By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Judge Simpson's most influential supporter is the Brooklyn Democratic Party boss, Assemblyman Vito Lopez (absolutely no relation to Ms. Lopez Torres). Lopez won his leadership post after his own predecessor, Clarence Norman, was convicted (three times) on corruption charges. One of the things that Norman's trials revealed is that party leaders really like having judicial candidates like Simpson who come to the table with a lot of their own money. For one thing, it cuts down on expenses, and it also helps pay party-approved campaign consultants.
Lopez is mum on the allegation that Simpson really lives in New Jersey. A visit last week to his Court Street office at the Kings County Democratic Committee found Lopez not at home. But it was good to see, now that Norman's shady crowd is gone, that Lopez has spruced up the place, returning a large and handsome portrait of another former Brooklyn Democratic boss, Meade Esposito, to its place of honor on the wall, alongside those of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Esposito was most famous for being caught on FBI tapes saying, "I made 42 judges." This was shortly before his own corruption conviction.
Elsewhere on sweltering Court Street, Judge Johnson's campaign brain trust was hard at work preparing the residency challenge against Simpson. Veteran attorney B. Mitchell Alter was in his conference room wearing a day's beard growth, baggy blue jogging shorts, and a rumpled T-shirt captioned "Tour de Cape." "This is the most outrageous flouting of the election law I've ever seen," Alter said, smacking the table. "You can quote that."
Last year, Alter was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a pending bribery case against yet another Brooklyn elected official. The charges were lodged a few months after Alter lost another campaign, one that sought to unseat District Attorney Joe Hynes. "That was payback, that's was that was," said Alter.
Johnson's campaign manager is Gary Tilzer, a knowledgeable consultant who piloted Margarita Lopez Torres into office two years ago. "What can I tell you?" Tilzer sighed. "This is the state of things in Brooklyn. All spin, no democracy."