Restler Will Passover New Election, And Will Spend His Un-Levin-ed Bread On Council Race; Will Pharaoh Vito Let His Person Go?
It’s over, and it’s not by 23 or 24 votes, as originally reported, but by only 19.
I like Lincoln Restler, and I wish he’d won, but that won’t stop me from accurately opining upon this and related stories.
Contrary to the usually reliable Colin Campbell (and the mostly unreliable Gary Tilzer), the victorious Vito Lopez ally, Olechowski, was not “supported by the county establishment” at least as it presently constituted.
County Leader Frank Seddio was officially neutral, and Restler was represented by the Seddio- friendly (and sometimes liaison to “reformers”) Marty Connor, while Olechowski’s lawyer was insurgent but decidedly not “reform” operative Mitch Alter.
Frankly (no pun intended), the last thing Seddio wants is anything that further associates him with Vito Lopez or gives Lopez even a vestige more power to add to the small vestiges of power he retains.
Further, Frank Seddio does not need Chris Olechowski to deal with the Zali Satmar. The Zalis recognize power and will render unto Caesar or Seddio as the case will be.
Surprisingly, Restler defied expectations and did not seek a new election based upon allegations of fraudulent votes cast in the Hasidic community.
But that has not stopped Restler from painting his defeat as owing to fraud:
“My attorney has advised me that due to evidence of fraud and severe voting irregularities in Williamsburg, we have a strong possibility of having the court order a do over of the election...”
Then after essentially portraying himself as the victim of criminality, and after pointing out who the enemy is (“I am proud of the campaign we ran and our ability to secure 83% of the vote in Greenpoint, 86% of the vote in the Northside, and 93% of the vote in Fort Greene. In contrast, more than 91% of the votes my opponent received came from one block of voters in the Hasidic community.”) Restler demurs from seeking justice in the name of the community collegiality to which he just took an ax:
“In the interest of putting the community first, I have decided against this course of action,”
Pardon me for this reality check
Not surprisingly, the close Restler election has spawned allegations of “voting irregularities,” though only Colin seems to have enough understanding of Hasidic politics to grok that any fraud is just as likely to helped Restler as to have hurt him.
Hasidic fraud, if it did occur, is not a reflection on Lincoln Restler (though it may be on Vito Lopez), but it does reflect upon the ethics often displayed by political Hasidim on both sides of the political divide.
I will defend to my death the ethics of pro-Lopez Rabbi David Niederman, who spoke at my wedding, but will not vouch for the ethics of all his side's operatives, especially if they are named Joseph.
Further, the political operatives on the Aroni side are often people with all the qualities of dogs, except loyalty, who are often literally common criminals.
I would say one reason Restler did not pursue the fraud case was that, even though there was likely enough evidence to overcome a 19 vote margin, the actual facts of what would come out in a trial would be a harshly placed kick in the cajones to the narrative that Restler was the victim of fraud, rather than its beneficiary.
I want to make clear that I’ve revised my opinion here.
While I still would vouch for Restler personally, and for his campaign, and while I would not so easily absolve the Lopez forces, or the Hasidic leadership on either side (some individuals excepted) of culpability, I think the real truth is a bit more complicated.
Both the pro-Restler Aronis and the anti-Restler Zalis stirred up their communities into a frenzy of religious fervor.
When people are falsely convinced that they are on a mission from G-d, they are often capable of unspeakable acts, sua sponte.
Election fraud actually ranks pretty low on the list compared to some of the race hatred stirred up in some of the Yiddish language literature (the worst of which seems to have come from the Aronis).
The literature is another matter which, though it would have no legal impact, would likely also come out in a court case.
Finally, there is the fact that in a low turnout special election in the middle of chilly February. Restler would be an almost certain loser in an area where the Hasidim will all come out regardless.
The advantage of being able to raise and spend money in 2013 that would not be charged to the limits for his City Council race would be a big temptation, but the highly likely prospect of a crushing landslide defeat which would sap the energy out of his Council race is probably too big a risk to undertake.
Restler is smart, and has been playing it smart.
For instance, I am told he sent out his press release declaring victory already knowing there was a potential discrepancy in the voting machine memory sticks which could sink him.
Rather than waiting for certainty, Restler put himself into the position of having a reversal occur, which then looked highly questionable.
Restler even made sure to have someone drop me a dime to give me the non-existent scoop.
But if Restler is cut-throat sharp, his adversary in next year’s Council race, incumebent Steve Levin, has been playing it as dumb as a too loyal hound dog who doesn’t realize his owner is a serial pig.
Here’s what a pro-Levin source in the Orthodox community told me:
I wanted to ask you for a while whom you will choose in a Levin/Restler match up, but I sense your contempt to Levin…
Anyhow, A Gut Gebentcht Yur
A lot of people like Steve Levin.
I like him.
Rich Brooklyn Heights civic types he caters to like a hungry waiter love him.
Working Families Party progressives and their allies like Brad Lander who tell him to jump while Steve only asks “how high,” sing his praises.
About a year ago, I wrote a piece about some preposterous childishness involving Levin and Restler and accusations circulating about the sources of Restler’s family’s money, and a commentator sympathetic to Levin wrote back:
While I still think you're making a molehill on an obscure issue, …Levin may or may not have had a point, though, but perhaps it is directed towards the wrong person. Restler may or may not have family cash and chose the (alleged) reform/nobless oblige route, while Levin feels outwardly guilty since he has no family cash and needs to rely upon Lopez for assistance, which perhaps inwardly he dislikes and prefers not to do. This may simply be a case of a child acting out without realizing it and by highlighting it to you he unconsciously reveals his own concern and insecurity on the issue. Sort of like a Freudian slip. Or at least this is what I learned in my Psych 101 class.
And the results of this loyalty have not inured to Levin’s benefit.
Restler apparently offered Levin a deal: Leave my leadership alone and me and my daddy’s money won’t come after you in a Council seat full of Brooklyn Heights people I grew up with, in a larger district where your Hasidic support will mean far less.
It was a deal almost any politician would take, if that politician was truly master of his own domain.
But Levin was a foot-soldier and totally deferring to Lopez.
Other moves which could not help look anything but awful did not inure to Levin’s benefit, but gave the King his shilling nonetheless.
Levin put Lopez’s Chief of Staff on the Brooklyn Bridge Park Board. He gave a member item to the Lopez controlled Ridgewood-Bushwick center, which might serve about three people in Levin’s district.
One could understand this when the relationship with Lopez helped more than it hurt.
But after Lopez’s troubles began, Levin held on with a loyalty which appeared to be almost self destructive.
When Lopez’s fall began, neighboring Assemblyman Joe Lentol did everything to celebrate but dance in the street. Concluding that, without Lopez, the Zalis need him more than he needed them, Lentol even endorsed Restler, a young man he is rather fond of, almost in spite of himself.
But there’s another young man Joe Lentol is rather fond of, almost in spite of himself:
Steve Levin, who the Zalis also need more than ever.
Lentol publicly expressed his sad frustration that Levin couldn’t get with the new reality.
Speaking about Levin and Lopez, Lentol said:
“He’s upset about it, but he really shouldn’t be upset…It’s an opportunity for all of us to move out from under the yoke of the county leader. I include myself for that. Like it or not, this county leader wields a lot of power because of his sheer personality and his position. It’s good for Steve Levin and it’s good for Joe Lentol too…It’s good for us to be out from under that so that we can all be our own persons.”
Steve Levin is smart enough to understand this, but he clearly has not been able to assimilate how to deal with this new reality.
Some of his friends better do an intervention and soon.
There is no time for delay, as yesterday brought another truck bomb aimed straight at Levin and others still perceived to be Lopez allies.
Vito will demand public support.
Will Levin give it to him?
Redistricting will determine Levin’s new lines. Will Levin want to sacrifice Hasidim he needs to help Lopez?
How will Levin be able to load-shed some Restler supporters into the neighboring district if Lopez doesn’t want them?
And it is not only Levin who could do without the unwanted bad publicity and unreasonable demands and sacrifices a Lopez run might entail for them.
The recent election results show that Marty Dilan’s effort to distance himself from Lopez paid off, but they also show his big victory is personal and his organization has far more trouble delivering votes to candidates who are not named Dilan.
The most popular opponent to the Dilan family organization is Jesus Gonzalez, who will be running for the Council seat Erik Dilan must give up.
The last thing the Dilans want to deal with is Vito Lopez, bringing up bad memories and trying to grab turf they’d prefer to keep and shed turf they would rather do without.
And Frank Seddio needs an uncontrollable Lopez zombie rising from the grave as much as he want to go on a macrobiotic diet or replace his Christmas display with a tasteful wreathe.
There can only be one County Leader at a time and Seddio would like to keep it that way.
If Lopez runs in 2013, it will be an even sadder year for Vito Lopez than the sad, sad one he already has in store.
If Steve Levin and Vito’s other friends really love him, they will try to talk him out of this race.
And if Lopez really loves his friends, he will do them (and us) a favor and retire from politics.
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