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34th Race Hinges on Churches with One Week to Go

These council candidates are sending out a prayer.

With less than one week to go before the general election, City Council candidates Maritza Davila and Diana Reyna are targeting Williamsburg’s undecided voters by visiting churches.

Reyna, the incumbent councilmember in the 34th District, is seeking a third term in office, after brushing back a strong challenge from Davila during the Democratic primary two months ago.A margin of 251 votes out of nearly 10,000 votes cast separated the two politicans after the Board of Elections certified the results, but Davila decided to continue campaigning on the Working Families Party line through the general election.

In the six weeks between the primary and the general election, both candidates are campaigning aggressively in Williamsburg, attending mass at multiple Catholic churches on the weekends and distributing literature to parishioners outside the steps after mass finished.

Pastors have been reminding their parishioners to vote, while being careful to refrain from publicly backing a candidate in the race despite pressure from both campaigns to do so.

Representatives from the Reyna campaign are miffed at church leaders for not inviting the councilmember to special events in the district and not recognizing Reyna at events she attended.The latest event included a ceremony on October 25, honoring a visiting Cardinal from Cuba at St. Peter St. Paul’s Church (71 South 3rd St.).During the mass, Assemblymember Vito Lopez (D-Williamsburg), introduced by Father Rick Beuther, gave a proclamation to the cardinal and made a commitment to raise $5,000 for the parish by the end of the year.

Davila, who enjoys the backing of Lopez, the Kings County Democratic Party leader, despite not winning the Democratic primary, was in attendance at mass. Reyna said she was not invited.

“Basically, this was on the basis of the pastor reaching out to Vito to come and take a bow.I don’t know if this was a non-political approach,” said Luis Garden Acosta, founder of El Puente, and a Reyna supporter.

Beuther did not return calls requesting comment on the issue.

Reyna supporters have pointed to a series of editorials printed in the Brooklyn Tablet criticizing Reyna and Congressmember Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn) for chastising Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio over his role in local political issues regarding the dissolution of Churches United, the rezoning of the Broadway Triangle, and reforming the statute of limitations as an example of the church playing favorites in the 34th council race.

However, Monsignor Joseph Calise of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church (275 North 8th Street) asserted that he had not been pressured by Bishop DiMarzio to back a candidate and attended candidates meetings at his own volition.

“I expect the church to be respected.I don’t think it would be appropriate for anyone to go into the church without my permission.That’s just good manners.I’m not going to get to the pulpit to push one candidate or another,” said Calise.

With former candidate Gerry Esposito ending his campaign after finishing third in the primary, both candidates are expected to fight hard for the 1,000 votes that were cast for the Community Board 1 district manager in the primary.According to several sources who attended a Davila meet-and-greet at Cono’s Restaurant (301 Graham Ave.) on October 21, Esposito is backing Davila in the general election, though Esposito did not return calls for comment.

As the campaign winds down, Davila, who declined to be interviewed for this story, continued her focus on addressing constituent needs in Williamsburg while Reyna argued she was best suited to lead the district she has held since 2001.

“The dynamics of our community are changing.We need leadership on issues affecting families not on a geographic location,” said Reyna.

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