Obama's Troops Take on Brooklyn Boss Vito Lopez

Democratic Party chief faces rebellion

Lopez's response to Duran's candidacy was standard-issue Brooklyn politics: Claiming fraud, he tried to get him kicked off the ballot. After Board of Elections examiners found Duran's petitions legitimate, Lopez filed suit in Supreme Court. This is a place where a county leader might hope to find a friend sitting on the bench. Instead, the case landed before Justice Carolyn Demarest, who gave the case five days of careful hearings.

Lopez's attorney called more than two dozen witnesses. The closest thing to fraud heard on the witness stand, however, was from a woman who admitted that two of Lopez's aides had told her to change her story about whose petition she thought she was signing.

There was also a remarkable moment when Lopez's lawyer subpoenaed the City Housing Authority in an effort to prove that some of Duran's signatories didn't hold valid leases. Instead of a records clerk, the Housing Authority sent its version of a two-star general, its chief intergovernmental affairs officer, whose job it is to handle elected officials like Lopez, who chairs the Assembly's Housing Committee. On the stand, Housing Authority representative Brian Honan was asked by Duran's attorney, Leo Glickman, if he had spoken to Lopez about the leases.

Vito Lopez likes doing things the old-fashioned way.
Aaron Short
Vito Lopez likes doing things the old-fashioned way.

"Yes," answered Honan. "I spoke to him. He said that we were subpoenaed—[he] just asked that we would answer the subpoena."

The episode clearly rattled Honan. "I wanted to know as little about this as possible," he told Aaron Short of The Brooklyn Paper after he testified. "I'm involved in government work, not political work." Demarest later dismissed Lopez's suit. Lopez appealed. The decision was upheld.

Asked last week why he'd called the Housing Authority's governmental liaison about his election problems, Lopez insisted that the call never happened. After he was read the testimony, he exploded: "I talk to him probably every three days about different public housing matters. That's the end of this interview."

It wasn't, though. An hour later, the assemblyman, who has been in poor health lately, called back, not to answer questions, but to rage against the unfairness of anyone who would write about his leadership race. "I hope you can sleep nights," he said. Not always, he was told.


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