Lincoln Restler wins re-election against Vito Lopez's Last Stand (?): mandatory recount to follow
[NOTE: see bottom for the rumored meeting of the minds between CBID and Frank Seddio!]
[UPDATE: and the count switches again! I have to admit this kind of thing always makes me wonder about how we count our votes around here!]
One of the most hotly contested races in Brooklyn this year is one that normally would get no attention: a race for a single District Leader position on Democratic County Committee. Normally something only insiders pay attention to, the re-election of reform District Leader Lincoln Restler over a challenge from the now disgraced former Party Boss Vito "Dirty Old Man" Lopez has been making repeated headlines.
Lincoln Restler was never meant to win in the first place. Two years ago he surprised everyone but beating the Vito Lopez machine in the first place. He remains one of perhaps 5 reliably reform District Leaders on County Committee. And a major embarrassment to Vito Lopez (who, to be fair, is himself an embarrassment to all Democrats). In what might be his very last power play in Brooklyn, Vito Lopez ran his crony Chris Olechowski against Restler. Olechowski's support came almost exclusively from one faction of Brooklyn's powerful Hasidic community. Restler's support came from almost everywhere else. On primary election night it looked like the Hasidic votes and Vito Lopez machine (who may share an interest in getting the Brooklyn DA to suppress sexual harassment prosecutions?) had one by some 50 votes. A very close election and already a sign that Vito Lopez had lost his mojo (that's what SHE said!).
But that left absentee and provisional ballots to be counted. And in a further sign that EVERY VOTE COUNTS, in the end reformer Lincoln Restler now looks to have won re-election by about 50 votes. Here is Lincoln's announcement:
On Friday evening, the canvassing of voting machines was completed and emergency, affidavit, and absentee ballots were all fully accounted for. Board of Elections staff and our election lawyers confirmed the result: every valid ballot had been counted and we had overcome a 136 vote margin on election night to be ahead by 53 votes in the final result.
Then on Saturday, we received a phone call from technological consultants to the Board of Elections informing us that their assessment had changed. Two memory sticks from the same scanning machine had yielded different results. We spent the weekend assessing how two data drives from the same machine could possibly provide different numbers, but we now believe we are facing a deficit of 31 votes.
Ultimately this vote difference does not change what happens next: despite everything the Brooklyn machine threw at us - the margin in this election is so small that State law mandates a hand recount of every ballot before the election result is final. The spread is now 50.1% to 49.9% in a 12,000 vote race, which means every single ballot that the BOE will now be reviewing truly counts. We are looking for volunteers who would be willing to help us monitor the hand recount...
Vito Lopez must HATE those words, "hand recount." I remember it was such a recount that lost him his FIRST major judicial seat when Judge Margarita Lopez-Torres won in a recount. It was during that recount that the current reform movement in Brooklyn first showed some real organization. Hopefully they will again and I urge anyone who wants to help in the recount contact New Kings Democrats for more information.
This is a key moment in Brooklyn politics. We have seen the fall of yet another corrupt Democratic Party leader. The reform movement was already strong enough two years ago to start appearing as at least a minor threat on Vito's radar. Though his grip on power was largely unchallenged, the small losses he suffered was starting to look like a death of a thousand cuts. The machine itself was turning on him bit by bit with the likes of Diana Reyna and Lew Fidler having public fallings out with Vito. And reform clubs like Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats and New Kings Democrats were starting to be more effective.
This year the new Party Boss, Frank Seddio, has made a big show of welcoming the reform movement into his machine. Let's be honest. The marriage of reform to machine will not be a match made in heaven and will be a rocky one. But the fact that it exists at all is progress on both sides. And repudiation of Vito Lopez's thuggish style of running things. It would be fitting if this new at least surface unity within the Democratic Party in Brooklyn is ushered in with Vito Lopez's final defeat in the re-election of Lincoln Restler.
Next fight? How about the reform and machine Democrats focus on electing Andrew Gounardes to the State Senate and Mark Murphy for Congress just to name two. AndI urge readers in Brooklyn to get involved with the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats or New Kings Democrats to keep the reform movement strong.
Interestingly, in what may be viewed by some as a sign of the Apocalypse, machine Party Boss Frank Seddio is rumored to be coming to speak at the next Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats meeting this Thursday, Sept. 24th, 7:00pm at the Park Slope United Methodist Church (Downstairs), 6th Avenue (Between 7th/8th Streets). Should be interesting! CBID is famous for its challenging questions for politicians.