A New York state assemblyman who lost his powerful positions following a scandal last year on Monday filed to run for a New York City Council seat in northern Brooklyn.
Vito Lopez, the former Brooklyn Democratic party boss and leader in the Assembly, faced down an avalanche of across-the -board criticism by elected officials and good government groups with his defiant announcement of his candidacy for a district that was drawn to favor his bid, and then redrawn after a public outcry.
The 71-year-old Lopez has said his health is failing and he may be treated for a brain tumor. But that has not stopped him from seeking to evade his Assembly leper status by meeting with a group of advisers to discuss running for the 34th Council district.
“We take races seriously — we don’t form committees just to play around,” a source told Crain’s New York. “My expectation is he’s going to run. To those who don’t like him, who don’t want him around, they should try to beat him and not wish him ill.”
The Legislative Ethics Commission is currently reviewing confidential findings by the Joint Commission of Public Ethics that let him to escape serious charges with a hefty fine and the Staten Island District Attorney is investigating Lopez for potential criminality.
Lopez has maintained his innocence and has vowed to fight the charges.
Lopez may struggle to get financial and political support for the race. Scores of public officials called on Lopez to resign from the Assembly last year and a Democratic Party source said there was “no way” the county would ever support him.
Still, Lopez retains a broad base of support in his former Williamsburg district where he won re-election last year with nearly 90 percent of the vote.
A consortium of opponents is already lining up to abort Lopez’s chances. Women’s rights groups, the Working Families Party and several labor and good government groups have endorsed Antonio Reynoso, an aide to Councilwoman Diana Reyna. Tommy Torres is also in the race.
“If Lopez does move forward with a City Council campaign,” Reynoso declared in a press release on Monday, “he needs to know that his career will end in defeat and embarrassment.”
“Who will give money to a … disgraced corrupt politician?” wondered former Democratic district leader Lincoln Restler, a longtime Lopez critic.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a New York City mayoral contender, called on Lopez to end his bid until the conclusion of his criminal investigation.
“At a time when each passing day seems to bring a new report of a public official arrested for corruption and other criminal acts,” de Blasio said, “the last thing New York needs is a disgraced politician seeking to represent the people and draw a taxpayer-funded paycheck.”