District Leader Lincoln Restler, who’s still locked in a tight, high-profile race against the Brooklyn Democratic establishment despite the implosion of county boss Vito Lopez, is seizing upon a New York Post report that Mr. Lopez’s last aim as county leader is eliminating him on September 13th.
“Dear Friends and Neighbors, Even in the midst of a shameful and potentially criminal sexual harassment scandal, disgraced Boss Vito Lopez is desperately clinging to power for one reason: to halt our campaign to reform the Brooklyn Democratic Party. Vito seems to be obsessed with defeating us,” he wrote in an email to his supporters, entitled “Vito’s Last Stand.”
District Leader Lincoln Restler, campaigning for reelection in a little-known, unpaid party position, continues to roll out high-profile endorsements as he fights for his continued role in the Kings County Democratic Party. Adding to that list today is Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the first citywide official — and first 2013 mayoral contender — to weigh into Mr. Restler’s race.
“Lincoln is a person of incredible integrity who fights for our families and our neighborhoods,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement. “He is a smart, hard-working reformer - and I am very proud to endorse him for re-election as State Committeeman.”
District Leader Lincoln Restler, one of the most aggressive critics of Assemblyman Vito Lopez and his control of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, has jumped at the news of the sexual harassment allegations leveled against Mr. Lopez and has called on him to step down from the county organization.
“Given the severity of these allegations, which the New York Assembly has called ‘credible,’ Vito Lopez should immediately resign as Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman,” Mr. Restler said in a statement. “I hope all responsible elected officials in Brooklyn will join me in calling for this action. It is clear we need a full and comprehensive investigation into whether this was a regular pattern of behavior in Vito Lopez’s office.“
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, a rising star in the Democratic Party after winning his June 26th congressional primary, has notably straddled the line between the notoriously factious sides of Brooklyn’s Democratic Party. On one side, there is the county’s Democratic leader Vito Lopez, and on the other, self-styled reformers who strongly oppose his leadership. And earlier this afternoon, Mr. Jeffries offered his endorsement to one of the biggest thorns in Mr. Lopez’s side, District Leader Lincoln Restler, who’s locked in a tough battle for reelection in a district he won only by a handful of votes in 2010.
“Over the last two years, Lincoln has demonstrated remarkable drive, energy and creativity in helping to improve the quality of life of people throughout the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill communities,” he said in a statement. “We have worked closely together on behalf of public housing residents and he has demonstrated the significant impact a talented, progressive and engaged elected official can have in Brooklyn. I am proud to endorse him for re-election.”
The district leader position might be unpaid and little-noticed, but Lincoln Restler continued to prove it can be transformed into a noticeable political force this afternoon. Mr. Restler, fighting for reelection against Kings County Democratic Party-backed Chris Olechowski, managed to muscle out a whole host of notable elected officials to endorse him on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall, including Borough President Marty Markowitz, Congressional Members Nydia Velázquez and Jerry Nadler, and multiple politicians from every level of legislative office.
Each elected official proceeded to march to the podium and praise Mr. Restler, describing him with such terms as “energizer bunny,” “rock star,” and “breath of fresh air,” but it was perhaps State Senator Eric Adams — an ally of the county Democrats and the most surprising guest in attendance — who was the most effusive.
District Leader Lincoln Restler, set to have one of the most high profile reelection campaigns in the city this September, has raised an impressive $55,000 for his campaign in the first six months of the year. This is despite the fact that the race’s victor will hold one of the lowest profile elected positions available: an unpaid seat in the Kings County and state Democratic parties.
The total places him on a path to potentially double the relatively astronomical $60,000 he raised for his 2010 campaign, which he won by a mere 121 votes. Unlike those for legislative elected offices, district leader races often attract no money, but Mr. Restler has gained stature through continuously sprinting from one event to the next, as well as his public opposition to Brooklyn’s Democratic leader Vito Lopez.
“Look, this election is a whole lot bigger than just one person, especially a little guy like me who needs to stand on this chair,” 28-year-old Lincoln Restler declared as he artificially towered over a packed room at the Brooklyn Winery in Williamsburg a couple of weeks ago. “The machine has their candidate, they’re going to pour all of the resources they’ve got into this district leader race. But, for every hack elected official that they’ve got on payroll, we’re going to have to reach out to 10 of our neighbors.”
The “machine” in this case is the Kings County Democratic Party and its chair, Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Mr. Restler sees his re-election campaign as a critical aspect of the effort to topple what he describes as the corrupt status quo in Mr. Lopez’s organization.
Mr. Restler, who has the honor of holding the obscure position of district leader, is very aware of the fact that despite the lofty rhetoric of his campaign, he’s talking about an unpaid office with few official responsibilities.
“Any elected office, even an elected position you’ve probably never heard of, is a platform to advocate for one’s community,” Mr. Restler said in his speech, still standing on the chair. The crowd rightfully laughed after “you’ve probably never heard of.”
At the Brooklyn Winery in Williamsburg last night, Democratic District Leader Lincoln Restler packed a room full of supporters and announced his reelection campaign. Mr. Restler has carved out a higher profile of an office he admitted is “an elected position that you’ve probably never heard of” by being a public thorn in Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez’s side, which he continued doing in his kick-off speech.
“Here in Brooklyn, we have had an old-school political machine that’s controlled politics in this borough longer than any of us have been around,” he said. “Three of the four last … leaders of the Brooklyn Democratic Party have been indicted on charges of corruption, the current boss is under multiple federal investigations.”
Chris Olechowski, the chair of Community Board 1 in Brooklyn, has registered a campaign committee to challenge progressive activist Lincoln Restler as he seeks reelection to his second term as district leader.
Mr. Olechowski’s interest running against Mr. Restler was already established, but the new committee firmly sets the stage for another match between supporters and opponents of Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the head of Brooklyn’s Democratic organization.
Brooklyn Democratic District Leader Lincoln Restler made a name for himself last year when he took on Kings County Democratic Party Boss in an against the odds race for a position on the state committee.
The energy behind the anti-Lopez crowd however seemed to lose a little steam this year when a county backed candidate, Rafael Espinal, beat a reform-backed candidate, Jesus Gonzalez, for an open Assembly seat in Bushwick.
But a number of leading politicos in Brooklyn–including some who are aligned with Lopez–are hosting a fundraising for Restler next week in North Brooklyn.
Among them: Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, State Senator Eric Adams, and Assemblyman Karim Camara.
A number of anti-Lopez pols are expected to be there too, including Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Councilwomen Tish James and Diana Reyna, and State Senator Daniel Squadron.
At the end of the invitation, Rester includes his own analysis of the Espinal/Gonzalez race.
Take a look: