A surprising rally to endorse City Council candidate John Heyer has caused a massive shake−up in the leadership of the Independent Neighborhood Democrats (IND).
After Heyer won the endorsement of the venerable Carroll Gardens political club, despite his conservative views on gay marriage and abortion, president Ken Lowy announced that he was taking a leave of absence so he wouldn’t have to collect petition signatures for the 26−year−old candidate who’s ruffled the feathers of more progressive neighborhood Democrats.
“In the eight years I have been a member of IND, I have never considered taking a leave from the club,” Lowy explained. “But [Heyer’s endorsement] is a unique situation where true leadership is called for. Under these circumstances, it would be unfair to our endorsed candidates for me to remain President.”
Lowy said that he could not in good conscience collect signatures for Heyer because of his conservative views.
He said that he would resume his duties as president after the primary and “do everything I can to heal whatever rifts have developed among the membership” −− referring to the outrage voiced by some of the club’s more progressive members following Thursday’s endorsement.
“My hope is that IND will be a strong progressive voice for Brooklyn again soon,” he said.
With both Heyer and candidate Bob Zuckerman being longtime members of IND −− Zuckerman was also a past president of the club −− Lowy said that he was hoping for a “no endorsement vote.”
But the vote ended in a landslide −− Heyer received 68 votes while the other candidates −− Zuckerman, Brad Lander, Gary Reilly and Josh Skaller −− received 62 altogether. Zuckerman received just over 30 votes.
Lowy credits the big win to Heyer supporter and IND founder Buddy Scotto, who Lowy said “packed the club.”
“There was no question that he did it, but he did it within the rules,” Lowy said, alleging that, with Scotto’s help, Heyer had signed up 30 new members in the last six months. Those new members, however, attended the three meetings required to vote. “But if Buddy wasn’t involved, there would have been a completely different outcome.”
The IND shake−up didn’t stop with Lowy.
After Heyer received the endorsement, first vice president Hal Friedman also stepped down because he supports Zuckerman.
Zuckerman also announced that he was leaving the club, claiming that he was “deeply troubled” that IND “is in danger of becoming an irrelevant voice.”
“IND is made up of many wonderful and smart people who are committed to the progressive values it was founded on over thirty years ago,” Zuckerman said. “But the actions of some have continued to tarnish the progressive reputation of this club and it saddens me to think, as this vote demonstrated, it’s no longer independent or reform.”
Heyer said he was “disappointed” to hear about Lowy’s leave of absence.
“Some IND members who have joined in recent years are leaving because their chosen candidate didn’t get the endorsement,” Heyer said adding that Lowy had “mischaracterized” his stance on abortion.
“I have repeatedly pledged never to interfere with a woman’s right to choose, and I think my unreserved support for the Clinic Access Bill is much better evidence for how I would vote as City Councilman than Ken’s persistent, uninformed distortions of my personal spiritual beliefs,” he said in a statement.
Heyer was endorsed even after deciding not to attend last week’s IND debate, which he believed would have focused on his opposition to gay marriage and pro−life stance.
He was taken aback by an article posted by The Brooklyn Paper, a CNG sister publication, in which Lowy said that Heyer’s opposition to gay marriage and his pro−life stance “calls into question his commitment to the separation of church and state” and promised to question him on these issues at the forum.
Concerns over Heyer’s beliefs were voiced by Park Slope Democratic District Leader Alan Fleishman, a former president of the Lambda Independent Democrats −− the borough’s leading LGBT political club −− who sent a letter to Lowy encouraging the IND not to support him.
“If I was running for Senate or Assembly or President of the United States, then gay marriage would be an issue of debate,” Heyer said. “But how much does it play in the City Council? [Gay marriage] plays on a different level.”
“Some think that you can’t be a good Catholic and a good Democrat, but I take exception to that,” he said, claiming that his beliefs on gay marriage and abortion stem from his faith. “The two are compatible.”
Heyer noted that, if elected to the City Council, he will vote for what his district wants, not what he personally believes.
“I’m not running on these issues,” he said.
“Let’s be honest,” said Fleishman. “The mayor, the governor, both U.S. senators and the majority of the assemblymembers and state senators in this borough support same sex marriage. [Heyer’s] views are more like someone running in Staten Island and are more Republican than Democratic.”