After a tense, week-long post-Election Night drama, young Brooklynite Lincoln Restler was Finally declared the Democratic District Leader for Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Fort Greene—by a 120-vote margin. Why should this matter to you? Well, aside from Restler’s Bedford Avenue jus primae noctus, this race was seen as a proxy battle between the Brooklyn Democratic Machine (led by the dastardly Vito Lopez) and Democratic reformers, like Restler. So this would be good news.
Wait, how old are you?
I get that reaction a lot. I’m 26.
Do people often tell you that you look like a young Al Franken?
That and Emile Hirsch’s character in Milk.
So, then, do you want to be a Senator some day?
I don’t know about that, but I do have a passion for local politics.
What exactly is a District Leader, and why is there a woman’s position and a man’s position? (It kind of sounds like something out of the Cultural Revolution.)
Yeah—a lot of people have remarked that having a male and female position kind of sounds like middle school student government. The Democratic Party came up with the gender quotas decades ago, with the intention of providing women with an entry point into local politics, but these days it seems a little antiquated and not necessarily inclusive of people who don’t identify so concretely along gender lines.
Basically, District Leaders are your neighborhood representative to the local Democratic Party. They act as a liaison between elected officials and constituents, and they also weigh in on Democratic Party operations like who is qualified for judicial nominations, and who should be county leader. I believe that as we build a stronger neighborhood Democratic Party, we can much more effectively advance a local community agenda.
I’m sure you have a standard answer for this, but how did you get started in politics?
I’ve always been very interested in local politics, but I got really involved on the ground during the Obama campaign. I volunteered with groups in Brooklyn, and traveled to early states to knock on doors.
So what do you tell people who are disappointed that the President they voted for hasn’t magically solved all of America’s problems in a year a half?
President Obama inherited a bit of a nightmare from his predecessor. Change takes time. If we want to hold President Obama—or any of our elected officials—accountable, we need to get organized.
You were born in Brooklyn. What neighborhood did you grow up in?
I grew up in downtown Brooklyn, not too far from the Board of Elections where I’ve been spending a lot of time lately.
Do you have a favorite bar in Williamsburg/Greenpoint? If so, can people go there and complain to you about potholes?
It’s hard to choose a favorite, but you can find me at Habitat or Spuyten Duyvil to talk shop; I’m fairly confident that we can solve almost any problem over a couple of pints of Brooklyn Lager.