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City Council race heats up in Bklyn - Thies, Simon lead the way in fundraising as six candidates vie for Yassky’s seat

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Editor’s note: Due to a production error, the most up-to-date version of this story did not run in our Jan. 30 paper. Here is the correct version. We regret the error.

Democratic District Leader and Boerum Hill-resident Jo Anne Simon and Community Board 1 Environmental Committee Chair Evan Thies have each raised over $50,000 in the highly competitive race to succeed David Yassky for a seat in City Council.

Six candidates have declared to run in the 33rd District, which stretches along Brooklyn’s waterfront from Greenpoint to Cobble Hill and includes sections of Williamsburg and Brooklyn Heights. Simon and Thies, as well as former Community Board 2 member Ken Diamondstone, Assemblymember Vito Lopez’s Chief of Staff Steve Levin, activist Isaac Abraham, and Sierra Club New York City’s Ken Baer, have been raising money for their campaigns and attending community meetings since last fall.

“This fall has been a very confusing time in city politics, but I’m going full speed ahead,” Simon said. “My campaign is going to be an issues campaign and I look forward to discussing those with the voters.”

Simon, an attorney whose firm provides representation to people with disabilities, has raised $65,797 in private funds received through Jan. 15, 2009, the first major deadline to post campaign finance statements of the new year. Over the same period, she has spent $40,143, leaving her with $25,654 according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board’s finance summary.

Her nearest rival, Evan Thies, has raised $58,065, and he has spent $15,838 over the same period, leaving him with $42,227 cash on hand, the most recorded in the race so far.

Two other candidates remain close but somewhat behind through the first six cycles. Steve Levin has raised $33,773, spending only $9,591 and Ken Diamondstone has raised $40,083, spending $13,067. According to the finance board, Levin has $24,182 cash on hand while Diamondstone has $$27,016 available. Both have scheduled additional fundraisers in the next quarter.

Other challengers, Isaac Abraham and Ken Baer, have raised smaller amounts, with Baer reporting $16,021 and spending $9,733 and Abraham reporting $14,692 and spending $10,121.

In the past few weeks, several candidates have advanced their campaign operations. Simon is in the process of hiring additional campaign staff, Levin has assembled several campaign volunteers, and Thies left his job in political communications to run for the seat full-time. Each candidate has been attending community board meetings, community demonstrations, and public events up and down the waterfront, crisscrossing each other several times over the past few weeks.

“I’m experienced in campaign activities working for a legislative official so this is kind of my home turf,” Levin said. “This is the kind of thing I enjoy doing. It’s all interesting.”

Hovering above each campaign is the specter of current Councilmember David Yassky, who has privately indicated to several candidates that he is staying in the race for City Comptroller to succeed current Comptroller William Thompson. Thompson has declared his intentions to run for mayor, and several sources believe that Yassky will stay in the comptroller race as long as Thompson stays in the mayoral primary.

With the term limits extension bill that was passed late last year, Yassky and other councilmembers have a June 2009 deadline to officially declare with the city’s campaign finance board which race they will be competing for. Yassky is currently behind three other candidates for the comptroller race in terms of money raised, with $ 1,429,594, compared to Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr. ($2,311,973), Councilmember Melinda Katz ($2,135,040), and Councilmember David Weprin ($2,062,248 ).

Yassky’s successors remain undeterred and plan on staying in the race through the spring whether he remains in the comptroller race or returns to seek a third term in the City Council.

“My understanding is that (Yassky’s) running for comptroller and that’s fine by me,” Simon said. “My decision to run is my decision to run.”

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