Political arena

Longtime Koppell allies cautious about senate race


Correction appended.

G. Oliver Koppell sounded invigorated in a Monday phone call discussing his decision to challenge state Sen. Co-Majority Leader Jeff Klein in the September Democratic primary. But the leaders of the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club, which the rivals will call on for support, are much more circumspect so far. One of them, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, said he was unhappy that the contest is taking place.

“It’s really not that simple an issue,” he said in a phone call. “Am I happy that this race is happening? No, I’m not happy in the least.”

The Ben Franklin Club has supported Mr. Koppell since he entered politics in the 1970s. But in recent years, Mr. Klein has allied himself with other elected officials who came out of the group, including Mr. Dinowitz and Mr. Koppell’s successor on the city council, Andrew Cohen. The club endorsed both Mr. Klein and Mr. Koppell in their latest elections.

Sounding a bit like a Jeff Klein supporter, Mr. Dinowitz said the senate incumbent can counter Mr. Koppell’s criticism of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) by pointing out the challenger endorsed former Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg for reelection in 2009. The heart of Mr. Koppell’s campaign is attacking Mr. Klein’s ruling coalition with senate Republicans as a betrayal of the mainstream Democratic Party.

“Both candidates can accuse the other of playing footsie with the Republicans,” Mr. Dinowitz said. “But ultimately, I don’t that that’s what most people, including in the club, are going to look at.”

While Mr. Koppell has repeatedly said his success will depend on how much his criticism of the IDC resonates with voters, Mr. Dinowitz said local issues will be more important in the contest.

“By now I have heard from a lot of people on their points of view,” the assemblyman said. “Some people think the IDC… thing is the issue. But from the feedback I’ve gotten, more people are concerned about stuff that affects our community directly.”

Mr. Cohen was more cautious about a possible endorsement.

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