More than a month after voters went to the polls, Chris Olechowski was declared the winner Monday in the hotly contested primary raceMore than a month after voters went to the polls, Chris Olechowski was declared the winner Monday in the hotly contested primary race for a Democratic district leader position in Brooklyn, defeating incumbent Lincoln Restler by a mere 19 votes.
“I had no idea it would get so crazy,” Olechowski said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, less than a day after the Board of Elections informed him of his narrow victory. As district leader, Olechowski will campaign for the Democratic Party and help select party candidates. He represents the 50th state assembly district, which includes Brooklyn’s Greenpoint and Williamsburg neighborhoods.
For Olechowski, the executive director of a nonprofit that provides home health care services, the chaos started about a month before the election, when one of his most prominent backers, state Assemblyman Vito Lopez, was accused of sexual harassment and became embroiled in a media frenzy.
“If I had known of a concealed settlement involving Assemblyman Lopez’s alleged actions I would never have agreed to receive his support,” Olechowski said in a statement on his campaign website following revelations that at least one of several sexual harassment charges against Lopez were settled out of court.
The craziness continued after the election as votes were tallied. The initial count showed Olechowski winning by 200 votes, but throughout a month of challenges and recounts, his margin kept narrowing, as Restler alleged voter fraud and at one point even took the lead by 53 votes.
Unless Restler challenges Monday’s final tally, Olechowski will be the winner. Restler, who has held the district leader position for two years, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night. Olechowski said Restler must decide whether to appeal by this Friday at 2 p.m.