Reid Pillifant has a lengthy article explaining who is behind the campaign against Congresswoman Velazquez. Here is some of the article: After leaving her unchallenged over the years in a district taking in parts of Brooklyn and Queens and the Lower East Side, Vito Lopez the Boss of the Brooklyn Dem Party, has once again produced a candidate to run against Velazquez, this time in the form of term-limited councilman Erik Martin Dilan.
That makes Velazquez the highest-ranking target in this cycle of a broad offensive by the county leader, who is trying to reassert his power after weathering multiple federal and city investigations, and to defeat, or at least diminish, a dissident Brooklyn Democratic faction that has sprouted up to oppose him.
Lopez has already rid the borough of his other longtime enemy in the congressional delegation, Ed Towns, who announced in April that he would retire in the face of a challenge from the upstart assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who happens to enjoy the strong backing of Lopez. But Towns was an island of incumbency, never much concerned with advancing a movement beyond his son and daughter.
Velazquez, on the other hand, has been a mentor to a younger generation of Brooklyn-based liberals who are openly challenging Lopez’s power.
Last summer, she backed Jesus Gonzalez, a challenger on the Working Families line, in a race for an open Assembly seat that was also a proxy battle among the borough’s competing factions, and she helped foster the movement against Lopez in its earliest days.
In January of 2010, she invited Lincoln Restler, who was then leading a reform club called the New Kings Democrats, to be her guest at the State of the Union.
“She supported a group of young people who are generally new to local politics and offered her expertise and credibility,” said Restler, who generated an impressive amount of laudatory (and anti-Vito) press in a successful district-leader race later that year. “And that’s been invaluable to our efforts.”
Not coincidentally, Restler is also being targeted by Lopez this cycle. To run against Restler, who won by just 121 votes in 2010, Lopez recruited the well-known chairman of the local community board, Chris Olechowski, who will presumably be an attractive candidate in a district with a substantial Polish population.
(Lopez, who did not respond to requests for comment for this article, recently described Restler’s connection to Velazquez as being “up her butt, and that’s fine.”)
Lopez’s strategy isn’t hard to follow.
A big victory for Olechowski could, in theory at least, dissuade Restler from running for City Council next year against Lopez’s former chief of staff, Steve Levin.
But Lopez is also getting involved in contests where the county organization is not widely expected to win, including a second challenge to district leader Jo Anne Simon, who ran against Levin in 2009 (with the New York Times‘ blessing) and is considering a rematch in 2013.
In 2010, Lopez ran the 22-year-old daughter of a judge and ally against Simon, in what she says was the first primary challenge to a female district leader since 1984.
Simon won with 63 percent of the vote.
This time, the challenger is Debra Scotto, the daughter of the unofficial mayor of Carroll Gardens, Buddy Scotto, whose power in the area appears to be on the wane. (Scotto aggressively opposed declaring the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site, which Velazquez counts as one of her signature achievements.)
But for Lopez, individual victories might not be the point.