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No Speaker for Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily
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Brooklyn has already wrestled two of the city’s top positions from other lesser boroughs, but the dream of winning the trifecta — and getting a Council Speaker from the borough — won’t come true.

But insiders say the borough will be better off next year because of it.

With none of the five contenders to be the next Speaker hailing from the County of Kings, the borough will be able to throw the full weight of its delegation — the largest in the Council — behind one candidate, giving Brooklyn’s representatives strong leverage to shape the rest of the body’s leadership.

“The fact that at this point Brooklyn doesn’t have a Speaker candidate means that the overwhelming majority of Brooklyn councilmembers are united for the purpose of finding the best speaker possible,” said Councilman David Greenfield (D–Bensonhurs­t).

Brooklyn’s Council delegation has long been divided between Southern Brooklyn councilmen like Greenfield, who are loyal to the official Kings County Democratic Party, and more liberal electeds like Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) who are members of the Progressive Caucus. If a rep from either of those camps had put himself forward, it would have led to borough infighting, Greenfield said.

Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) had expressed interest in the position, but did not aggressively seek it, according to Greenfield.

“We don’t have the issue hanging over us, and that strengthens Brooklyn,” Greenfield said.

Other insiders agreed with Greenfield.

“Putting up their own candidate would reveal division,” said leading Democratic strategist and lobbyist Hank Sheinkopf. “If Brooklyn votes as a bloc, they will be very powerful.”

Sheinkopf said that Brooklyn Democratic chairman Frank Seddio would negotiate to line up his council members behind one of the outer-borough candidates — in exchange for the new Speaker appointing Brooklyn members to key leadership positions.

“Getting together with the Bronx and Queens would show power, and it would give Brooklyn the chance to get some committee chairmansh­ips,” Sheinkopf said.

The longtime insider also pointed out that with Kings County holding two other top positions in the new city government — Park Sloper Bill DeBlasio as mayor and Fort Greene Councilwoman Tish James as public advocate — members from the other boroughs wouldn’t back a Brooklynite to head the Council anyway.

The Speaker contenders expected to be competing for Brooklyn’s backing are Councilman Jimmy Vacca (D–Bronx) and Councilman Mark Weprin (D–Queens). They face a trio of Manhattan Democrats — Councilwoman Inez Dickens, Councilman Dan Garodnick, and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito — in the race to replace outgoing Speaker Christine Quinn (D–Manhattan) as the city’s leading lawmaker.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him attwitter.com/WillBredderman.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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