Another flip-flop in Williamsburg district leader race

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For one political candidate, Yom Kippur was the “Day of Dethroneme­nt.”

Williamsburg district leader hopeful Lincoln Restler surged ahead of political rival Warren Cohn by 85 votes just as the Jewish Day of Atonement began on Friday night, thanks to an official recount of voting machines by the Board of Elections.

The recount was the second change in leadership this week after Restler appeared to win the Williamsburg-Greenpoint-Fort Greene state committee seat on Primary Day by just 19 votes. First, dozens of “emergency” paper ballots were counted late in the week, and Cohn got 97 to Restler’s 36, putting Cohn up by 42 votes.

But then workers made their official recanvass of their Election Day count, and suddenly Restler’s 19-vote machine lead surged to a 3,569–3,423 total, or 146. Bringing back the paper ballot score only cut Restler’s lead to 85 votes.

Tomorrow, election workers will begin counting the remaining ballots in the race — about 200, including 103 absentee ballots.

Restler’s campaign manager Sarah Baker said she was “cautiously optimistic” that Restler’s lead would hold, noting that the majority of absentee ballots were from election districts outside South Williamsburg, the heart of Cohn’s popular support.

“We feel confident that the absentee ballots will give us an even stronger lead, as we won about 80 percent of votes cast outside of Hasidic Williamsbu­rg,” said Baker.

The bitter campaign pit two twentysomething Brooklyn Heights-natives in an increasingly personal battle.

Cohn, backed by both his father, longtime state committeeman Steve Cohn, and Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman Vito Lopez, has emphasized his close relationship with elected officials and Hasidic leaders in South Williamsburg.

But Restler, as vice president of the New Kings Democrats, has campaigned on a platform of reforming the county’s political machine, which Lopez leads, attempting to link Cohn to Lopez and vowing to cast his vote with another party leader.

Updated 2:47 pm, October 19, 2011
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