Democratic District Leader and rising Democratic Party powerbroker Nick Rizzo, the svengali who plucked State Sen. Julia Salazar and her questionable backstory seemingly out of nowhere and led her to a convincing victory against longtime incumbent Marty Dilan last year, is at it again.
Rizzo has been pitching several Brooklyn media outlets with angles to tout Victoria Cambranes‘ candidacy to replace term-limited City Councilmember Stephen Levin with some success.
But while Rizzo may be angling for Cambranes, there are two large elephants in the room – or should they be called donkeys – that could easily stampede their way to replacing Levin in a district that includes Boerum Hill, the Navy Yard, Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, Fulton Ferry, Greenpoint, Vinegar Hill and Williamsburg.
Lincoln Restler, the politically ambitious co-founder of the New Kings Democrats (NKD) and a top lieutenant in the de Blasio Administration is strongly rumored to be eyeing the seat. While Restler refused to comment for this story, his candidacy will garner instant support among the progressive and reform community, who owe Restler a number of favors.
That’s because several sources say Restler – and not Kings County Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio – is the go-to person for a job in the patronage heavy de Blasio Administration. If a connected Brooklynite wants to get themselves or a family member on the city payroll, sources say that Restler’s ring is the one they must kiss.
It is Restler’s power that has garnered several barely show up jobs as well as several high-powered positions for members of both the NKD and the Brooklyn Young Democrats. This includes positions for NKD executive members Lacey Tauber and Anusha Venkataraman.
Tauber formerly worked as City Council Member Antonio Reynoso‘s Legislative and Communications Director, and currently works for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Venkataraman was recently named as the city’s Chief Service Officer, which is a division of the Mayor’s Office and is charged with building partnerships to deepen and expand civic engagement through volunteerism and service programs.
Venkataraman previously worked with HPD. As a side note, a spokesperson for the mayor said neither Tauber nor Venkataraman worked on HPD’s controversial Third Party Transfer (TPT) program, which has taken a number of smaller black and brown-owned properties. However, neither the spokesperson nor HPD got back to KCP on what projects they did work on or revealed any names of HPD people that worked on the TPT program.
Besides being owed favors, Restler’s time in the de Blasio Administration has undoubtedly allowed him to build a good working relationship with Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the United Jewish Organizations, which controls the block of Satmar Jewish voters in Williamsburg.
The other heavyweight eying the seat is Tusk Holdings Executive Chris Coffey, who worked as a top aide for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg on both the administration side and the campaign side.
Through his work with Bloomberg, Coffey also likely has a good relationship with Niederman and would make a capable lawmaker.
Coffey, a married gay man with two young children, also chairs the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, and is close with Speaker Corey Johnson and may want to opt-out of running to help on Johnson’s mayoral campaign.
Coffey told KCP he is flattered to have his name mentioned as a possible candidate for Levin’s seat, but it is too early to think hard about running.
A final fly in the ointment in this race is Levin’s Legislative Director Elizabeth Adams, who is also rumored to be eyeing the seat.
Adams has deep political ties and connections through her previous position as the Director of Government Relations for Planned Parenthood of NYC.
With these kinds of connections, one thing is for sure – all four of these possible candidates mentioned will have no problem reaching campaign finance spending limits.
The election is in 2021.