Thursday, May 02, 2013

Vito Lopez remains a formidable candidate with strong Hispanic and Hasidic support for his Council bid 

Disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez may have lost his party backing but he's still a formidable candidate with an army of passionate supporters seeking to catapult his Council bid.

Lopez's backing in the Hasidic community and ties with Hispanic voters through his nonprofit political pundits predicting he has a good chance of winning the Council seat despite an ongoing criminal investigation into allegations he sexually harassed young staffers.

"He's delivered for (his constituents), so they are looking beyond his personal issues, said political consultant E. O'Brien Murray. "That's a big, loud group of supporters."

The former political powerbroker remains widely popular in the largely Hispanic 34th Council District, according to those familiar with the area.

His nonprofit, Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, employs approximately 2,000 people.

"His constituents love him," a political consultant familiar with the district said. "Despite everything that has come out about him he's been a very good representative. He's got very good name ID among the voters, and already has experience turning out voters."

The scandal-scarred state lawmaker has also remained a favorite of Satmar Grand Rebbe Zalman Leib Teitelbaum and Rabbi David Niederman, the executive director of the United Jewish Organizations in Williamsburg.

"They have not deserted him. The grand rebbe is his boy," a Lopez friend said.

But the fight to replace his former protégé, City Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Bushwick), who is term limited out, won't be a cakewalk, political insiders said.

Antonio Reynoso, 29, her chief of staff, has landed all the major union endorsements and big name political support. That includes the powerful United Federation of Teachers as well as Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and outgoing City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has vowed to do everything in her power to torpedo Lopez's run.

Reynoso, who grew up in the district, has a base of support in his old neighborhood, the south side of Williamsburg.

He's also expected to generate votes from a small patch of the district which carries over into Ridgewood Queens, and the Italian conclave along Graham Ave.

Reynoso spends most his time on the campaign trail simply introducing himself to voters.

"The narrative is all about who I am," he said, noting that the voters already know about Vito and the scandal surrounding him.

"The great thing about the media is that its done its job educating the public about him," said Reynoso. "They definitely know who he is and what he's done."

He's also expected to generate votes from a small patch of the district which carries over into Ridgewood Queens, and the Italian conclave along Graham Ave.

Lopez's relationship with the Brooklyn archdiocese remains murky.

In 2009, bishop Nicholas DiMarzio recorded robocalls for Lopez's handpicked candidate who was running against Reyna.

A repeat of that explicit step into politics by the religious leader is unlikely, political insiders said.

DiMarzio declined to comment.

As for his Jewish backing, the district, which includes Bushwick and parts of Williamsburg, does not have many Hasidim, a voting bloc the Assemblyman has long relied on. Lopez is likely to lean on them for campaign cash instead.


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