Council candidate says he has worked with all parties
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Rev. Khader El-Yateem, the first Palestinian-American to run for the City Council seat representing Bay Ridge, appears to be shaking up the race for more reasons than just the historic nature of his candidacy, according to political observers, who said he is making notable efforts to differentiate himself from the rest of the Democratic field.
El-Yateem told members of the South Brooklyn Progressive Resistance at a forum the group held on April 18 that he was confident he could get Republicans to cross over and vote for him in the general election in November.
“Because I was able to work with everyone in this community, if I win the primary election Sept. 12, I have a great chance to win in the general election because people on the Republican side who know me will cross party lines to vote for me because they saw my leadership,” El-Yateem confidently told the audience at the forum at Lobo Loco Mexican Cantina on Third Avenue.
“That’s a pretty bold statement to make,” one political observer told the Brooklyn Eagle.
El-Yateem, who is the pastor of the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge, is also the treasurer of the Arab-American Association of New York and belongs to Community Board 10 and the Bay Ridge Unity Task Force.
He is one of four Democrats running in the race to succeed Councilmember Vincent Gentile, a Democrat who has held the council seat since 2003 but who is term-limited and cannot run for re-election this year.
El-Yateem will face Justin Brannan, Gentile’s deputy chief of staff; Kevin Peter-Carroll, scheduler for Councilmember Stephen Levin (D-North Brooklyn); and Nancy Tong, a constituent aide to Assemblymember Bill Colton (D-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) in the primary.
A fifth Democrat, Assemblymember Peter Abbate (D-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst), is said to be considering a run, but has not yet officially entered the race.
The Republicans running for the council seat are: Bob Capano, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Liam McCabe, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan; and John Quaglione, deputy chief of staff to state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn).
In addition to Bay Ridge, the 43rd Council District that Gentile represents also includes Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst.
At the South Brooklyn Progressive Resistance forum, El-Yateem boasted that he is the only Democrat in the race who is not employed by a politician and hinted that it gives him an edge because it allows him to be independent.
He also spoke about city funding, charging that the community did not get its fair share of monies from the City Council.
El-Yateem called on NYPD to allocate more police officers to the 68th Precinct in Bay Ridge, which he said was chronically understaffed, so that more cops could patrol the streets and curtail dangerous activities like drag racing.
El-Yateem, who has served as a clergy liaison to NYPD, vowed never to shy away from criticizing police if the need arises. “We need to challenge policies that take away from the civil liberties of anyone in our city,” he said.
South Brooklyn Progressive Resistance is an anti-racist action group working to mobilize voters and elect progressive political leaders. Volunteers were on hand at Lobo Loco Mexican Cantina to help participants register to vote. The event was also live streamed on Facebook to reach more voters.
The April 18 event featuring El-Yateem was the first in a series of forums the organization will hold with City Council candidates in Bay Ridge. Brannan is the scheduled speaker at the next forum on April 25. Carroll and Tong will appear on May 2 and 9, respectively.
For more information on the South Brooklyn Progressive Resistance, visit the group’s Facebook page at: facebook.com/search/top/?q=south%20brooklyn%20progressive%20resistance.