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Bitter rivals face off for district leader post

A battle royal is brewing in eastern Brooklyn as two longtime political adversaries are poised to clash one more time.

Weyman Carey, a former district leader and also the former Brooklyn Democratic election commissioner, is trying to wrest the Flatbush/Canarsie district leader post from former Councilman Kendall Stewart (D—Flatbush), who last year lost his council seat in a six-way race to Jumaane Williams.

Carey had first held the largely symbolic, unpaid state committeeman post in the early 1990s, losing it to the then-politically ascendant Stewart. He got it back in 2004 after Stewart, comfortably ensconced in the Council, decided not to run.

At that time, Stewart had intended his successor to be his then-chief of staff, Asquith Reid, who subsequently pleaded guilty to mail fraud and witness tampering. Carey ended up prevailing in a tumultuous four-way race, only to lose the seat again to Stewart in 2006.

In the interval, Stewart also managed to dislodge Carey from his election commissioner post, contending that to hold the district leadership and the election commissionership simultaneously was a conflict of interest.

But Carey said it wasn’t the longstanding rivalry that motivated him to seek to unseat Stewart.

“The reason I’m challenging him now is that I realized he was never really doing the job that had to be done as district leader. There’s more to it than running around and saying, ‘I’m the district leader.’ ”

Carey — who has raised about $10,000 for his campaign — acknowledged that the position is a party post; nonetheless, he said that district leaders can advocate for their communities, helping to steer government funding to neighborhoods in need.

“You work with the candidates, but the people also need support,” Carey stressed. “You can help bring services into the community.”

Unlike other district leader candidates, Carey added, he is not interested in using the post as a stepping stone. “I have no interest in moving up to higher office,” he said.

Stewart, for his part, said he was running for the post, but had no intention of working to keep it. “I’m not going to be campaigning,” he told us. “I think I’ve done enough campaigning in my life. If the people re-elect me, they re-elect me. It’s not a big thing.”

Indeed, Stewart said, had Carey simply come to him and told him that he wanted the post, he would have stepped aside. “He should have come and talked to me, and I would have just turned it over to him,” Stewart said. “It would have been easier for him. I don’t have any animosity. But if he felt that he didn’t want to talk to me, then he has a fight.”

Carey scoffed when told that Stewart had said that he wouldn’t have run had Carey approached him. “There’s an old Southern saying about taking what people say with a grain of salt,” Carey remarked.

Primary Day is Sept. 14.

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