Spoken for! Dem insider dismisses Ridge Councilman’s leadership bid • Brooklyn Paper

Spoken for! Dem insider dismisses Ridge Councilman’s leadership bid

Speaking up: Councilman Vincent Gentile has suggested that he will ascend to the position of Speaker if re-elected — but his former campaign chairman calls the claim unlikely.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Bay Ridge’s incumbent councilman says he could be the next City Council Speaker — but a leading political strategist argues the veteran pol is speaking out of turn.

Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) has been telling voters and the press that he is a top contender to head up the City Council next year, since he will be the longest-sitting representative if re-elected in November — and he claims the promotion will let him bring home more dough for his constituents.

“With my seniority, I will have the opportunity to be in leadership and the leadership circles,” the two-term councilman told the crowd at his campaign kick-off in March. “It will give me even greater ability to bring back even greater resources.”

But Democratic Party insiders say that Gentile’s outspoken aspirations to the speakership are just a play for more votes on Election Day.

“Is it likely that Vinnie Gentile will be the speaker? Probably not. Is it good campaign strategy to tell your constituents you’re going to be in leadership and have more juice to bring home more money for your community? The answer is yes,” said Dem strategist Hank Sheinkopf, who managed Gentile’s successful first campaign for Council in 2003.

Councilmembers elect the Speaker, and Sheinkopf argued that Councilmembers from Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx would not back a leader from Brooklyn because the probable next mayor and public advocate — Bill DeBlasio of Park Slope and Tish James of Fort Greene, respectively — both hail of the County of Kings.

“Borough rivalry still plays a large part in these things,” said Sheinkopf, who added he could not predict who the Speaker actually would be.

And even though Brooklyn has the largest delegation to the Council of any borough, its representatives are politically split between Southern Brooklyn pols like Gentile, who are loyal to Kings County Democratic boss Frank Seddio, and more liberal councilmen like Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) and Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint), who belong to the legislative body’s Progressive Caucus.

Gentile served six years in the State Senate, from 1997 to 2003, before losing his Senate seat to then-Councilman Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge). He has headed the Council’s Select Committee on Libraries — of which he is the only member — since 2006. When the council voted in 2010 to appoint new chairs, Gentile and Councilman Charles Barron (D–East New York) were the only long-standing members not given a full committee chairmanship.

Gentile faces a challenge on Nov. 5 from Golden aide John Quaglione.

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

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