It was long rumored that Lincoln Restler, one of the leaders of Brooklyn’s Democratic reform movement, would launch a high-profile challenge to Councilman Stephen Levin. Though Mr. Restler ultimately chose not to take on the incumbent, yet another Brown University graduate will enter the fray instead. Indeed, Stephen Pierson, a Brooklyn community board member and publisher of the literary journal Canteen, told Politicker he’d be launching his campaign at Brooklyn Borough Hall Sunday.
“After much consideration, I will indeed be running,” Mr. Pierson said yesterday.
Mr. Pierson cited controversial Assemblyman Vito Lopez as his motivation for challenging Mr. Levin. The former county boss, once the man Mr. Levin worked for, was accused last year of sexually harassing his staffers. Mr. Lopez has denied the accusations.
“I’ve lived in this borough for 14 years and it’s the only real home I’ve ever known,” Mr. Pierson explained. “It’s one of the more progressive districts in the city if not the country and it strikes me as odd that we have as a representative who acts so completely deferential to the person who I consider the most vile politician in Brooklyn politics, Vito Lopez.”
Mr. Pierson made it abundantly clear he will wage a campaign that tries to remind voters as much as possible that Mr. Levin once served as Mr. Lopez’s chief of staff. Contemplating a City Council bid of his own in a neighboring district, Mr. Lopez is already facing ardent opposition.
“He’s tacked very hard to left, especially in the last year,” Mr. Pierson said of Mr. Levin. “But I’d like to think that we can have a representative that can cast all the right votes while not being beholden and indebted to corrupt political mentors.”
Unseating Mr. Levin, particularly after his district was redrawn earlier this year in the decennial redistricting process, will be an uphill battle for Mr. Pierson. By uniting the Hasidic communities of northern Bedford-Stuyvesant and south Williamsburg, the Districting Commission consolidated a voting bloc that is mostly loyal to Mr. Levin. As an incumbent, Mr. Levin is also likely to garner establishment support.
But Mr. Pierson, a former competitive poker player, intends to be more than token opposition. He hired Democratic district leader and political consultant Chris Owens to guide his campaign and said he’s already secured the backing of the smaller but still-influential Hasidic sect in Williamsburg.
Update (1:58 p.m.): Mr. Levin told Politicker that he welcomed any opponents into the race.
“It’s a free country,” he said. “That’s one of the great things about democracy, anybody can run.”
“I look forward to running on my record,” he replied when we asked about Mr. Pierson’s broadsides against Mr. Lopez, touting his work on issues like childcare and senior services.
Additional reporting by Colin Campbell.