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Posted by Brooklyn Daily Eagle on 11:04:25 10/19/05

Leaders Vie for Support in Bid for Party Chair

Lopez, Towns among Rumored Frontrunners

By Charles Sweeney

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

ADAMS STREET-- Several names have been floated to fill the now-vacant Brooklyn Democratic Party chair held by Assemblyman Clarence Norman, and with a meeting of the district leaders reportedly set for Tuesday October 12th, some frontrunners for the powerful position are beginning to emerge.

A source within the Democratic Party leadership told the Eagle Friday that Assemblyman Vito Lopez had secured the support of 17 district leaders, close to half the total number in the borough. A simple majority among the 41 district leaders is all that’s needed to secure the post.

Lopez himself said in published reports late last week that he’d already gotten 23 votes lined up.

With at least two other party leaders actively seeking the post-- Assemblyman Darryl Towns and party vice-chair Freddie Hamilton-- and the balance of any remaining votes likely to be split between them, the likelihood of Lopez getting the nod would at first seem almost assured.

But not so fast, said one district leader.

“I can tell you this,” the leader said, “There is definitely a real ‘Stop Vito Lopez’ movement. He’s a bully and he’s not a real Democrat. After what we’ve gone through with Clarence (Norman), we need a real democrat who can unite the party.”

Not all party leaders were unwilling to go on record about the possibility of a Lopez-led party and all spinning and politicking currently underway. Alan Fleishman, 53rd Assembly district leader, gave the Eagle his impressions of the stories about Lopez lining up votes.

“Vito Lopez may claim to have 17 votes or 23 votes, but that’s a lot of posturing,” Fleishman said. Floating stories of so-called endorsements, or commitments, from other leaders was a “strategy,” which Fleishman said was “all about, ‘if you’re not with me, when I’m elected you’re going to be on the outside,’ which to me sounds like a bullying tactic.”

Fleishman pointed to the difficulty of any single candidate for party leadership having broad support in such a diverse borough. With so many interests in what is the largest Democratic County in the country, there are bound to be territorial battles for control, Fleishman explained.

“Look, clearly there’s going to be a major African-American candidate,” Fleishman said. “There’s Assemblyman Darryl Towns, there’s Annette Robinson, then there’s Freddie Hamilton, who’s vice-chair of the party. If the African-American constituency votes as a block, then there’ll be an African-American leader. If not, then I would say it’s up for grabs.”

Asked whom he’d support for the leadership position, Fleishman had a few specific qualifications he said he’d be looking for. With the party facing an opportunity to clean up the way it does business, in the hopes of avoiding another situation like the one Brooklyn Democrats find themselves in now, Fleishman feels now is the time for real reform.

“I’m not supporting anyone who isn’t willing to put in place an independent auditing committee to oversee County finances,” Fleishman said. “And as far as I’m concerned there’s got to be an end to this shady way to pick Supreme Court Judges where they have to make contributions to the county party and to district leaders and use party-favored consultants in order to get the nod.”

This, Fleishamn said, “puts the entire judiciary under a taint,” especially in light of the DA’s current investigation into the sale of judgeships.

Fleishman also favors ending the judicial convention altogether.

“There should be direct elections of Supreme Court Judges, or at least have them appointed by a independent blue-ribbon panel.”

In the furious jockeying for position leading up to the scheduled vote for party leader on October 12th, it is Fleishman’s hope that the party can be united under the mantle of reform he believes voters want.

“If you look at Hynes’ victory despite his case against Norman, and if you look at Margarita Lopez-Torres’ victory (for Surrogate),” Fleischman said, “I believe the people have sent an important message. They are ready for real reform.”

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