Seddio Remembers Lopez’s ‘Legacy’ (Updated)

Former Assemblyman Vito Lopez is being remembered today as a man who died under a cloud, a once powerful lawmaker who ruled the Brooklyn Democratic Party with an iron fist and chaired the influential Assembly Housing Committee, only to see his career come crashing down amid a sexual harassment scandal.

So firm was Lopez’s hold on his Democrat-dominated borough that elected officials and would-be elected officials alike would routinely make the pilgrimage to the taxpayer-funded Ridgewood-Bushwick Senior Center picnic he threw every year, and those with the power to do so approved hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of NYC and state member items that the assemblyman used to build his senior services empire.

Usually, the death of a political figure of the stature Lopez once enjoyed sparks an avalanche of statements from fellow pols, all expressing condolences to the family and singing the praises of the deceased. In this case, however, only former Assemblyman Frank Seddio, who took the reins of Brooklyn’s Democratic operation after Lopez fell from grace, has chosen to formally state his feelings regarding the disgraced late assemblyman.

Seddio said he had been friends with Lopez for over 30 years and was “saddened” by his death.

“His legacy is the work he did for the poorest residents of Bushwick and Ridgewood, where thousands of people live in affordable housing on lots that were once burned out and garbage-filled,” the chairman continued. “He was the foremost champion of affordable housing before it became the cause that it is today.”

“As he faces the judgment on the value of his life, my hope is that all the good work that he did will outweigh the unfortunate way in which his career ended.”

UPDATE: Statement No. 2 just landed in my inbox, it’s from Sen. Martin Malave Dilan, another Brooklyn Democrat:

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend Vito Lopez after a long, brave battle with cancer. What he accomplished for communities long underserved and overlooked should not be soon forgotten. He forever changed the face of the neighborhoods he represented and I am proud to have partnered with him on his vision. I will truly miss his friendship and my thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones today.”

Lentol Claims Brooklyn Support (Updated)

Assemblyman Carl Heastie’s team is working overtime to make him look like the inevitable winner of the speaker’s race, and while he is indeed perceived as the frontrunner at this point, his fellow contenders aren’t quite ready to throw in the towel.

Assemblyman Joe Lentol, chair of the Assembly Codes Committee, sent out a statement this afternoon announcing that after speaking to his fellow Brooklynites, he has secured the “support of the delegation” to continue his effort to succeed Assemblyman Sheldon Silver.

Lentol didn’t get into specifics – like exactly how many of the delegation’s members have given him their assurance of support. (I assume he supports himself, so that’s one certain vote). Also, he didn’t mention Brooklyn Democratic Chairman Frank Seddio, who is himself a former member of the Assembly – much like Queens Democratic Chairman Joe Crowley, who is now a congressman).

A Democratic county chair who is supporting one of Lentol’s rivals, Assemblyman Carl Heastie (chair of the Bronx Demoratic Party), told me last night that the Brooklyn Democrats were poised to annonuce their support of Heastie, who already counts his former opponent and fellow county chair (Manhattan) Assemblyman Keith Wright among his backers.

Maybe Lentol is trying to get out in front of that announcement? Unclear.

Also, we’re expecting to hear something from Queens today. Crowley is back from his overseas travels with President Obama and called a noon meeting at party HQ of the borough’s Assembly delegation to discuss the speaker race. Queens has 18 members who tend to vote in a block. There has been considerable speculation about where Crowley might land, but the safe money at this point is on Heastie – especially when you consider the fact that a sizable chunk of Crowley’s own district is in the Bronx.

UPDATE: Well, minus one Brooklyn member for Lentol. Assemblyman Walter Mosley sent out a statement not long ago declaring his support for Heastie. Mosley, who was elected in 2012, identified himself in the statement as the second vice chair of the Black, Hispanic, Puerto Rican and Asian Legislative Caucus, which has some 30 members, and will be a significant force in the speaker’s race – should its members decide to all unite behind one candidate.

Mosley also signed the reform caucus letter than went out earlier today. He was one of 23 members to do so.

“I am proud to endorse Assemblyman Carl Heastie for Speaker of the New York State Assembly,” Mosley said. “I am confident that he will usher in reforms that will serve as a catalyst to make Albany work even better for New York.”

“This legislative session is filled with difficult decisions and with Assemblyman Heastie’s vision and leadership the Democratic conference will benefit exponentially. Carl has a history as a consensus builder and my colleagues need only look towards him to see that he is the diversity that is needed in Albany’s leadership.”

Ms. Malliotakis Goes to Washington

From today’s Morning Memo:

GOP leaders in NY-11 may be coalescing behind Staten Island DA Dan Donovan to run in the yet-to-be-called special election to replace disgraced former Rep. Michael Grimm, but Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel.

Malliotakis, a Staten Island Republican, traveled to Washington yesterday to meet with NRCC leaders about her potential candidacy for the lone NYC seat in the GOP’s column.

Her effort could be assisted by the fact that national party leaders reportedly aren’t thrilled by the idea of having the guy best known as the DA in the Eric Garner case as their candidate – a move that would no doubt focus the election on the sticky issues of criminal justice reform and race relations.

NY1’s Michael Scotto caught up with NRCC Chairman Greg Walden after his meeting with Malliotakis yesterday, and the Oregon Republican tried hard to maintain an air of neutrality.

Walden insisted both Donovan and Malliotakis are “very fine candidates” with “different strengths” who would “represent that district very effectively here in Washington.”

“The long and short of it is that the people on Staten Island and Brooklyn will decide who the nominee is,” Walden said. “Our job is to move forward from there and hold that seat.”

“…I’m meeting with them as we do any candidates, but I know I don’t have a vote. The Republicans on Staten Island do. I am really excited about both these individuals. They both bring different talents; they both bring very strong electoral capabilities.”

Asked about the complication for Donovan’s candidacy of the Garner case, in which the grand jury’s decision not to bring charges against a white police officer for the chokehold-related death of an unarmed black man sparked protests and significant unrest in NYC, Walden said:

“I think if Republicans pick Dan Donovan then he will have an opportunity to go explain in further detail his side of the story there certainly that perhaps he hasn’t had a chance to do.”

“But the long and the short of it is we have a good opportunity to hold that seat, and I’m excited going forward.”

Malliotakis was also playing her cards close to the vest, telling Scotto that she had a “very good, pleasant, productive conversation” with Walden.

“We’ll go through the process and see where it ends up,” the assemblywoman said. “We’re not going to discuss any of the particulars of the meetings. We’re going to keep it private. We’re just talking about the landscape of the district.”

Malliotakis said she’s “encouraged” by the grassroots support she has been receiving.

Yesterday, Brooklyn GOP Chairman Craig Eaton released a statement announcing that the majority of his party’s leaders had signaled support for Malliotakis’ candidacy during a recent informal meeting.

Eaton said he will wait until Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls a special election in NY-11 (something the governor has shown no signs of doing any time soon), and then convene a convention of county committee members to which all potential candidates will be invited to make their respective cases.

“I will then bind myself to their vote and deliver same at my meeting with (Staten Island GOP Chair John) Antoniello at the lawfully appointed time,” Eaton said.

“In the very end, my committee and I will support the candidate selected through this process and work diligently to ensure that he or she is victorious in the election.”

But the reality is that Brooklyn will have a very small say in the candidate selection process, since only a sliver of the borough in included in the district, which contains all of Staten Island.

Antoniello has announced his support for Donovan. But Malliotakis said she’s hopeful Staten Island GOP officials will follow the lead of their counterparts in Brooklyn and hold a convention to select a candidate.

“All we’re asking for is an open and transparent process where the rank-and-file members can be heard, she said.

While the Republicans are holding a very public battle over who they’ll select to run in Grimm’s stead, the Democrats have been fairly quiet.

The potential candidates getting mentioned most on that side include former Rep. Michael McMahon, whom Grimm defeated in 2010, and Assemblyman Michael Cusick.

Brooklyn Among 3 Finalists For DNC

Brooklyn is among the finalists for holding the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Democratic Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced today in an email to supporters.

Also among the finalists is Columbus, Ohio and Philadelphia.

Elected officials in New York — especially those from Brooklyn — have lobbied heavily in favor of holding the convention there, where former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is expected to emerge as the nominee of the party.

“We’re thrilled to move to the next step of the selection process to determine where Democrats will come together to nominate the 45th President of the United States,” said Wasserman Schultz in a statement. “We are fortunate to have such a diverse and vibrant group of cities interested in hosting this special event and we thank Phoenix and Birmingham for showcasing their special communities. We look forward to working with Columbus, New York, and Philadelphia as we go forward.”

Meanwhile, potential weeks for the convention include July 18, July 25, and August 22.

The last time New York City hosted a national convention was with the Republicans in 2004, held at Madison Square Garden.

Labor-Dem-WFP Coalition Targets Sen. Golden (Updated)

The coalition created out of the Working Families Party convention to flip the state Senate into Democratic hands is quickly putting together its list of seats to target and/or protect, and apparently one of just two remaining Republican senators representing New York City is in its crosshairs.

According to a source familiar with the coalition’s plans, Sen. Marty Golden, of Brooklyn, will be a top target this fall. Democratic NYC Councilman Vincent Gentile’s name is being floated as a potential challenger to Golden, who is himself a former councilman. Golden, who worked for the NYPD for 10 years before launching his politial career, was first elected to the Senate in 2002.

There’s a long and not terribly friendly history between Gentile and Golden.

Gentile once held Golden’s seat, which he won in 1996, capitalizing on internal divisions in the Republican party to win a three-way race in what was then SD-23. Golden defeated Gentile in 2002 with the help of nearly $4 million from the Senate GOP, and Gentile, who spent about half a million dollars on his Senate campaign, subsequently won a special election for the NYC Council seat Golden vacated to move up to the Senate.

Effectively, the two swapped jobs.

Today, Golden’s Brooklyn district (the 22nd SD) has an overwhelming Democratic enrollment edge – 78,165 to 33,343 Republicans, according to the state Board of Elections. Yet the Democrats have so far been unable to unseat the outspoken and often colorful senator from his seat.

Two years ago, Golden’s Democratic challenger, Andrew Gounardes, lost to Golden, 57 percent to 43 percent, but performed surprisingly well in Golden’s home turf of Bay Ridge. Since then, however, Gounardes has accepted a job with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (a former Senate Democrat), and he would have to give up the job if he wanted to pursue a re-match run against the GOP senator.

Also worth noting: Golden was a close ally of former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who used his considerable wealth to bolster the Senate GOP’s coffers while he was in office. Now that Bloomberg is gone, the Republicans have lost their most prominent individual contributor.

Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif emailed the following statement in response to the news that Golden is yet again a target for the Democrats:

“Another year, another boast from Senate Democrats about this being the year they’re going to take out Marty Golden. Excuse us if we’ve heard this one before. Regardless of who the Democrats decide to put up this time, Senator Golden is going to be reelected because he keeps delivering for the hardworking residents of Brooklyn.”

UPDATE: The coalition source called back in response to Reif’s comment, noting that there are thousands of union members living in Golden’s district whose organizations have never before been uited against him, and prepared to urge them all to work – and vote – against him. Also, according to this source, some $1 million has been earmarked by the coalition to assist Gentile (or whoever the Democratic opponent ends up being) in his quest to unseat Golden.

De Blasio Pitches Brooklyn For Democratic Convention

As first reported by The New York Times this afternoon, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pitching his home borough of Brooklyn to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

In a letter to DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, de Blasio says Brooklyn’s Barclays Center would be the principle venue for the event.

New York last hosted a national political convention in 2004, when Republicans re-nominated President George W. Bush.

But now, with a liberal populist resurgency embodied by de Blasio, New York City — and Brooklyn in particular — could be a way for Democrats nationally to showcase that.

Of course, New York resident Hillary Clinton may very well be the candidate for Democrats in 2016.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz by Nick Reisman

Felder Maintains ‘Go With Majority’ Stance

With all the talk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo potentially pushing to reunify the IDC and so-called “regular” Democrats as payback for the Republicans’ refusal to support a statewide public campaign finance system, I thought it would be worth checking it with the lone Democrat who is actually conferencing with the GOP: Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder.

“Nothing has changed,” the senator told me during a brief telephone interview this afternoon. “I’m interested in doing everything I can to make sure my constituents get all the services they need and deserve. That was my original position. It’s not about the governor. It’s not about the IDC. It’s not about anyone other than my constituents. I care only about them.”

So, does that mean that Felder would return to the Democratic fold if the Republican-IDC coalition fell apart? In a word: “Yes.”

As you’ll recall, Felder, a former NYC councilman, announced shortly after winning his seat in 2012 that he would be caucusing with the Republicans, despite the that he had run as a Democrat and had no intention of changing his party affiliation.

At the time, Felder made it clear that he would sit with whichever conference that would enable him to do more for his constituents – in other words, whoever could provide the most in terms of resources and service-delivery power would be getting his vote.

Just over one month later, the breakaway IDC announced its historic power-sharing deal with the GOP (plus Felder), which enabled the Republicans to retain a slim hold on the majority.

In return for his decision, Felder got to chair a brand new subcommittee on NYC education that was created by the Republicans just for him. And he generally has been a reliable vote for the GOP ever since.

This year, however, Felder experienced a significant policy loss when GOP Leader Dean Skelos failed to cut a deal on an education tax credit that would have given religious schools a much-needed boost. Felder took some heat for this, but he says he believes that of all the leaders involved in the budget negotiations this spring, the Senate Republicans “certainly made the best effort” to get the tax credit done.

Cuomo is now being criticized for failing to keep his word – according to Catholic leaders – on the tax credit. Supporters had hoped that it would end up part of a grand deal along with public campaign finance and changes to the teacher performanmce evaluation system, but so far, that hadn’t materialized.

I asked Felder if he felt the loss of the tax credit would encourage him to leave the GOP conference and return to the regular Democrats (who, by the way, once wanted him to be thrown out of the party, thanks to his willingness to sit with the Republicans), and he replied:

“There were a lot of people that – at best – did not do what they should have to make sure that that got passed, and in Albany, it takes three to tango. (Actually, these days, four).”

“…At the end of the day, I’m repeating myself, but party really makes no difference to me. If I was in a different district, I wouldn’t have the liberty to be such an independent person. I have, thank God, the benefit of being beholden only to my constituents and God, so I’m able to make decisions that relate to ensuring constituents get what they need without the impact of party politics.”

Recchia Lands 2nd Union Nod From RWDSU

Former NYC Councilman Domenic Recchia’s campaign is poised to announce that the Brooklyn Democrat has landed his second union endorsement from RWDSU for his bid to unseat Staten Island Republican Rep. Michael Grimm.

“Throughout his many years of public service, Domenic Recchia has stood with New York’s working families,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “As a New York City Council Member, Domenic not only fought for the people of his district, but also advocated on behalf of working families in every borough.”

“We need a congressman who will stand with low wage workers and all working people. Domenic Recchia will bring the voice of working families in Staten Island and South Brooklyn to our nation’s capital. We are proud to endorse him.”

John Durso, president of Local 338 RWDSU, added:

“We have seen first-hand Domenic’s commitment to all of New York City’s working families As a City Councilman he fought for legislation to protect workers’ rights while also working to create new jobs. We are confident that Domenic will continue to be a great champion as the next Congressman of the 11th District, and he will help change the Republican-caused gridlock in Washington, D.C.”

This isn’t terribly surprising. Two years ago, RWDSU endorsed Mark Murphy, the Democrat who unsuccessfully sought to oust Grimm in a high Democratic turnout, presidential election year.

The NY-11 race has heated up since Grimm was indicted on 20 counts of fraud and tax evasion. Grimm, who is out on $400,000 bond, made his first court appearance yesterday, and it appears this case is not going to be speedily resolved (as he had hoped) before the midterm elections, in which the scandal-scarred congressman continues to run.

The charges are in connection to an Upper East Side health food restaurant that the congressman owned and operated prior to his 2010 election to the House. The government has accused Grimm of filing false tax returns, committing mail fraud and withholding more than $1 million worth of taxes.

The case stems from an ongoing federal investigation into Grimm’s fundraising which has lasted about two years. Also, the House Ethics Committee announced in November that Grimm was under investigation for possible campaign finance violations.

Part of the problem in terms of timing is that it’s going to take a considerable amount of time for attorneys to review the 70,000 pages of documents and 8,000 emails that government prosecutors are using as evidence against Grimm.

The congressman has insisted he is innocent, and has called the charges against him a “political witch hunt” designed to “assassinate my character and remove me from office.” He did, however, resign from his seat on the House Financial Services Committee in late April at the urging of Speaker John Boehner.