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May 22, 2009 / Brooklyn news / Politics / Election Coverage

Heyer gets clubhouse nod — rival ‘insulted’!

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One of Brooklyn’s oldest and most-progressive political clubhouses was riven last night after a closed-door meeting led to the “insulting” endorsement of the most-conservative of five Democratic candidates seeking to succeed Councilman Bill DeBlasio.

John Heyer, an aide to Borough President Markowitz who had actually boycotted a candidate forum earlier in the week claiming it was “rigged” against him, won the endorsement of the Independent Neighborhood Democrats, despite his anti-abortion stance and opinion that marriage should be entirely abandoned by the state rather than let homosexuals participate.

Heyer, 27, got the nod of a scant 52 percent of club members after the Thursday night endorsement meeting at Long Island College Hospital — an event that featured far more talk about local issues such as cleaning up the Gowanus Canal and fixing potholes than federal laws about a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy or state legislative moves on marriage.

Heyer, the youngest of the candidates seeking to represent Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Windsor Terrace, has been a member of the club since he was 18. In a heated question-and-answer session, he defended his position on marriage, saying that the state should only issue “civil unions” for all couples. “Marriage” would be merely a religious or private ceremony “carrying no legal weight,” he said.

Several club members challenged him on that, including one gay man who said, “I just want to marry my partner of 17 years!”

Heyer responded that he wanted “the same rights for everyone — civil unions.”

But most of the evening was dominated by jocularity. Openly gay candidate Bob Zuckerman, who was endorsed earlier in the week by a local Democratic district leader in a letter that was seen as a broadside against Heyer, spoke just before Heyer at the end of a long endorsement forum.

“Now comes the fun part,” Zuckerman said.

When it was Heyer’s turn to speak, he joked, too. “You thought your part was the fun part, Bob?”

After the closed-door vote, rival candidate Josh Skaller, who has been endorsed by the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, another club, put out a statement: “It is sad that a majority of IND’s voting membership insulted many IND members and community residents by choosing to support a conservative Democrat for City Council who opposes Superfund relief for the Gowanus Canal and whose opinions on choice and marriage equality are confusing, at best.

“The residents of the [district] want progressive leadership committed to reforming city government and unafraid of marriage equality, a woman’s right to choose and a real, federally supported clean-up of the Gowanus Canal.”

Club President Kenn Lowy, reached by phone on Friday, shared Skaller’s discontent, saying he was “disappointed” by the vote.

“I was hoping for a ‘No endorsement,’” he said. “I am disappoint­ed.”

Lowy said that many rank and file members of the club were accusing Heyer of “packing” the club with new members, but Lowy said that Heyer and his people “played fair and by the rules.”

“John and his people really treated this like a get-out-the-vote campaign — and that’s fine,” he said.

Lowy is now presiding over a badly split club. When asked if he would campaign for his club’s endorsed choice in the primary, he paused, sucked in a breath, and said he would issue a statement on Tuesday. (See updated story on www.BrooklynPaper.com.)

As far as plotting a course forward for the club, which was founded as an anti-Vietnam War club decades ago, that will also have to wait.

“There are some really, really sore feelings out there,” he said. “After the primary, it will be my job to put everything back together again.”

The other candidates in the race are Brad Lander, former director of the Pratt Center for Community Development and Gary Reilly.

In the other main Brownstone Brooklyn contest — the race to succeed Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights) — the club gave its endorsement to Jo Anne Simon, the only woman in the seven-person race. All candidates for the seat showed up to seek the club’s endorsement — except Steve Levin, who is chief of staff to Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the powerful county Democratic chairman.

Levin has been dogged by allegations that he does not care about the Brownstone Brooklyn portion of the district, which includes parts of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and Park Slope.

Simon is a civil rights lawyer.

Updated 5:00 pm, May 28, 2009: Story was updated to add in more comments from club members and from the club president.
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Reader Feedback

Anonymous from Cobble Hill says:
Heyer is a joke and the joke is on the democratic club. Hah! Good luck. One way to kill the "clubs" is to vote for a racist, pro-life, anti-gay, build-baby-build, pollutor loving candidate. So Heyer will be your man! This is great fun!
May 22, 2009, 6:43 pm
Anonymous from Cobble Hill says:
Heyer is an embarrassment to progressive members of IND. Unfortunately, this means many of us cannot carry the petition for Jo Anne Simon, a progressive, pro-choice, pro-marriage equality woman of real substance. And that's a shame, because she'll need every vote she can get.
May 23, 2009, 1:02 am
Anon from Cobble Hill says:
Joanne Simon is all talk and no action, so it is fitting she is on the same platform as Heyer. Where is she on Gowanus? Where is she on doing something about Brooklyn Bridge Park? Nowhere. On the former, it has been decades of known toxic pollution and she has done nadda - she is all about relying on private companies to "do the right thing" to clean up the canal. Not gonna happen without Government intervention. Ditto on the park - in fact, for five years she has trumpeted the Conservancy's pro-housing-inside-parks position (which she is now back tracking on). Good riddance to both these candidates. On to Lander, Skaller, Baer and the other true acting and principled candidates.
May 23, 2009, 9:26 am
Anon from Cobble Hill says:
Death by a thousands cuts. First IND endorsed Yassky, a creature of Bloomberg, a sell-out on the term-limits referendum. Next IND endorsed this reactionary. Real progressives at IND should walk because that club is not progressive.
May 23, 2009, 2:53 pm
Anonymous from Carroll Gardens says:
Let's not be naive about this. This is not about Heyer's sexist and racist views (although it is about those things too); this is about money, about Buddy Scotto and developers with short-term profit rather than the long-term in mind. Heyer serves their interests. He will support development of the Gowanus no matter the cost to future generations (including his own child). He will continue to support Atlantic Yards and over development. And he will continue to do these things because it's about the money, it's about greed. Yes, he also represents CG paranoids. But he does not represent most of us, which means, like out of touch Connor, he will lose (unless the other four decent and qualified candidates do not reach some agreement to unite and defeat these people). Heyer is just a front for something much, much worse. Do we need another of these kinds of people in City Council? I don't think so.
May 23, 2009, 3:29 pm
Bob from Greenpoint says:
Anon from Cobble Hill says: Joanne Simon is all talk and no action,…. it happens to be right at debate the other day she was very quiet and many questions she didn’t have the right answer,
She is not a strong person and with out any experience, I think the job is not for her at all…….
May 24, 2009, 12:21 pm
Linda from Cobble Hill says:
Jo Anne Simon is only a civil rights lawyer, she came in first, than came in activist Isaac Abraham he sounds to be a very strong and professional candidate, the people and press like him very munch
He is involved with government and elected officials for the last 35 years, so let’s get him to office and taking care of real business we won’t regret.......
May 24, 2009, 12:47 pm
Paul from Park Slope says:
It's a shame what happens as these political clubs "ripen with age." After a while they just spoil into what they were fighting against. And IND is the prime case in point.

If the club is splitting, they should split right now and start something fresh and progressive, IND hasn't really haven't been progressive for a number of Buddy Scotto years. Let the old rot on the vine, start something new while the time is right. Make it a real race, not a political back-door deal.
May 25, 2009, 3:08 pm

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