Power Plays by Party Boss Vito Lopez

The Lord of Brooklyn, a Democratic powerbroker who is flexing his political muscles these days like a gym rat pumping the free weights

The third candidate on Lopez's team is a bit of a sleeper. Even inside the district, few are aware that the county Democratic leader has placed an old friend named Pam Fisher on the ballot to be a civil court judge. Fisher lives in Whitestone, Queens, but her local ties are golden. Her sister is Christiana Fisher, the executive director of Ridgewood Bushwick, who pulls in $234,000 a year from the main group and an added $89,700 from its home-care division. She has her political duties as well, serving as records custodian for Lopez's campaign organization.

Pam Fisher, also a Ridgewood Bushwick alumna, has no primary opponent, so her name will automatically appear on the November ballot. This is lucky for her, since she was declared unqualified for the bench by both city and Brooklyn bar associations after she refused to submit to screening. Not that it matters. She is guaranteed to win since Republicans don't even bother running candidates for such posts.

Making judges is just one of the glories of being a Democratic county leader. Another is the joy of being able to bend others to your will. Among the able candidates for the 33rd District seat sought by Levin, Lopez's mini-candidate for the post, is Evan Thies, who was long David Yassky's chief of staff. Yassky—desperate not to antagonize Lopez in his own race for the city comptroller's post—didn't even endorse his own aide.

Levin and Lopez chew the fat at the Sunken Meadow picnic.
Aaron Short
Levin and Lopez chew the fat at the Sunken Meadow picnic.

Even more craven has been the performance of the Working Families Party, which is backing Levin at Lopez's behest in exchange for the county leader's backing for party favorite Bill de Blasio in his bid to become Public Advocate. The party could have chosen any of three other stellar candidates: Thies, affordable housing builder Ken Diamondstone, or veteran civil rights attorney Jo Anne Simon.

De Blasio and Yassky are both Brooklyn products, and it is unlikely that Lopez would have gone against either of them. But the county leader has mastered the art of the bluff.

In fact, Lopez hasn't won a significant borough-wide contest since becoming county leader. Last year, for the second time, his candidate for surrogate's court went down to defeat.

"He is just a paper tiger," says Luis Garden Acosta, the veteran Williamsburg community advocate who is supporting Reyna. "It is all about the aura and the pretense of power." Kind of like those pumped-up weight lifters who get knocked out the minute they step into the ring.


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