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Candidate’s rage against the machine

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A Coney Islander running for the seat vacated when disgraced former Assemblywoman Pamela Harris (D–Coney Island) resigned after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges is blasting the Democratic Party machine for handpicking and endorsing a rival candidate she says has a weak record of service and less connection to the community than her.

“I think it reinforces why so many Americans now are so cynical about our politics — it’s at an all time high. People are watching cronyism, nepotism right in front of our eyes,” said Mathylde Frontus, who has lived in the People’s Playground for the last three decades, except when she was away at college. “It’s happening from the top levels all the way down. One of the things that makes me different as a candidate, I’m in the business of empowering people so the people always have the power.”

Candidate Ethan Lustig-Elgrably, who was formerly Coney Island Councilman Mark Treyger’s chief of staff and then worked for the Parks Department until he quit that in April to campaign full-time, didn’t show up for a candidate forum hosted last week by the South Brooklyn Progressive Resistance. His spokeswoman said the no-show was due to a scheduling conflict, but also called the event a sham since it was organized by people who back Frontus.

Frontus countered Lustig-Elgrably shouldn’t have snubbed the forum because it leaves voters in the dark about the person who wants to be their voice in Albany.

“It’s important people are able to hear directly from the people who are looking to represent them,” she said. “He should have showed up.”

The only time she and her opponent have been in the same room together was for a meeting with the Bay Ridge Democrats back in May, when they were both vying for an endorsement from the political club that ultimately threw its support behind Chris McCreight — who took himself out of the race in July. The club has not endorsed another candidate for the seat.

But Lustig-Elgrably, who moved to Coney Island from Flatbush in 2016, still managed to pick up the endorsements of Comptroller Scott Stringer, Borough President Adams, Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D–Manhattan), and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D–Coney Island), with the help of the party machine, said Frontus.

“They call their friend and say, ‘listen, I have someone I handpicked for this seat,’ and that alone is sufficient,” she said.

Neither Stringer, Adams, nor Johnson would even meet with Frontus before making their endorsements, according to the candidate, who accused the political trio of cronyism, and of ignoring her record of service to the community.

“I find it very disheartening as a daughter of Coney Island, a woman who has done everything that society says I’m supposed to do, I have been serving in my community, volunteering since I was a teenager,” said Frontus. “What message are we saying to the young people of Coney Island?”

A rep for Adams said he endorsed Lustig-Elgrably simply because he asked to be considered for it, and appreciated the candidate’s commitment to the district.

“Borough President Adams has never made a practice of conducting candidate interviews or screenings. He reviews those candidates who reach out to him. Mr. Lustig-Elgrably reached out for consideration in this race,” said Stefan Ringel in a statement. “Borough President Adams approved of his dedication to moving Brooklyn forward, as well as of the direct feedback he heard from community members in that district who supported his candidacy.”

Stringer’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment. Johnson said he endorsed Lustig-Elgrably because of his record of service in the community, but also because he had a personal relationship with him.

Lustig-Elgrably, who has $101,198 in his war chest, and Frontus, who has $28,648, will likely come together for a Sept. 6 forum just a week before voters decide in the Sept. 13 primary who gets the Democratic nod and goes on to face Republican Steve Saperstein in November.

• • •

The Democratic Socialist candidate looking to unseat Bushwick’s sitting Democratic state senator will officially be on the ballot on Sept. 13 after the state’s highest court threw out the long-time incumbent’s attempt to kick her off the ballot on Aug. 29.

The New York Court of Appeals upheld two lower court rulings to reject state Sen. Martin Malavé Dilan’s suit against 27-year-old Julia Salazar, which claimed she had not lived in the district long enough to be on the ballot.

Dilan — who is seeking his ninth term in Albany and recently picked up the support of Mayor DeBlasio — filed the lawsuit because of his fear of giving voters a choice, Salazar’s attorney said.

“Make no mistake, this frivolous lawsuit was an attempt by a scared incumbent to deny voters their right to decide who should represent them in Albany,” said Renée Paradis. “Now that this baseless smear has been rejected by three courts of law, North Brooklyn will have a chance to vote for Julia’s vision of a Brooklyn that works for everyone, not just the few.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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