What’s the Distance Between a Reformer and Vito Lopez?

Apparently, the the most memorable moment from a forum last night for candidates running for David Yassky's Council seat in Brooklyn was an exchange over "reform" credentials and, in particular, the notion of independence (or lack thereof) from the borough's Democratic leadership.

Yassky was, for a while at least, lauded as such a figure by good-government groups for his work on advocating for greater transparency in city government and rules changes to empower rank-and-file Council members.

According to a couple of attendees at last night's forum, which was hosted by two local Democratic clubs, it was a pretty civil affair right until the end.

In his closing remarks, candidate Ken Diamondstone pulled out a quote from district leader Alan Fleishman, referring to his co-district leader and fellow candidate in the race, Jo Anne Simon. In that quote, Fleishman said Simon “agreed” with Brooklyn Democratic County Leader Vito Lopez “80 percent of the time.”

(Context dilutes the point somewhat: In the article from City Hall News, Fleishman said, “It’s the other 20 percent—when no one else ever disagrees with him—that’s made him insane with us.” But no matter.)

Diamondstone’s remark came after Simon’s closing remark and, I’m told, she was not allowed to respond. But her campaign spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly emailed me a statement.

“The kind of politics Ken Diamondstone plays—where one tears another person down so that one might look better—is precisely what Jo Anne Simon is trying to change.”

She went on to say, “To imply that the only way a person should assert their political independence is to be mostly oppositional is naive and out of touch with the voters. Just look at the Republicans in Washington and see how well that approach is working.”

Also running for that seat are Evan Thies, a former chief of staff to Yassky; local activist Isaac Abraham; Ken Baer, the former head of the Sierra Club; and Steve Levin, the current chief of staff to Lopez. Levin did not attend the event.