Vito power! Lopez wins another term as county leader

Vito power! Lopez wins another term as county leader
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short

Meet the new Boss — same as the old Boss.

Brooklyn Democratic Party leaders re-elected embattled Assemblyman Vito Lopez to another two-year term as party’s chairman by an overwhelming 47–3–2 victory over reform challenger and new state committeeman Chris Owens.

“I’m very happy,” said Lopez. “I’ll be there two more years. I have broad support throughout the county and I’m happy.”

The vote was cast late Monday night in Brooklyn Heights after a boisterous county committee meeting where members of the insurgent New Kings Democrats demanded Lopez’s resignation and tried to change the party’s bylaws by eliminating mass proxy voting and demanding quarterly meetings.

“Lopez does all he can to operate our local Democratic Party in the least democratic way possible,” said Matt Cowherd, founder of the New Kings Democrats. “He sends out paper proxies encouraging county committee members to skip the biennial meeting, and whenever possible, he packs the state committee with human proxies.”

Cowherd was referring to 11 at-large members appointed by Lopez himself, including six new members announced on Monday night before the vote.

But Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D–Midwood) dismissed the notion of rancor within the party.

“It was an overwhelming margin,” said Hikind.

Lopez’s coronation capped a busy week for the Assemblyman, who saw several political allies lose state committee races in last week’s primary, privately announced that his cancer reappeared, and faced intense questioning over a widening city investigation into the nonprofit he founded and the competence of its board members.

Lopez declined to comment about his health and the investigation into the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, only saying it is “one of the best nonprofit providers in the city.”

But scores of political reformers disagreed, leading a protest march two hours before the county meeting, chanting “Veto Vito!” from Borough Hall down Remsen Street to St. Francis College, where the vote and the county’s biennial meeting would take place.

“Three of Brooklyn’s past four Democratic Party bosses have been indicted on charges of corruption — and if the recent news about current party boss Vito Lopez is any indication, he is likely to meet the same fate,” said Lincoln Restler, a state committee candidate whose election was too close to call on primary night, though he now looks likely to win.

Inside the meeting, a divided Democratic Party fought over every motion, bylaw change, and points of order — but nearly every motion went in Lopez’s favor after a voice vote was called.

Owens, acknowledging that he didn’t expect to win the county position or many votes in the county committee, nevertheless declared the evening meeting a success.

“We brought people together, we got new business on the agenda, and we made some inroads,” said Owens. “We wanted the county leader to understand that we’re not going to be quiet and roll over like we did before.”