There comes a time in the life of any politician when they need to make a decision that defines their character. A time when their core beliefs are pitted against self-interest. A time when they need to ask: Do I do something because it is politically advantageous? Or, do I stand up for the principals have always defined me and let the chips fall where they may? Jo Anne Simon now faces that moment with IND’s endorsement of John Heyer. Up to now, she has failed the test. We hope that you will ask her about it and that she takes steps to immediately correct it.
Many of you are already aware of what we are talking about. For those who aren’t: we are troubled because Simon stands mute while her political club, Independent Neighborhood Democrats (“IND”), of which she is an officer and long-standing member, endorses an anti-choice and anti-gay marriage candidate for City Council in the 39th District named John Heyer. Simon has made no statement critical of Heyer or his endorsement by IND, despite calls from at least two candidates in the 33rd District race and many, many others to do so.
Heyer, an assistant to Atlantic Yards booster Marty Markowitz, was backed at IND by long-time member and Carroll Gardens resident Buddy Scotto. Heyer has conceded that he is pro-life and not in favor of gay marriage. In conformity with IND rules, Scotto packed the membership over the prior three meetings to put votes in Heyer’s column at the May endorsement meeting. After an very contentious gathering, which reportedly lasted over four hours, IND endorsed Hayer over his openly gay opponent, Bob Zuckerman, the leader of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, and three other challengers: Brad Lander, Josh Skaller and Gary Reilly. Simon also received IND’s endorsement at that same meeting. She has stood mute since that time while the Heyer endorsement controversy swirls around her.
While IND members are not bound to support endorsed candidates, Simon’s silence is deeply troubling. As a civil rights lawyer, we would think that Simon would stand against IND endorsing a candidate openly opposed to the fundemental rights of women and gay couples. Gay marriage is one of the major civil rights issues or our era. The IND endorsement has given Simon a golden opportunity to stand up for her convictions and show true leadership. Kenn Lowy, president of IND, temporarily relinquished his position rather than lead IND through the primary with the Heyer endorsement in place. Simon should do something to register her objection…something…anything. Refuse IND’s endorsement. Accept it on the condition that she objects to the Heyer endorsement. Tell us how she would have voted if she didn’t conveniently absent herself from committing to a position. The longer she keeps silent, the more cancerous the issue on her character and campaign. The longer she stands mute, the more she proves that she is just another hack politician putting her own self-interest above the values that she professes to hold most dear.
Keeping It Real
Post Script: In this week’s BrooklynPapers/BIT debate, Simon responded to a question on the Heyer endorsement by avoiding the issue. She said that she has long supported a woman’s right to choose including working in a family planning clinic. She also said that she has been endorsed by at least one LGBT organization because of her longstanding commitment to gay rights. Given what Simon says her record is on choice and gay rights, we continue to be troubled that her present inaction on IND’s Heyer endorsement is foregoing her principles solely for purpose of political advantage.