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Kings County Democrats hold gala - New York State governor, speaker on hand for special awards and accolades

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Shedding their differences after endorsing either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in the Democratic primary, Brooklyn’s political elite came together to honor community leaders and celebrate what could be a banner year for Democrats at the polls at the Kings County Democratic Committee’s annual cocktail party and dinner.

More than 1,000 district leaders, elected officials, political activists, labor movement leaders, local business people and Democratic party members from throughout Brooklyn gathered at Steiner Studios (15 Washington Avenue) to honor several religious and community leaders, as well as 59th Assembly District Leader Bernard Catcher and Assemblymember Vito Lopez, who is the current chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Committee.

“Tonight’s event shows clearly and without a doubt that Brooklyn is back!” said Lopez. “Over the past few years, we have built a broad-based coalition that reflects the diversity of the borough of Brooklyn, and that coalition is continuing to grow.”

That coalition of community leaders throughout Brooklyn was reflected in the diversity of religious, labor, and non-profit representatives chosen as the County Democratic Committee’s honorees. This list included George Gresham, president of the 1100 SEIU; Reverend A.R. Bernard, founder and CEO of the Christian Cultural Center (12020 Flatlands Avenue); Monsignor David Cassato, chaplain of the New York City Police Department and pastor of St. Athanasius Parish (2154 61st Street); Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg; and Barbara Ortiz of Ortiz Popular Furniture of Williamsburg and Brooklyn Unidos.

Lopez, who hosted the event, has represented the 53rd Assembly District since 1984 and has been chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party since 2005. This is the third time that the Democratic Committee has held its annual dinner at Steiner Studios, though it was the first time that the Governor attended.

In addition to Governor David Paterson, who praised Lopez’s work on affordable housing, the Brooklyn Democratic Committee welcomed Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver; Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith; City Comptroller William Thompson; State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli; Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes; and Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, as well as a number of elected officials and district leaders from throughout the city.

Numerous members of the Brooklyn delegation from the Assembly and their colleagues from the Senate attended in droves, after finishing up their legislative session earlier in the week. Many councilmembers filtered in late after they finalized negotiations for the City Council’s annual budget, which passed on June 30.

Many Democratic attendees expressed optimism about the growth of the Democratic Party in Brooklyn. During the February 5 New York presidential primary, in which Senator Hillary Clinton defeated Barack Obama by 50 percent to 48 percent in Brooklyn, a record 264,167 people voted in the borough, more than in any other county in New York State.

Elected officials are expecting a record turnout of Democratic voters during the November general election and increased interest in state and local races when a number of City Council seats in Brooklyn will be open in 2009.

“I think the event at Steiner Studios showed a definite resurgence of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, a credit to new leadership and Assemblyman Vito Lopez,” Assemblymember Joseph Lentol said. “You could see renewed life in our party in that over a thousand diverse and dedicated Brooklynites from all corners of the borough attended. It was a real success.”

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