Divide and Conquer (Part One) [UPDATE: Conspirator Confesses] [And Insignificant Correction Added]
COLIN CAMPBELL (2/8/12): Earlier today, Liz Benjamin reported Councilman Erik Dilan is raising money for a federal office, suggesting his rumored campaign against Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez should be taken much more seriously. A Democratic source also told Chris Bragg that Mr. Dilan was close to making a decision.
But could Mr. Dilan win?
Ms. Velázquez, who’s a long-time political opponent of Brooklyn’s Democratic leader, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, would surely see the county’s Democratic organization support Mr. Dilan’s primary challenge should he pull the trigger. Having establishment support for a low-turnout primary battle would be a powerful tool for Mr. Dilan to have in his back pocket.
On the other hand, Ms. Velázquez is a pillar in parts of New York City’s Puerto Rican community and taking out a veteran incumbent is never an easy task.
A Democratic operative supporting Mr. Dilan told The Politicker he believes there could be a viable path to victory in this diverse district.
“I think the Dilans and Lopez believe that, in a Democratic primary, the Satmars, public housing population, and Asians, along with splitting the Latino vote with Nydia, could prove to be a path to victory for Erik,” he said, referencing Mr. Lopez’s strength in one of Williamsburg’s Hasidic sects, as well as both Mr. Dilan’s and Mr. Lopez’s influence in public housing. Both chair powerful public housing committees in their respective legislative bodies.
However, others have questioned whether Mr. Dilan truly intends to run, or if he even has a way to win in a district that includes many voters far outside of Mr. Dilan’s base in northern Brooklyn, including Manhattan’s Chinatown, parts of Brownstone Brooklyn, Poles in Greenpoint, and trendy gentrifying areas in the Lower East Side and Brooklyn.
For example, when rumors last surfaced that Mr. Dilan was considering a Congressional campaign, Brooklyn political blogger Gatemouth expressed doubts over Mr. Dilan’s “ability to battle Nydia Velazquez … in a district currently filled with substantial loads of yuppies, hipsters, white ethnics and Chinese.”
A Democratic official supporting Ms. Velázquez agreed, arguing while the district is plurality-Latino, “the majority of your primary date voters are white people … he would be introducing himself to basically a new electorate for him, comprised of people who have never voted for him or know who he is.”
OK; you’re Erik Dilan. You bring to the table a proven electoral base of your own, your father’s, and your political benefactor Vito Lopez’s to the table.
You add to that the dominant Zali faction of the Williamsburg Satmar Hasidic Community (and its allies among the Pupa and other smaller sects), the social services tentacles of the Brooklyn based Lopez empire which extend as well into the district’s small Queens area, the proven ability of Lopez (and yourself) to use your Housing Committee Chairmanships to leverage voters outside your base area and the little noticed addition of Shelly Silver’s home area of Grand Street to the mix.
You still lose.
Nydia has her own voters in the Dilan/Lopez home base areas.
Further, outside of the projects, where you might make inroads, Nydia Velazquez kicks your ass in Manhattan Chinatown and among Manhattan blacks and Latinos. She kicks your ass in Sunset Park and Red Hook (especially outside Red Hook Houses) among Latinos, Chinese and whites. She beats you among white voters, whether they be hipsters or Wall Streeters.
Your ability to penetrate these areas is limited and so is your time. You are not all that articulate, and even if you were, you have little to say to these people.
There are few voters in the 7th CD who find that sort of politics appealing. And even those voters who might agree with this stuff, like the guys on the Board of the Stock Exchange living in mansions on Columbia Heights with two car garages (who enroll as Democrats because of social issues or to have the ability to participate in primaries), don’t want to be represented by someone who talks like Erik Dilan.
What to do?
You can’t access these votes. But maybe someone else can.
Enter Dan O’Connor and George Martinez.
Today we look at Dan O’Connor.
Dan O’Connor speaks fluent Mandarin and Cantonese and seems focused on draining Velazquez’s votes in the Chinese community, where he has business ties. He’s opened a headquarters in Chinatown and has gotten extensive play in the Chinese press.
Beyond that, O’Connor may take some of the fiscally conservative, socially liberal votes among Yuppies and Wall Streeters in places like the Heights, as well as among the more libertarian hipsters..
O’Connor is frightfully libertarian.
“ America is currently in the largest debt of any nation in the history of the world. Dan O’Connor will go to Washington DC and take an axe to all of the reckless spending that has been going on for so many years so that we do not pass this massive debt on to our children and future generations.
Republicans and Democrats have both been unreliable in their stated efforts to lower taxes and lower the debt. Both Obama and Bush Administrations have failed in their efforts to reduce the debt and spending.
Lowering taxes certainly benefits all of us. It gives working men and women the ability to take control of their own lives. It allows business owners to invest in their companies, pay their employees, and create new jobs. Lower taxes encourages spending, saving, and investing – all necessary for a healthy economy.
With our national debt approaching 16 trillion dollars, the deficit spending by Washington DC continues to mortgage fruits of our future labor to fund federal programs we don’t need and cannot afford.
We need representatives committed to cutting spending, balancing the budget, lowering taxes, and staying loyal to the The U.S. Constitution.”
O’Connor might even have some appeal among the some of the somewhat conservative old-timers left in places like Carroll Gardens.
Which brings me to why this most unlikely candidate for being a Vito Lopez plant might just be one (though I suspect, without his own personal knowledge).
As I’ve previously noted, Carroll Gardens’ Buddy Scotto Real Estate Industrial Complex is allied with Vito Lopez in trying to elect Buddy’s daughter, Debra, as the local Democratic District Leader against “reform” incumbent Jo Anne Simon. Moreover, the Scotto claque hates their former friend, Nydia Velazquez, who they consider “a radical environmentalist.”
But, a pleasant, white-skinned, anti-regulation tax cutter might appeal to them and their base on several different levels.
And, sure enough Buddy Scotto serves on Dan O’Connor’s Advisory Board:
“Salvatore “Buddy” Scotto
O’Connor’s eclectic base also includes “the Nappies” (the knick name is derived from the acronym for the Nappies’ former name, The New Alliance Party).
As Tom Robbins once noted in the Village Voice, "There would be this little circle grouped around [Nappie Leader Fred] Newman, hanging on his every word… The group included Cathy Stewart, the chairwoman of the New York County Independence Party; attorneys Harry Kresky and Gary Sinawski; political consultant Jackie Salit; All Stars president Gabrielle Kurlander; and [Lenora] Fulani.”
I note this because, this would not be the first time the Nappies aided members of the political establishment, including Vito Lopez, in a common effort to beat Nydia Velazquez.
In 1992, Congressman Stephen Solarz saw his district decimated in reapportionment, and decided his best shot was to run in a newly created Latino district he did not live in and only represented only a tiny piece of.
There were two real Latino candidates, one of whom was Velazquez.
But three candidates with no shot helped divide the Latino vote further, and nearly elected Solarz.
One was Dr. Rafael Mendez, a Nappie, whose ballot access operation was run by Gary Sinawski and Harry Kresky.
Another was Ruben Franco, run by Vito Lopez.
Is this race déjà vu all over again?
Next time, we examine, the extensive regular Democratic connections of self proclaimed Wall Street Occupying Hip Hop candidate George Martinez.
UPDATE: CHRIS BRAGG says "GATEMOUTH NAILS IT!" He even gets a full confession from Buddy Scotto, who is caught en flagrante delicto with Dan.
Jerry Skurnik: You should change the tense in your comments on [Nappie Guru and cult leader] Fred Newman as he died a few months ago.