By Aaron Howell.
Yesterday incumbent city councilmember Diana Reyna defeated challenger Maritza Davila by 4,000 votes, 60 percent to 35 percent. It was a far cry from the last time the two women faced off, in the September Democratic primary, when Reyna beat Davila by a mere 250 votes after a recount.
Davila, who this time ran against her fellow Democrat on the Working Families Party line, would not comment on the election. “I’m not much of a talker,” she said with a smile. “I’m a worker.”
Davila had the blessing and support in both the primary and the general election of New York State Assemblyman Vito Lopez — even though, as leader of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, he would normally be expected to support the Democrat in the race.
“How can you explain being the party boss, the chair of the democratic party, and not supporting the democrat in this election?” said Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez as she stumped for Reyna in the 34th. “That’s outrageous”…
Velazquez called Lopez a “bully” whom she’d been “standing up to” for years, ” and attributed his lack of support for Reyna to his need to control money, politics and power.
Reyna started in politics by working for Lopez. Eventually she became his chief of staff. And in her first two, successful city council campaigns, she had Lopez’s support.
But then, earlier this year, Reyna set herself against Lopez by coming out against the controversial rezoning of the Broadway Triangle, a project Lopez wanted passed in the city council. Velazquez said that’s when Reyna “became her own person.”
In September, Lopez held a large rally where he introduced Davila as a candidate for the 34th district and described her as a “team player”.
Lopez’ support can be very useful to politicians in his Williamsburg-Bushwik district. Another former Lopez chief of staff, Stephen Levin, just won his first city council race with the Chairman’s assistance. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Vito Lopez,” says Levin. “I know I wouldn’t be where I am at all without his help and support.”
(Levin started out with the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a non-profit group Lopez founded in the 70s — where, as it happens, Davila now serves as project director.)
Lopez’ presence was definitely felt in this campaign, too. Days before the election, the New York Times revealed that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brooklyn was making robocalls to voters on Lopez’ behalf, urging them to show support for the Party boss — presumably by voting for Davila. The bishop’s spokesman said he was just trying to “thank Vito.”
But in this case, perhaps for the first time, Lopez’ political muscle failed him. Reyna said in this race she “wanted to make sure the community has voice” that stands for “progressive values,” and that her and Lopez don’t “support the same thing.”
“He wants to have control,” said Reyna. “Not just on the deliverance, but on who delivers.”