Gatemouth Gets a Scoop (Some quibles now added at the end)
No posts for a month, and insider oriented gossip sheets still invite Gatey to their parties, insider oriented podcasts still ask Gatey to be their guest and insider oriented columns still run the stories Gatey plants. Publishers even send Gatey review copies.
Life was good.
It was becoming clear that the things people loved most about Gatemouth was not having to read him.
Meanwhile, unfinished pieces concerning Israel, Iran, nuclear arms, Republican insanity, and the continued multi-party abdication from reality by our entire state government continue to pile up on Gatey’s G drive like planes over LGA.
But spring is here, and on most nights taking Dybbuk‘s black and silver schnauzer Cerberus for a beer at Bar Great Harry seemed a far more enticing prospect than putting fingers to keyboard. Stay out long enough and someone else gets called upon to explain to seven year old Dybbuk the uncomfortable parts of the Judy Blume novels he’s taken such a shine to.
Last week, Councilman Lewis “Eastwood” Fidler apparently looked out at a large crowd and invited Democratic County Leader Vito Lopez to “Make my Day.”
As Bob Dylan once said, “there was music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air.”
Cerberus had been practicing his teething and Dybbuk was in tears."Look what he did to Reichu."
Gatey picked up the tattered Pokemon card and said "Looks more like Rei-chewed." Dybbuk expressed his appreciation for the moment of levity by delivering a strong and well aimed love tap to his loins.
They were soon off to the Court Street to find out if the baseball card store had a Reichu. Thus, there was no way of avoiding the local street fair.
It was a torturous path, strewn full of politicians Gatey’d insulted and plumbers Domestic Partner had refused to pay.
Gatey encountered District Leader the Jo Anne Simon, the one local politician he’d never insulted, and she was mad he’d never insulted her main opponent (Stve Levin) in the prior year’s Council election (though he‘d not missed dissing most of the minor ones).
She’d news that the County Leader was running races against incumbents all over the Borough. The particular focus of Vito Lopez’s anger seemed not to be upon his enemies, but on his friends. Specifically, Lopez backed races were rumored against Lopez allies Councilman Lew Fidler (in his capacity as District Leader) and Assemblyman Joe Lentol (in his capacity as Assemblyman).The anticipated Lopez backed challenge to Lentol has apparently faded, possibly because it complicated holding the local District Leadership with friendly personnel. Lentol is currently opposed only by Andre Soleil, who is most notable for his advocacy in favor of child abuse.
Of course, Lopez was not sparing his enemies, and Simon was getting a primary for her District Leadership from young Hope Reichbach, an aide to Levin whose father Gus was a well respected Judge (especially among leftie legal circles) whose presence on the bench was owed almost entirely to Lopez’s efforts.
Lopez was running for male leader a young attorney for Steve Williamson, the prior high point of whose career in politics was running the star-crossed council campaign of Lopez enemy Nydia’s Velazquez’s now apparently estranged husband, Paul Bader. It is a testament to Bader that as a person of so little consequence, he is still worth taking the time to despise.
The question was, was Jo Anne’s co-leader Alan Fleishman, going to run with her?
Rumors of Fleishman wanting to retire to Asbury Park in the company of boyfriend and dachshund once his pension hit 20 have circulated since his pension was first called to the bimah for its bar mitzvah. This time, he’d done nothing to discourage such gossip.
Chris Owens, Jesse Straus, Gary Reilly and others all took notice. So did Bob Zuckerman, owing to feelings among the LGTB community that Brooklyn’s only openly gay district leadership should not be given up without a fight.
Simon and Fleishman had not been reflexive Lopez enemies. This was not a good thing. Reflexive enemies didn’t think, and were incapable of building useful coalitions. Nothing was more dangerous than someone who was with you some of the time, on what they thought were the merits, rather than out of loyalty. One could not abide that, because it might set a bad example to others.
Lopez’s Chief of Staff (as he was then), Steve Levin, had many attractive qualities. He was charming, he was likable, he was energetic; he worked hard. All of these were useful in a candidate. Most importantly, he was loyal. This might not have been of much use to a candidate, but for a County Leader, it was an indispensable quality for a Councilmen within his realm, while the other qualities were merely of occasional usefulness, and sometimes even a hindrance.
Gatey was approached by Levin for a talk a year before the Council race, when, out of nowhere, Levin suddenly broached the Council seat during an intensive conversation about blues guitarists.
Like most people who knew Levin, Gatey found him worthy of some respect, but found him far more worthy of fondness. Like most people who knew Simon, Gatey found her worthy of some respect, but found far more worthy of even more respect.
Gatey could not see how Levin could win. Even with a united Hasidic vote (which wasn’t likely given the Satmar’s War of the Rosenblums), the votes weren’t there. As he told Levin, “Even with the New York Times backing her, Shawndya (Vito‘s candidate for Surrogate) got her brains bashed in in Brownstone Brooklyn. You can‘t get a majority in this race”
Levin responded, “who needs a majority?”
Not Levin. Besides Simon, four other candidates divided the left/liberal/reform vote. Levin was right; why worry about a majority, when 30% would suffice?
In Greenpoint/Williamsburg, Evan Thies surely pulled more of his votes from Levin than Simon, but, he more than made up for that in the Brownstone belt. Ken Baer may have been a virtually inconsequential homunculus, but the small cut he made in the vote was all bled from Simon’s arm.
Then there was Ken Diamondstone, who may have openly embraced radicalism, but also openly speculating bemusedly about the fact that Vito seemed to want him in the race. At least weekly, one of Diamondstone’s consultants would get a call from from an associate of Vito's explaining some new way of attacking Simon as a pro-Lopez party hack that the County Leader had come up with.
And why not? The record shows Vito has no better friends than his enemies (And this year, just to make sure of it, he’s likely to be running primaries against some of those who’ve been most close to him).
So, how have the enemies become friends?
Well, take the political consultant Gary Tilzer, who shall forever be known in these quarters as Fat Ugly Smelly Toothless Bastard.
Last year, Vito set out to oust to win two City Council races. In his home turf of Ridgewood-Bushwick, he’d previously played Geppetto to Diana Reyna, only to discover one day that she could not only walk and talk on her own, but that it was Christine Quinn, rather than he, who was playing the role on Jiminy Cricket.
Though he was usually a reliable Quinn ally, nothing infuriated Lopez more than the idea that Quinn could obtain Reyna’s vote directly, rather than through his good offices.
Diana Reyna had got to be got.
Lopez , who previously taken away Reyna’s District Leadership by leaving her a message on her answering machine that he was putting a different name on his petitions, ran his new co-District Leader Maritza Davilla against Reyna for council.
Worried about Reyna’s popularity among oldtime Italians and newtime yuppies, Lopez encouraged the “reform” candidacy of one Gerald Esposito, a smart and competent guy for sure, but a smart and competent guy whose “reform” credentials included being President of an oldline Regular Democratic club and being District manager of a Regular Democratically controlled Community Board.
Tilzer and his partner Morgan “Brooklyn Optimist” Pehme ran Espositio’s campaign, whose purpose seemed largely to attack Reyna and drive away votes from her to which Davilla would have no access anyway.
It nearly worked.
In Brownstone Brooklyn, the Fat Ugly Smelly Toothless Bastard party ran one Douglas Biviano, a Kucinich loving building superintendent and PTA activist, who‘d otherwise never attended a civic meeting.
While Diamondstone’s attacks on Simon were restrained by the fact he was a sixty-seven year old fellow traveler who hadn’t had an original thought since Krushchev’s Secret Speech, and was incapable of thinking outside his Quaker Oats box, Biviano was unbounded by any political or community history whatsoever and just made it up as he went along. With the bottom-feeding, hate slinging offal prepared for him by Tilzer, he became the most effective means of tearing down Simon.
The role of Biviano/Tilzer might seem minimal given his depressing vote total (sixth out of seven), but it is rare that the most effective dispenser of such a vile brew gets himself elected while in the process of destroying another.
Fearing a repeat performance of the Council race, Simon and Assemblywoman Joan Millman begged and otherwise encouraged Fleishman to run again. Last week, he announced he was seeking re-election.
But it was too late. Some had gotten lover’s nuts.
Jesse Strauss, white shoe lawyer, was convinced that his “Skill Set” was so highly advanced and the need in the community for his services so imperative and obvious that “the reform community sees, at that point, that I’m the strongest candidate and decides to make me their ‘consensus candidate’” Strauss said he intended to “petition, get on the ballot and raise money” regardless of whether he was the consensus candidate in advance of petitioning, and then to “take it from there.” In Jesse’s mind “I've looked at this from many angles and ..there are more than enough votes for a reform candidate to win in a three way race.”
Was Jesse bothered that he might displace the County’s only openly gay district leader from the only district likely to elect someone from that category? “The identity politics element is the hardest- I am, alas, straight – and its with a heavy heart that I run for a seat held by Brooklyn’s only openly gay candidate.” But, after all, there are some things far more important than having one person from an unrepresented and vilified minority in a room where his very presence alters the conversation. And there were more important things than making sure reformers didn’t divide their votes. More important things like the advancement of Jesse Strauss overdeveloped sense of entitlement.
But, to his credit, Jesse started getting cold feet the minute people started responding to his efforts. Reaching out to what he thought was a friendly audience, members of IND disgruntled with the club establishment about recent events like the sacking of the club’s former President, Kenn Lowy , Straus found himself the object of words of praise like “sleaze” and “fucking douchebag.”
Last weekend, Gatey got the call from his old buddy Chris Owens, who asked for the call to be off the record. Gatey agreed it would be, until told otherwise.
Owens asked about Gatey‘s perspective on the Leader’s race. He asked Gatey if he thought Fleishman was the strongest possible candidate.
“The strongest possible candidate is the one who gets a head to head against Williamson. Otherwise, it’s Levin v. Simon and company redux.”
Gatey continued: “I also think it would be unconscionable for you to attack Alan as insufficiently reform.”
“I would never do that. I just won’t mention Alan and out-campaign him. No one will know about Alan’s record unless he lets them know.”
Gatey pictured Alan on the beach with Junior the dachshund and a pina colada. Owens was not without a point.
“I dunno Chris” said Gatey, “we have gotten to the point in life where we are no longer unfriendly. But, we are still very different types of Democrats, and I would have trouble voting for someone who might vote on State Committee to give Jonathan Tasini a place on a statewide ballot.” Owens laughed heartily, but Gatey noticed that he did not deny it.
Gatey asked him about no gays in the room. Owens hmm-nun-hmmed like Ralph Kramden, substantively little better than Strauss. Owens noted there’d been a gay person in the room for eight years. This was a little like Yassky arguing that the blacks had held the seat in Congress since 68, as if they no longer needed it. Actually, the argument would have been better from Yassky, since there would still be other blacks left in the room.
Owens made some other, inside baseball, political arguments concerning the balance of reform clubs in the districts and favors due and owing. They were points that would glaze the eyes of all but the insiders, but that did not mean those points were without some cogence. Gatey didn’t think they clinched the argument that Owens should displace Fleishman, but they could be quite compelling to some if the seat were an open one.
Gatey intended to put this all into a longer piece discussing the Countywide political wars generated largely by Vito Lopez, and what those war meant. But this morning, time became of the essence.
The email was headlined:
Your confidential scoop ...
Then there was another:
Re: Your confidential scoop ...
I have dropped out of the race. I don't have it in me to raise 20k plus and knock on doors all summer.
So, now it’s Williamson, Owens & Strauss. No word on whether someone will step up to fight for the gay place at the table, and further divide the reform vote, and no word about who else will come out of the woodwork.
Vito may hate his friends, but he surely loves his enemies.
SPECIAL QUIBBLING SECTION:
As originally posted, I had stated the Vito Lopez had personally called a Diamondstone consultant to advise him on how best to attack Jo Anne Simon. This is apparently untrue and has been changed.
According to a very relaible source, the truth is that "Vito thought it was wrong to directly call Ken's campaign," and instead used what Willie Cici and Senator Kefauver would refer to as "a buffer." I must concede that this is probably accurate. However, my conversations with multiple sources make clear that EVERYONE involved in the transactions knew who the advice came from, and why it was being given.
I also recieved a communication from Jo Anne Simon, who seemed concerned that I had not accurately conveyed that our conversation had the same level of warmth which has helped her earn the reputation she has today. I, by contrast, thought I'd conveyed exactly that.
"I am not sure" she said "how you derived that I was mad at you for not 'insulting' Steve. My comments that day were broadly addressed at the so-called 'reformers' who aided and abetted the County Leader in his quest to get his nose under the 52nd's tent (some of whom you mention in your pretty darn accurate article). You, however, were not among those I was addressing...
I must say, I love the fact that she put the word "reformers" in quotes. My influence is clearly growing. I also like her neat literary trick of expressing sarcasm without any vestige of humor whatsoever.
Sadly though, she was correct. I have felt guilty about my failure to comment upon that race from the get go. Perhaps poetically, Ms. Simon's sarcasm is exceeded only by the ingratitude of those who benefitted most from my failure (although an incidental benificiary, Mr. Theis, actually expressed his appreciation). Ms. Simon has clearly earned the right to scowl at me, even if that were not her intent (and truthfully, I should have known this, since she was being as warm and cuddly as she is normally).
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