By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
As one of the youngest Democratic Party leaders in Brooklyn, Kevin Peter Carroll said he doesn’t like to waste time. The precocious political personality has already made his pick for mayor. Carroll, 26, has endorsed Sal Albanese, the former Bay Ridge city councilman who is vying for the Democratic nomination against political heavyweights like Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Comptroller John Liu.
For Carroll, the Democratic District Leader of the 64th Assembly District (officially called state committeeman), the choice was easy. “Sal’s an independent thinking person. We need someone in City Hall with a Bay Ridge sensibility,” he told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Carroll is quick to point out that while he has personally thrown his support to Albanese, his political club, Brooklyn Democrats for Change, has not made an endorsement yet. Carroll founded the club in 2004.
Carroll, a Bay Ridge resident, has known Albanese since he was a child. “I campaigned for him when I was seven years old. It was Sal’s City Council re-election campaign in 1993. I did it with my father,” he said.
Kevin Carroll instilled a love of politics and public service in his son. The elder Carroll, who died a few years ago, worked in the public school system. Kevin Peter Carroll's uncle, jack Carroll, ran for a City Council seat in 2001 in Park Slope. “I was 15 years old,” the younger Carroll said. “I remember being at a town hall meeting and thinking ‘This is what I want to do.’” Jack Carroll lost the primary to Bill de Blasio, who went on to win the general election.
The defeat didn’t dampen Carroll’s interest in politics. “I saw the way people responded to the issues and I realized the importance of politics on a grassroots level,” he said.
He went on to work on other political campaigns. “I campaigned for Gore-Lieberman and for Hillary Clinton,” Carroll said.
At age 20, Carroll, at the time a student at the College of Staten Island, decided to get involved in Bay Ridge on a grassroots level. “I was involved in politics, but I though that if I wanted to know what my neighbors think, I should be involved in civic groups,” he said. Carroll has been involved in a number of community organizations, including the Bay Ridge Community Council, the Bay Ridge Historical Society, and the Commodore Barry Club of Brooklyn, the Shore Road Garden Council, and Bay Ridge Peace Action. He also became a member of Community Board 10.
When he decided to take a leap into politics by running for a position himself, he ran for a party post. In 2010 he challenged Ralph Perfetto, the longtime Bay Ridge Democratic Party boss, by running against him for district leader. Perfetto had held the position for more than 20 years. Carroll, who knocked on hundreds of Democrats’ doors to seek votes, defeated Perfetto in the race, earning 62 percent of the vote. Carroll became the Democratic District Leader of the 64th A.D. The assembly seat also takes in parts of Staten Island.
Carroll’s campaign revolved around an issue. He promised Democrats in Bay Ridge that he would fight to return the neighborhood to one assembly district. In 1982 (four years before Carroll was born), the state legislature carved the community up into five assembly districts during the redistricting process that took place as a result of the 1980 US Census.
“We had a better message about unifying the district,” Carroll said of his district leadership race. Calling Bay Ridge a “close community,” he said the neighborhood should be united under one assembly district rather than having each section of the community being attached to a larger district centered elsewhere.
“If I’m not promoting an issue, why should people vote for me?” he asked.
District leaders spearhead the grassroots campaigning for political candidates, doing everything from collecting signatures from voters for nominating petitions to going door to door to talk to voters. They also have a say in which candidates for citywide, state, and national office the King County Democratic Party will endorse.
Carroll said he knows the limits of his role. “It’s not a government position. It’s a party position. But we have a voice at the table at county committee meetings,” he said.
He lost the re-districting fight. Bay Ridge is still divided into different assembly districts. He voted to continue the fight. “We have years to mobilize again,” he said. The districts maps will be redrawn again in after the 2020 Census.
These days, Carroll, who works as the legislative affairs director for City Councilman Steve Levin (D-North Brooklyn), spends a lot of time encouraging young people to get involved in politics. “During the presidential years we see a big jump in membership. It gets them interested,” he said. President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign attracted lots of young people, Carroll said. “It dropped off a little in 2012. He had more young people in 2008,” Carroll said.
His club seeks other ways to find new members, including social networking sites and just plain socializing. “Our club is on Facebook. We throw parties,” Carroll said.
Despite his lifelong love of politics, Carroll, who is single, said he has no plans to run for public office himself. “I’m comfortable with my role,” he said.