Tomorrow’s the day! This year’s primary is getting scant attention everywhere else but here, so we thought we’d give you one last chance to read up on the people, the issues and the offices that you’ll be considering on Tuesday, Sept. 14. The main battles are for the job of District Leader — which is the most important unpaid political job you’ve never heard of. District Leaders control the mechanisms of our local parties, and in Brooklyn, the Democratic Party is controlled by Vito Lopez. Many qualified candidates are running on the “Retire Vito” platform —and if party reform is your issue, this is the place to make your stand.
Rep. Ed Towns vs. Kevin Powell
Powell has tried to unseat the longterm Democratic congressman, who has represented Canarsie, Mill Basin, Flatlands, Flatbush, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Downtown and other parts of the 10th District since 1983, three times. In 2008, he received 33 percent of the vote.
• Fought for immigration reform and “potty parity” in federal buildings.
• Currently chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
• Age 76, married, two children (one son, Darryl, is an Assemblyman). Lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
• MTV “Real World” star turned author and public speaker.
• Has history of violence toward women.
• Age 44, not married, no children. Lives in Downtown.
• Powell claims Towns is no longer pursuing the public’s interests, just his own.
• Powell owes more than $600,000 in back taxes.
• Towns refused to debate Powell, even after several constituents — who support Powell — demanded one.
Towns has been in office for almost three decades with very little to show for it — until he became chairman of the Oversight Committee, where he’s been more effective. We’ve backed Powell in the past, but for the third time, it is clear that he is not running a serious campaign (though he’ll probably sell more books and remain a big name on Huffington Post, which may be his real goal here). We endorse Towns.
Michael Grimm vs. Michael Allegretti
It’s a war for the hearts and minds of Republicans in Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst — and for the right to take on popular freshman Rep. Mike McMahon (D–Bay Ridge) in November to represent the 13th District.
• He’s a Marine, Operation Desert Storm veteran, former FBI agent, accountant and lawyer.
• Has the support of former Mayor Giuliani, Sarah Palin and Sen. John McCain.
• Small businessman turned environmentalist, though his family runs Bayside Fuel Oil.
• Supports Congressional term limits. Claims to be an “independent fiscal conservative.”
• Allegretti has questioned Grimm’s military service record, especially after a photo surfaced of Grimm sporting both Marine and Army medals. Grimm said he was ordered to wear them.
• Kings County GOP has endorsed Allegretti.
• Neither supports a Ground Zero mosque, President Obama’s health care plan or allowing the Bush tax cuts to sunset.
Grimm is a conservative, which plays well in the district when the issue is taxes. But he veers into wacky red state gibberish on social issues. Allegretti is equally conservative on taxes (and, unfortunately on the so-called Ground Zero mosque), but his environmental background at least makes him moderately reasonable. We endorse Allegretti.
Sen. Velmanette Montgomery vs. Mark Pollard
Can a former prosecutor unseat an entrenched incumbent? Newcomer Mark Pollard is launching a Hail Mary attack on Velmanette Montgomery for state Senate representing Bedford-Stuyvesant, Prospect Heights and Red Hook (the 18th District).
• Has held office since 1986.
• Has never faced a strong challenger.
• A mother of one, has a background in education.
• A former prosecutor, currently a laywer.
• A professor at Medgar Evers College.
• Campaign donations largely come from opponents of Montgomery’s critical stance on charter schools.
• Pollard is hoping to ride the wave of anti-incumbent fervor all the way to Albany, saying that a fresh face is needed.
• Pollard is in favor of charter schools, and has said Montgomery is bowing to the teacher’s union by criticizing the controversial schools.
• Montgomery was a supporter of a “Superfund” clean-up for the Gowanus Canal, which will cost hundreds of millions, take a decade, and may chase out private development.
Montgomery has been on the right side in most of the neighborhood issues. But she has not been effective — and she’s part of a legislature that is a national embarrassment. Pollard is an agent of change. We endorse Pollard.
Joan Millman vs.
Joan Millman has represented Brownstone Brooklyn (the 52nd District) since 1997. Challenger Doug Biviano has hit her on her vote to cut the MTA and for taking her pension, despite holding another public job.
• Retired teacher. Hasn’t had a opponent since 2004.
• Chair of the Assembly Committee on Election Law.
• Age 70, lives in Carroll Gardens.
• Engineer turned good government advocate.
• Came in sixth in a Council fight last year.
• Age 41, has two children. Lives in Columbia Heights.
• Biviano accused Millman of “double dipping” for receiving her teacher’s pension while getting her state legislator’s salary. Millman refuses to defer her pension.
• Millman has been accused of waffling on Brooklyn Bridge Park. She was in support of luxury housing there until state Sen. Marty Connor lost to housing opponent. She also backed MTA cuts and voted for an ethics bill with loopholes so big that Gov. Paterson vetoed it.
• The two argue repeatedly over election law reform. Biviano claims that current laws keep incumbents in office. Millman says rules are more open than ever.
We’ve certainly tangled with Millman over her waffling and lack of leadership on Brooklyn Bridge Park, ethics, the MTA and other local issues, where she’s been on the sidelines instead of the center of the fight, but Biviano lacks the temperament — and specific plans — for leadership. We endorse Millman.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol vs. Andre Soleil
Lentol has represented North Brooklyn and Fort Greene (the 50th District) since 1972, in a seat held by both his father and grandfather. Soleil challenged Lentol two years ago, but was bumped off the ballot.
• Helped reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws by sending drug abusers to treatment over jail.
• Has led efforts to improve waterfront access and negotiated to continue summer concerts on the East River.
• Lives in Greenpoint with his longtime companion Martha Holstein.
• Once worked for Republicans Gov. Pataki and Mayor Giuliani.
• Has held a plethora of jobs including professional dancer, model, attorney, Pentecostal minister, organizer for NYPIRG, and off Broadway actor (he played Jimi Hendrix in “Little Wing”).
• Williamsburg resident, wants to open a soul food restaurant.
• Lentol has a record of improving tenants rights, reforming drug laws, preserving access to the waterfront, and pressuring the state to clean environmental calamities in Greenpoint.
• Soleil has called Lentol out of touch with his district and claimed he has contributed to the legislative gridlock in Albany.
• No debates have been held.
Lentol is an effective legislator who doesn’t hog the spotlight. He’s a lunch pail guy who is in government for the right reasons. We like Soleil, but he’s not ready to replace this incumbent. We endorse Lentol.
Owens vs. Strauss vs. Williamson
Chris Owens, Jesse Strauss and Stephen Williamson are battling to succeed longtime District Leader Alan Fleischman in a reform-minded Downtown district, also known as Assembly District 52.
• Has run for office several times, including an ill-fated bid for Congress in 2006.
• Son of retired Rep. Major Owens.
• Worked as a litigator for public pension funds against corporations committing securities fraud.
• Member of Independent Neighborhood Democrats, New York Democratic Lawyers Council, and New York Coordinator for Young Lawyers for Obama.
• Attorney in Downtown.
• Volunteered for Councilman Steve Levin’s campaign last year.
• The reform clubs are split on Strauss and Owens.
• Owens is focusing on judicial appointments and Democratic transparency, Williamson is stressing improving life for working families, and Strauss wants to revise the party’s bylaws and improve communication.
• Lopez has his eye on the seat, encouraging Williamson to run in this unfriendly district.
Owens is the class of this field, having been involved in local politics for years. Both he and Strauss would be reliable votes against controversial county leader Vito Lopez, and both are practically a model of what a district leader should be: they know how to work the grass roots, and are not corruptible. Much less is known about Williamson, who appears to be backing the party boss. That disqualifies him from contention. We endorse Owens.
Jo Anne Simon vs. Hope Reichbach
Simon, 57, finished second to Steve Levin in a seven-way race for a Downtown Council seat — and Reichbach, 21, is Levin’s protege! This is the female race in Assembly District 52.
Jo Anne Simon
• Elected in 2004, she has clashed with Party Chairman Vito Lopez by supporting judicial candidates that Lopez did not favor.
• Attorney representing disabled individuals in education and employment cases.
• Married, lives in Boerum Hill.
• Works as Levin’s chief of staff.
• Once sued then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld — while still in high school.
• Daughter of civil court judge, Gustin Reichbach. Lives in Boerum Hill.
• Simon has positioned herself as a de facto leader of the reform movement battling with Lopez and his executive committee while Reichbach is running on a platform of engaging more young people in politics.
• Reichbach has Lopez’s support, while Simon has been endorsed by virtually every other party club.
• Reichbach was criticized for mentioning her supposedly apolitical dad in ads, while Simon has been chided for claiming that Reichbach is too young for the job.
Simon has consistently taken on party boss Vito Lopez, which earns her major kudos here. But her campaign — both this time and her failed run for City Council last year — seems to believe that Simon’s election is a birthright. And her camp’s attacks on Reichbach (over her age and her allegedly shapely legs) has been disgusting. That said, Reichbach would be a reliable vote for Lopez, which speaks for itself. We endorse Simon.
Warren Cohn vs.
The hot race between two twentysomething Brooklynites for this open District Leader seat in Assembly District 50 is the centerpiece in the reform movement’s campaign to topple party chairman Vito Lopez.
• His father, Steve Cohn, was District Leader for 27 years before announcing his retirement this spring.
• Works as a liaison for Rep. Ed Towns (D-Fort Greene), and coordinated relief efforts in Haiti.
• First campaign. Lived in Brooklyn Heights and will move to Fort Greene in the coming weeks.
• Vice president of New Kings Democrat and a leading challenger to Party-backed candidates.
• Works for the Department of Small Businesses Services and is a member of Community Board 2.
• First campaign. Grew up in Brooklyn Heights and lives in Fort Greene.
• Restler has sharply criticized Lopez’s leadership and the process by which judges are selected.
• Restler has raised more than $56,000 in his campaign, spending close to $30,000, which is twice as much as Cohn.
• Reaching Hasidic voters, by far the largest bloc in the district, will be critical. Cohn has a big in there.
Cohn is the son of the longtime district leader, the likable Steve Cohn. But he’s not disavowed his father’s insidery approach to government. Restler is without a doubt the future of the Democratic Party in Brooklyn. He’s a true reformer, with real ideas, passion and energy. We strongly endorse Restler.
Linda Minucci vs.
Twenty-six-year veteran district leader and party favorite Minucci faces a lively challenge from environmental advocate and community leader, Kate Zidar, in the female race for Assembly District 50.
• Elected in 1984, Minucci enjoys support from the party establishment, including her former colleague Steve Cohn, Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D-Williamsburg) and Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Williamsburg).
• Works as a staff member in the city’s general counsel office.
• Owns several buildings in the district.
• Consultant and environmental planner for several groups, including the Newtown Creek Alliance.
• Advocate for better stormwater management and cleaner rivers.
• First campaign. A Greenpoint resident for 10 years.
• Zidar is campaigning both to energize young people in the political process and reform the party’s political structure.
• Minucci is campaigning on continuity in the party’s leadership.
• Zidar’s environmentalism may be the tipping point in this close race.
We have nothing against Minucci, who has been doing the job well, but Zidar, like Restler, is a true reformer with ideas — someone who will take on the party bosses with vigor and passion. We endorse Zidar.
Vito Lopez vs. Esteban Duran
It’s not David vs. Goliath, but Lopez, the entrenched party chairman and Assemblyman, is putting all effort — and $50,000 — into his state committee race against Duran, a political newcomer. This is Lopez’s own Assembly District, district 53.
• Criticised for heavy-handedness, but led efforts to reform the judicial selection process.
• Lopez helped pass the first significant extension of the Loft Law in 20 years.
• Born in 1941, he grew up in Bay Ridge, founded the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council in 1973, and was elected in 1984.
• Community Board 1 member, Broadway Triangle Community Coalition member, and New Kings Democrat member
• Duran worked briefly for Councilwoman Diana Reyna and with the Department of Education.
• First campaign. Lifelong Williamsburg resident.
• Lopez has run the race largely on his legislative accomplishments and ability to deliver funding to his constituents while Duran has criticized Lopez for abusing his power.
• Lopez challenged Duran’s ballot for “permeation of fraud,” but the court found his case lacked sufficient evidence. Lopez appealed and lost again.
If this was the race for Lopez’s assembly seat, rather than his district leader seat, we might endorse him, as he’s been a progressive voice in Albany. But this is the party post — and he controls Brooklyn’s Democratic Party with an iron fist and a curse-filled voice on the phone when he’s angry. That’s not leadership, that’s bullying. We endorse Duran.
Ralph Perfetto vs. Kevin Peter Carroll
Perfetto has carried the unpaid, virtually unknown political title of Democratic District Leader for 18 years, but Carroll says new blood is needed to reform the party from within.
• Former boxer turned private investigator.
• Facing a year in jail for posing as a lawyer to represent a cousin.
• Age 75. Father and grandfather. Lives in Bay Ridge.
Kevin Peter Carroll
• Founding member of Brooklyn Democrats for Change.
• Raised an unprecedented $12,000 after announcing his candidacy in March.
• Age 24. Lives in Bay Ridge.
• Carroll accuses Perfetto of being in bed with Democratic boss and Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Perfetto says he’s fought Lopez in the past and will continue to do so.
• The two have quibbled over Bay Ridge being in five Assembly Districts. Carroll says Bay Ridge will gain more political clout if it’s in one district. Perfetto believes the move will leave the neighborhood at the mercy of the Republicans.
• Perfetto is still facing conviction for allegedly posing as a lawyer to help a friend, but he says it’s a politically motivated prosecution.
There is no way not to love Ralph Perfetto. He’s been doing the job of district leader effectively for nearly two decades. Everyone in town knows him. He’s a prince of a man, and a good government hand. That said, he’s been just a bit too cozy to party boss Vito Lopez, so if this is your issue, go with Carroll, who is a reform clubhouse man, but a little thin on experience. The charge against Perfetto for posing as a lawyer is a non-issue at all. We endorse Perfetto.