Jockeying For The Inside Track For Gentile’s Bay Ridge Seat

Reverend Khader El-Yateem

Reverend Khader El-Yateem, a Palestinian Christian clergyman, originally from Jesus’ birthplace of Bethlehem in the West Bank of what now is Israel is fast becoming the consensus choice of candidate among Bay Ridge’s large Arab community to run for next years vacant city council seat representing the neighborhood, according to a source very familiar with local politics.

Reverend Khader El-Yateem

El-Yateem is the pastor of the popular and politically connected Salam Arabic Lutheran Church, 414 80th Street. A person answering calls at the church would not confirm or deny that El-Yateem is running and said he is out-of-town until Thursday.

The seat is open as current City Council Member Vincent Gentile is term limited in the 43rd Council District, which also includes Dyker Height, Bath Beach and parts of Bensonhurst.

Although not a Muslim, there is a sizable portion of Bay Ridge’s Arab-American population from Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East that is Christian and from which El-Yateem will likely get support.

Additionally, El-Yateem, according to several posts on his Facebook page, is a supporter of the recent resolution condemning Israel’s continued building of settlements on the contested West Bank and the Obama Administration’s support of the resolution through its’ abstention vote. This view will assuredly win him strong support in the large Palestinian and Arab-Muslim communities of Bay Ridge.

Promanent Bay Ridge Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour did not return calls at post time to comment on El-Yateem running. Murad Awawdeh, who founded the Muslim Democratic Club of New York with Sarsour, said he is not aware that El-Yateem is considering a run for the seat.

“The club will interview all the candidates and decide which one they will back,” he said.

Assemblyman Peter Abbate

The unconfirmed news of El-Yateem running comes as Assemblyman Peter Abbate, Jr. (Bensonhurst, Sunset Park) still has yet to formally decide whether he will throw his hat in the ring for the seat. Abbate has indicated to KCP that he feels he would do a good job representing the area, but a recent holiday mailing he did to Bay Ridge constituents landed him some negative press, perhaps giving him cold feet or at least room to pause before he jumps into what is expected to be a rough and tumble race.

On the Democratic side, Bay Ridge Democrats founder Justin Brannan is the only candidate that has registered a campaign committee, and sources close to his campaigns, say he has already hit the 75 donations mark from in-district residents, making him eligible for the generous 6-1 public financing match that all candidates running for a city office are eligible to get.

Justin Brannan

Regardless, whether Abbate gets in the race or not, Brannan is hard-charging and is a known entity as a lifelong Bay Ridgite. On the negative side, he once served as chief of staff for Gentile, who is now facing his second allegation of mistreatment of his staff. Additionally, Brannan, until recently worked in the de Blasio Administartion, which is currently under investigation for allegedly cultivating a pay-to-play environment in City Hall, whereupon wealthy campaign donors with business before government received special treatment regarding city contracts, favorable zoning variances and other perks.

On the Republican side, Bob Capano is continuing to position himself as the candidate that is impossible to ignore. He sends out regular press releases about almost every issue under the sun, and is the only officially declared candidate for the city council seat.

To his credit, Capano has shown he can work across party lines having worked for for former Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz, and he has the support of several Republicans, most importantly supermarket titan and radio show host John Catsimatidis, who has both deep pockets and good media savvy.

The one major rub against Capano from Democrats and Republicans alike is that he lives in Staten Island, but Capano, who grew up in Bay Ridge, said he recently moved back in an apartment along the Third Avenue corridor and has his Staten Island house on the market for sometime.

Also highly expected to run in the Republican primary are State Sen. Marty Golden‘s communications director, John Quaglione and Congressman Dan Donovan community liasson Liam McCabe.

While Brooklyn is overwhelmingly Democratic, Bay Ridge/Dyker Heights is perhaps the borough’s only neighborhoods where Republicans remain strongly in play. Among the Republican lawmakers that currently represent all or some of Bay Ridge include Donovan, Golden and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.

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