ALBANY—Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign announced today she had been endorsed by the leaders of 52 of the 62 Democratic county leaders in New York. Among the holdouts: the chairmen of all five boroughs of New York City.
I found Assemblyman Vito Lopez, also chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, on the floor of the chamber and asked him what he was waiting for.
“I initially supported Caroline Kennedy, and then when Caroline withdrew and the governor designated [Gillibrand], I was surprised because on issues like immigration, on guns, and several other issues are very different than my issues, and not only mine but some people in Brooklyn,” she said. “What we really need to have her do is have her meet with some of the key leaders in Brooklyn before I could even consider an endorsement.”
I noted that Gillibrand has visited Brooklyn, and asked what further contact was needed.
“We have to formalize it. If she comes in as the guest of certain people, some of them Congressional people, and that’s fine. People come in, Brooklyn’s a big place. But to get the endorsement of the Kings County Democratic Party is depending on getting the district leaders involved. They cast the vote. She hasn’t, as of yet, met with one district leader. She is interested in meeting with us and having a dialogue, and I expect that will happen after we break.”
I asked if there had been any pressure to offer an endorsement.
“She has called me maybe seven or eight times to talk and have a meeting. I have not responded to those calls. We’ve never spoken.”
I asked if that was typical for a sitting U.S. senator.
“Let me say this: I believe whoever is putting together her campaign, they’re pushing a lot of the good buttons. They’ve cleared the field except for maybe Carolyn Maloney, but they’ve got three or four: There was a big interest in Israel, another interest in Scott Stringer, all those people who, I think some have been called, have gotten out of the race. So you have to give her credit for her political operation. The fact that she is not known to the city, her positions have not been reflective of what the majority of people in New York City feel, is problematical. Is she doing well at getting endorsements? If she has 90 percent of the county leaders, I think she’s doing very well.”
I asked if, ideologically, the party might be more in sync with Maloney or Representative Jose Serrano Sr., who has said he might challenge Gillibrand in a primary.
“I would believe that those traditional Democrats, we would be much more—Carolyn Maloney or Jose Serrano, who I know as a member, we served together—would have issues and philosophies which would, initially, be very positive for them to gain the endorsement. She’s changing, and she’s changing rapidly, but why is she changing and what does that mean to the political leaders of Brooklyn? So I think the jury is still out in Brooklyn about what we do. I think in the next two months, we’ll be resolving it.”