Gottlieb bows out of city council race

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The Queens Democratic Party dashed the hopes of city council contender Jeff Gottlieb last week when county leader Tom Manton, tapped Barry Grodenchik, a Borough Hall aide, as the chosen candidate for the Forest Hills council seat.

Gottlieb, who is chief of staff to City Councilman Morton Povman (D-Forest Hills), stepped down in a move insiders said may have been taken at his own volition after he was offered a deal by the Democratic Party, insiders said. This account could not be independently confirmed.

But according to one scenario, Gottlieb was promised party backing to run for the seat of state Sen. Dan Hevesi, who was prepared to renounce his position to help his father''s bid for mayor, said the sources, who asked to remain anonymous.

Dan Hevesi, however, denied any such plans to sidetrack his own career and said he has every intention of fulfilling his term and running again.

"I plan on running for re-election," Hevesi said, in a telephone interview Tuesday, adding that anyone who said otherwise was spreading "intentional" rumors or just had "no idea."

"All I know is I support Barry Grodenchik. I seconded his nomination and I think he will make a terrific council member," Hevesi said.

Grodenchik, who is chief administrative officer for Borough President Claire Shulman, received the party''s blessings for the 24th Council District seat held by Povman.

For nearly 30 years Povman has represented the council district, which covers Kew Gardens Hills, Flushing Heights, Briarwood, Jamaica Estates, Rego Park and parts of Forest Hills. But he is giving up his council seat this year due to term limits.

Gottlieb removed himself from the race shortly before the Queens Democratic Party made its boroughwide selections for council members, judgeships, borough president and mayor.

One observer said Manton traditionally approaches loyal party members and asks them to withdraw from a contest to narrow the field and avoid splitting the vote.

Still in the running with Grodenchik for Povman''s seat are the remaining three Democrats: School Board 29 member Morshed Alam; David Reich, senior counsel to Councilman Seymour Lachman (D-Brooklyn); and Jim Gennaro, city council environmental policy adviser.

Shulman during an interview with the TimesLedger Friday said during a meeting with Manton in the week prior to his endorsements she had put in a good word for Grodenchik.

"I spoke up for Barry because I know Barry and I know he''ll be a good council persona and I think the council delegation from Queens is going to be a strong one," Shulman said.

The selection of Grodenchik, the Democratic district leader for the 24th Councilmanic seat, took many by surprise, but few were willing to discuss the Queens Democratic machine and its inner workings.

When reached by telephone last week, Gottlieb declined comment and said only Povman, his boss, could comment on the turn of events. Povman did not return calls by press time.

Gennaro, who prides himself on running a grassroots campaign immune to the endorsements of party bosses, said at one point he had expected Gottlieb to get the Democratic designation.

"First, I heard Jeff Gottlieb was getting it, then Gottlieb dropped out, and it was Barry, but I have no comment or insight as to how the county organization conducts its endorsement of candidates," Gennaro said.

In the race for Councilman Sheldon Leffler''s (D-Hollis) seat, Manton asked Berniece Siegal to pull out and endorsed David Weprin, a district leader and member of the Weprin political family. Siegal received an endorsement from the Queens Democratic machine for a civil court judgeship.

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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