By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblyman Vito Lopez, embroiled in a sexual-harassment scandal, yesterday issued a statement saying he would not seek to continue as head of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.
His statement, quoted in the Albany Times-Union, said, in part, “The onslaught of character attacks has put enormous emotional pressures on my family and close friends. I cannot sit by and allow that to continue. ... For the sake of loved ones and the Democratic Party, it is important that I take this action.”
However, he added, “I have never sexually harassed any staff, and I hope and intend to prove in the coming months the political nature of these accusation.”
He added that he plans to stay in the Assembly, representing Greenpoint and Williamsburg, even thought he has been stripped of his seniority, Housing Committee chairmanship and much of his staff.
A bipartisan panel of four Democratic and four Republican Assembly members last week unanimously found that Lopez created a hostile workplace, including verbal and physical abuse, and that his response to the allegation was “not credible.”
Borough President Marty Markowitz, who had earlier called on Lopez to “do the right thing,” said, “I am relieved that he did the right thing today by announcing he will not seek re-election as county chair of the Kings County Democratic Committee. Now we must unite as a party and move quickly to find a successor with just over two months to go before this November’s important election.”
A spokesman for Democratic mayoral hopeful William C. Thompson Jr., who had said on Monday that “in light of the recent reports of sexual misconduct and the findings of the State Assembly ethics committee, it is clear that Assemblyman Lopez must resign from office,” told the Brooklyn Eagle that “[Thompson’s] position hasn’t changed.”
And the New Kings Democrats, a political club that had long opposed Lopez’ chairmanship, repeated its demand that Lopez resign immediately.
“Vito's continued tenure would send the wrong message to sexual harassment victims everywhere: a powerful man is allowed to stay in his job and determine the timing of his exit despite these extremely serious charges,” read a statement from the club.
Yesterday, Crain’s New York Business was speculating about who would take over the county chairmanship. Among the names the article suggested were Councilman Lew Fidler, former Assemblyman Frank Seddio, and Assembly members Annette Robinson and Felix Ortiz.