The Battle for Bushwick
While two scandal-scarred pols hog the media spotlight, another fallen candidate is laying the groundwork for a return to power.
Vito Lopez, the former Democratic boss forced to resign his Assembly seat in disgrace, raised almost $20,000 during the latest filing period and has filed the necessary signatures to make it on the ballot. And–observers say–he just might win.
“Vito is a highly formidable candidate,” an ally of Mr. Lopez’s opponent, Antonio Reynoso, told Politicker today. “He is the favorite in this race.”
The week before Vito Lopez resigned, the state ethics commission released a scathing 68-page report that detailed a lurid pattern of abuse in his district office.
According to the allegations, the former assemblyman once lamented the existence of statutory rape laws in the presence of a 14-year-old intern. Mr. Lopez demanded massages from female staffers, including one who cried and expressed her discomfort as a former rape victim. At a bar one evening, he grabbed an employee’s hands from across the table. When she tried to pull away, he tightened his grip. When she began to cry, Mr. Lopez said he’d release her only after she counted to 60. When she did, he stared at her for the full minute.
After resigning from his Assembly seat on Monday morning, Mr. Lopez is said to be contemplating a seemingly unfathomable second act: running for City Council. Given the accusations against him, what’s more surprising is that even his detractors acknowledge that Mr. Lopez actually has a viable path to victory.
Assemblyman Vito Lopez is not happy with today’s state ethics commission’s report detailing the sexual harassment allegations that former staff members have lodged against him. Accordingly, Mr. Lopez blasted both the report’s process and its findings in a lengthy, 3-page statement released this afternoon.
“Salacious and sensational claims in the JCOPE report are fallacious,” Mr. Lopez said, referring to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and writing in third-person perspective. “These claims, including that he made sexual references to a 14 year old intern and ‘opined that statutory rape laws should not exist’, are simply not true.”
Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, who’s come under heat since revelations emerged that he used over $100,000 taxpayer money to confidentially settle a sexual harassment claim against Assemblyman Vito Lopez, issued a statement this evening expressing regret over the way it was handled. After settling that claim, of course, two more staffers of Mr. Lopez presented sexual harassment charges, which were found to be credible and led to his downfall as chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.