Former state assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez lost his council bid to challenger Antonio Reynoso at Tuesday’s primary.
Lopez had sought to bounce back from the sexual harassment scandal that knocked him out of office last fall, but he lost the 34th District council race by 12 percent and 1,300 votes to 30-year-old Reynoso, outgoing district Councilwoman Diana Reyna’s former chief of staff. On Tuesday night, a jubilant Reynoso called his win in the district, spanning Williamsburg, Bushwick, and a section of Queens, a blow to the “political machine” and said that he will not compromise his community organizer roots to serve special interests.
“I will fight for a better Brooklyn and Queens,” Reynoso told the election party crowd at the Woods, a bar on S. Fourth Street in Williamsburg, moments after his victory was announced. “I will never forget where I came from.”
Lopez set his sights on the council seat this spring after a state ethics panel stripped him of his Albany seniority based on their finding that he groped, tried to kiss, and talked sex with young female interns. Lopez spent most of election season out of sight, appearing only once, at a fund-raiser. An anonymous piece of campaign literature defending Lopez, tweeted by Councilman Brad Lander (D–Carroll Gardens) on primary day, quotes an unnamed human rights lawyer saying that 95 percent of sexual harassment cases are “unfounded” and brought by “disgruntled employees who are only looking for a cash settlement.”
The harassment scandal turned Lopez from a 14-term incumbent and Brooklyn kingmaker to a political pariah in a matter of weeks, with even his closest allies distancing themselves from him in the fall of 2012, though he did not resign until May of 2013.
A piece of Reynoso campaign lit said simply, “Vote No on Vito.”
Reynoso began his political career at Le Moyne College, where he founded the black political group Brothers on a New Direction. He became Reyna’s chief of staff after returning to Williamsburg and, while campaigning to replace his term-limited boss, he focused his outreach on young, Latino people.
Outside the bar, Reynoso supporters said that he was the obvious choice for councilman.
“He is a man of the people,” Richard Blanco said.