It’s an unpaid, virtually unheard of political position with no legislative power, no budget and no staff, yet a dozen Brooklyn elected officials trekked down to Borough Hall on Monday, July 30th in support of Lincoln Restler’s reelection to District Leader and State Committee Member. “It’s just your average sort of District Leader endorsement event that you see every day,” said State Senator Dan Squadron, with more than a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
In case you were wondering, District Leaders elect County Chairs, appoint poll workers and select civil court judge nominees. State Committee Members support party candidates and represent the interest of the Assembly District (AD) in which they serve by connecting elected officials and government agencies to the community. Restler was elected, by a tiny margin, to represent the 50th AD in 2010.
At Monday’s rally, two members of Congress, three State Senators, two Assemblymembers, two City Councilmembers, two District Leaders and one Borough President heaped praise on Restler. They cited his work on housing and transportation issues and his advocacy on behalf of local day care programs when their funding was threatened earlier this year. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who led the rally, lauded Restler “for being so passionate about the issues that matter most to the communities of Greenpoint and Williamsburg.” Councilmember Diana Reyna called him “the most effective District Leader I’ve ever seen.”
Considering that it’s a race for a relatively obscure, local position, the 50th AD District Leader campaign between Restler and challenger, CB 1 Chair Chris Olechowski, is garnering an unusual amount of attention. For some, the race is a referendum about County Leader Assemblyman Vito Lopez, a frequent target of Restler’s. In what could only be seen as a thinly veiled shot at Lopez, Borough President Marty Markowitz compared Restler to former Congressmember Shirley Chisolm, calling him “unbossed.” Reyna said she was backing Restler because “I want someone who will represent the right politics in the county.” And Jerry Nadler, whose Congressional district is predominantly in Manhattan, crossed the East River because “I think Brooklyn politics needs the kind of reform effort that [Restler’s] bringing to it.”
Restler was clearly moved by the turnout and the praise. “What I believe unites these officials is a common belief that reform values, integrity, transparency and accountability in government delivers better results to our community,” he said.
In response to the strong political showing for Restler, Olechowski pointed out that the race is about the issues and who will make a better District Leader, not about political differences. “I’m getting my endorsements from the community’s leaders and the people who live here,” he said.
State Senators Velmanette Montgomery, and Eric Adams, Assemblymembers Jim Brennan and Joan Millman, Councilmember Brad Lander and District Leaders Jo Anne Simon and Chris Owens also endorsed Restler at the rally.
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