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Critics Say Assemblyman Vito Lopez Is On Blatant Power Grab

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Critics are calling it a power grab by a tainted politician.

Assemblyman Vito Lopez, one of the ringmasters of the political "circus in Albany," wants to pull the strings and pick his successor.

In the hip neighborhoods of Brooklyn, critics call it a most uncool move. Assemblyman Lopez, under fire for sexual harassment, wants to pick the person to replace him as Democratic party boss.

"We have a dead man walking and he is still trying to spread his tentacles," Brooklyn district leader Lincoln Restler told reporters, including CBS 2's Tony Aiello.

Party reformers call it a blatant power grab. Lopez has moved the meeting to pick a new chairman from downtown Brooklyn all the way to Manhattan Beach and the remote campus of Kingsborough Community College, which is a mile away from the nearest subway.

After creating the inconvenience, Lopez sent out proxy ballots so Democrats could skip the meeting and let him vote on their behalf.

"To think that Brooklyn Democratic party members would give their proxy to a repeat offender of sexual misconduct is profoundly upsetting," Restler said.

It is something of an irony that Brooklyn, seen around the world as youthful and hip, has a Democratic Party run like an old school political machine.

Now, in a sign that the machine is fading, longtime Lopez ally, Assemblyman Joe Lentol, broke with the boss to endorse Lopez critic Restler for district party leader, all while taking a swipe at Lopez's my-way-or-the-highway style.

"We can't have a Democratic Party that exists by fiat," Lentol said.

Lopez is giving up his party chairmanship, but hopes to keep his Assembly seat. Reformers are recruiting a Democrat willing to challenge Lopez with a write-in campaign.

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