 27-year-old candidate doesn’t think he needs to campaign in those neighborhoods to win.
Levin, after all, is chief of staff to the county Democratic Party chairman, Assembly Vito Lopez, a fact that contributed to his recent endorsement by the labor union 32BJ and a campaign war chest that puts him at the top of the seven-person race.
Nonetheless, he says he will attend his first debate next week in Williamsburg. Still, political wonks are baffled by Levin’s campaign so far.
“He has the most bizarre campaign strategy that I’ve ever heard of,” said Kenn Lowy, who moderated an April 20 Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats and the Independent Neighborhood Democrats debate in Brooklyn Heights that Levin skipped.
“I’ve never known a candidate to just decide that he’s not going to campaign in certain parts of the district.”
Levin also missed an April 23 CBID endorsement meeting in Park Slope and a Park Slope Civic Council debate on May 12.
But Levin told The Brooklyn Paper that he is just as committed to the southern part of the district as he is to North Brooklyn, Lopez’s district.
Levin said he was in Chicago for his brother’s wedding during the April debate and endorsement meeting, and prior arrangements and his condensed schedule after the trip made it impossible for him to attend either event.
Then, due to “some confusion,” the organizers of the Park Slope Civic Council debate only invited him to their event days before the forum, by which point he had already made other plans for the evening.
“I’m knocking on doors down there fairly frequently and I’m going to as many community events as I can. It’s a diverse district geographically, and I am out there in every part of the district,” said Levin.
But insiders aren’t convinced, accusing Levin of running a “Rose Garden” strategy because of his link to Lopez, who is believed to be powerful enough to deliver the seat for his protege.
“They don’t give a damn about him speaking or the issues,” said Lambda Independent Democrats board member Alan Fleishman. “They just don’t want him getting cornered and being associated with Vito. If he goes to the forums, he’ll get grilled.”
Levin’s strategy is sure to be just one of many interesting subplots in the crowded Council race, which also includes Democratic District Leader Jo Anne Simon, Williamsburg activist Evan Thies, Satmar community activist Isaac Abraham, former Sierra Club chairman Ken Baer, frequent candidate Ken Diamondstone, and newcomer Doug Biviano.
33rd District debate at the Harry Van Arsdale HS [257 North Sixth St., between Roebling and Havemeyer streets in Williamsburg, (646) 402-5825], May 19, 7 pm.