By Stephen Witt
Bed-Stuy district leader race heats up
Behind all the political hoopla surrounding the male 56th Assembly Democratic District Leader race between incumbent district leader Robert Cornegy and Al Wiltshire is that the two candidates appear to have different priorities with strengths and weaknesses.
Cornegy is taking a more legislative approach. A former high school and St. Johns basketball star and professional player overseas, he also came up through the ranks of Central Brooklyn politics.
He is currently president of Bed-Stuy’s powerful Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA) political clubhouse, and did an early stint as chief of staff for Assemblyman William Boyland Jr.
Thus it makes sense that Kings County Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez along with his political allies outside of Central Brooklyn all have come out publically in support of Cornegy.
This Support includes City Councilmen Stephen Levin and Erik Dilan, State Sen. Martin Dilan and Assemblyman Rafael Espinal.
It also makes sense that Central Brooklyn’s growing powerful black machine is backing Cornegy en masse.
This support includes City Councilman Al Vann and Letitia James, Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, Assemblymen Karim Camara and Hakeem Jeffries, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and State Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Eric Adams.
While Cornegy is showing this kind of political muscle, he is also showing the chops in the community. He met recently with police and youths at the Armstrong Houses, and advocates for more diversity in mayoral appointments to family and criminal court.
He currently works in City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office as a legislative and policy aid, and has made it no secret he’s eyeing the term-limited Vann’s city council seat next year.
“I took this job to give me a better understanding of policy and legislation from a city council level,” he said. “I really want to prepare myself to serve constituents.”
Wiltshire, a lifelong Bed-Stuy resident, currently serves as chief of staff for retiring Congressman Ed Towns. While he understands policy and political grandstanding, Wiltshire’s approach to politics has a “stop all the fancy talk and fix the pothole already” feel.
“Endorsements are nice but I think people are focusing on what you’ve done in the community. I’ve brought jobs,” he said. “I’ve brought housing and drug free areas in schools, summer reading programs and provided funding for internet services in the libraries.”
Wiltshire says he doesn’t have any problems with machine politics, but that some within the machine have not done justice to the community they serve.
This includes constant flooding after rainstorms on the street where he lives, even after the road was supposedly repaired.
“There are mosquitoes hanging around because of this lack of services we get in the community,” Wiltshire said. “We have garbage on the street, overflowing wastebaskets on corners days at a time and social services being shut down and nobody is doing anything about it.”
Odd & Ends
The city’s redistricting commission will issue its map of redrawn city council district lines the first week of September. According to the law, the lines must be redrawn every 10 years after the national census is completed. Similarly, lines for the state assembly and senate districts were redrawn earlier this year.
The 15-member commission is made up of seven mayoral appointments and eight city council appointments. However, the mayor usually controls the redistricting outcome because five of the city council appointments are given to the majority party, and three are given to the minority party.