Four Democratic candidates for City Council rebuked their more conservative rival John Heyer for boycotting a debate in Park Slope on Tuesday night after he claimed it was “rigged” because one of the moderators was biased against him due to his supposed positions against gay marriage and abortion rights.
The pols, running to replace Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope), lowered the boom on Heyer for bailing on the event rather than defending his controversial views.
“It’s very problematic that John didn’t attend,” said Bob Zuckerman, the former director of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy and the only openly gay candidate in the race for the Democratic nomination. “If you’re running for public office, you have to put your views out there.”
Josh Skaller, an IT director from Park Slope, added that he was “disappointed” that Heyer did not participate in the forum, organized by the Independent Neighborhood Democrats and Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats.
“How can you represent a diverse district if you cannot stand before people to defend your views?” Skaller asked in a statement released after the debate.
But Heyer wasn’t exactly invisible.
Surrounded by family members and supporters, the 27-year-old part-time funeral director and full-time assistant to Borough President Markowitz protested outside the Gethsemane Church on Eighth Avenue.
“This has felt more like a grilling than a debate,” Heyer told The Brooklyn Paper. “I see this as a personal attack on my religiosity.”
His opposition to abortion, which comes from his Catholic faith, has been questioned at previous events, but exploded on Monday when IND President Kenn Lowy told The Brooklyn Paper that Heyer’s position on the hot-button social issues “calls into question his commitment to the separation of church and state.”
But Heyer said his abortion view would not “affect my ability to represent a district as diverse as this one,” because he would put his “personal beliefs aside.”
On marriage, Heyer supports civil unions for all couples, turning “marriage” into a religious ceremony “carrying no legal weight,” he said.
His opponents — Skaller, Zuckerman, Brad Lander, the director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, and Gary Reilly, a lawyer — all support gay marriage and are pro-choice.