According to a report in City & State this week, District Leader Lincoln Restler reached out to Councilman Steve Levin for a little friendly conversation about making sure that each would be spared a challenger in 2013.
According to the report, Restler told Levin that he wouldn’t challenge him for his City Council seat if Levin, in turn, wouldn’t push a challenger to run against Restler for his district leader post.
The district leader post is generally a party patronage position with very little influence, because the people who hold the positions – generally two males and two females in each Assembly District – simply do what the higher-ups tell them to do.
But in Brooklyn in recent years, there has been a push among reform-minded Democrats to sweep up these oft-overlooked, and in some cases unfilled, district leader positions as a way to undermine the huge influence of Kings County Democratic head Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
And nobody has been the face of that movement more than Lincoln Restler.
For the most part, district leaders stay behind the scenes, occasionally serving as a warm body at a press conference to show support for a local elected official...that is until they are given the blessing from on high in the party to begin pursuing their own political careers.
Until that day comes, they are better seen and not heard, if ever really seen at all.
In his first term as district leader, Restler has completely broken that mold. He has turned district leader into a full-fledged public office, holding press conferences, sending out press releases, and advocating on issues in a way that is normally reserved for policy makers.
In fact, at times you might think that Restler is actually representing North Brooklyn in the City Council, not Levin.
There’s no doubt that Restler has bigger ambitions, but right now might not be the best time to challenge Levin in the City Council, and that continuing what he started since he was elected district leader - including building his support base - might be a better way to bide his time until a run at higher office is more feasible.
But there is no shortage of people loyal to Lopez who would like to see Restler disappear, and getting re-elected is far from a sure thing, which is probably why he decided to reach out to Levin to see if he might be willing to help Restler keep his post in return for Restler not challenging Levin in a Democratic Primary in 2013.
In case you were wondering, Levin said “thanks, but no thanks.”
Levin is continuing his search for a challenger to Restler, and the focus appears to be on Chris Olechowski, the current chairman of Community Board 1, according to the report in City & State.
For his part, Restler said that he is focused on getting re-elected, and isn’t interested in running for City Council. But if Levin’s account of their conversations is accurate, Restler will be a busy candidate next year, not only protecting his hard-won district leader post as an upstart candidate, but also challenging an incumbent council member who in no small part owes his seat to Lopez.