Anti-Corruption Activist from Brooklyn Taking the Fight to Albany

For some 10 years my wife and I have been fighting side by side with our local District Leader, Jo Anne Simon, against corruption within the Democratic Party in Brooklyn. When Vito Lopez (now disgraced) was at his peak of power and almost no one, including the Working Families Party, was willing to stand up to him, a handful of us were standing up to him on his own turf: the Democratic County Committee.

The fight against Vito Lopez seemed like tilting at windmills for many years. But we kept at it. Slowly we made progress. One major reform was when we forced the Party Machine to disclose its financial reports. Additionally, slowly, a handful of strong and progressive women stood up to and won against Vito Lopez. These included Brooklyn Surrogate Court Judge Margharita Lopez Torres, Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, and Assemblywoman Joan Millman.

But even more directly engaged in the fight was District Leader Jo Anne Simon. She was one of only a handful of District Leaders who dared to say “no” to Vito Lopez’s corruption.

In the end, Vito Lopez was brought down by sexual harassment charges. Now, under the new Party Boss, Jo Anne Simon remains a staunch reformer, but has earned a seat at the table where real reform is being discussed. We will see how far the new Party Boss, Frank Seddio, will allow reform, but the years of standing up to Vito Lopez have finally borne fruit.

Albany is even more corrupt than Brooklyn politics. We need someone with a proven record of standing up to corruption going to Albany. The retirement of Joan Millman in my district (AD 52) is giving Jo Anne Simon the chance to take on Albany.

Jo Anne Simon is locally known, as I have said, as one of the only people who consistently stood up to Vito Lopez, the corrupt and sleazy bully who used to run the Brooklyn Democratic Party. But the nation knows her more for her efforts as a lawyer representing people with disabilities. She has a national reputation on disabilities issues, and has successfully argued a landmark disabilities case (Bartlett vs. NYS Board of Law Examiners ). She has also been a special education teacher, something dear to my heart as the parent of a son diagnosed with ASD. Additionally she is co-founder and Secretary of the New York State Democratic Committee’s Progressive Caucus. She has also been a very active member of 504 Democrats (focused on disability issues) and Lambda Independent Democrats (focused on LGBT issues). Alongside Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Jo Anne Simon was arrested protesting the closing of LICH, shown here:

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and District Leader Jo Anne Simon. Photo by NYSNA

















Photo by New York State Nurses Association (via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

I know of few other people who have worked as hard as Jo Anne for progressive causes, reform politics, and for people with disabilities. She has been endorsed by the retiring Assemblywoman, Joan Millman, as well as by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez as well as NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.

My wife and I have not always agreed with Jo Anne, but we have almost always been on the same side. I am looking forward to having her as my representative in the NY State Assembly.


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