Pras Michel v. Vito Lopez: Brooklyn's Latest Democratic Throwdown

Now even rap stars are giving Brooklyn Democratic Party leader Vito Lopez trouble. Yesterday, Pras Michel -- late of the Grammy-winning Fugees and whose 1998 "Ghetto Supastar (That's What You Are)" was a hit on the movie "Bulworth" with Warren Beatty -- endorsed a challenger to one of Lopez's party loyalists. Renee Collymore snagged Pras's backing for her bid to defeat Olanike Alabi for the female district leader post in the 57th Assembly District in Fort Greene, a race that turned nasty this summer when Collymore filed a police complaint against her rival for alleged harassment.

In addition to being famous, Pras is a good catch because he's active in local Haitian politics and is known for going his own way. Last month, he bent fellow ex-Fugee Wyclef Jean out of shape by endorsing a rival of Jean's in the race for president in Haiti.

"Pras is going to be running his Haitian effort right out of our club," says Collymore, a local businesswoman who founded the Parliament Democratic Club last year. Collymore, who has worked for Brooklyn beep Marty Markowitz and other campaigns, said she's running because she's "sick of dirty politics."

Collmore said she reached out to Lopez months back to talk about finding a way to be useful in the Kings County Democratic Party but got shot down. "He just never called back," she said.

As the Voice reports this week, Lopez missed an even bigger chance to turn rebels into allies two years ago. That's when a group of pumped-up Obama activists calling themselves New Kings Democrats offered to put their shoulders to the wheel to register more voters and bring new life into the party. Lopez called them "outsiders" and tossed them out of his Bushwick Democratic club.

Now, two of those insurgents are threatening to snatch key party posts from the boss's control. In Bushwick, a local church-based activist named Esteban Duran is running for Lopez's own District Leader slot. Next door in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, an anti-poverty worker named Lincoln Restler is running against Warren Cohn, son of veteran Brooklyn machine operative Steve Cohn who once set records for the most lucrative court appointments by judges he helped put on the bench, making him a different kind of Ghetto Superstar.


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