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Only One Contender So Far in Race to Succeed Longtime Park Slope Lawmaker

 Robert Carroll, a 29-year-old attorney and lifelong Windsor Terrace resident, is running to fill the New York State Assembly seat of Jim Brennan, who is retiring.
Robert Carroll, a 29-year-old attorney and lifelong Windsor Terrace resident, is running to fill the New York State Assembly seat of Jim Brennan, who is retiring.
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Robert Carroll

PARK SLOPE — With the clock now ticking for candidates to enter the race, only one contender has emerged in the contest to succeed longtime Assemblyman Jim Brennan.

Windsor Terrace resident Robert Carroll was the only candidate registered with state election officials as of Tuesday, the first day that candidates could officially gather the signatures needed to win a ballot spot.

Candidates have until mid-July to collect the 500 signatures needed for a ballot spot in the Sept. 13 primary.

Brennan, 64, announced May 31 that he won't seek re-election after 32 years representing the 44th Assembly District, which includes parts of Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Flatbush and Midwood.

Brennan quickly endorsed Carroll, who had already been campaigning as a candidate for district leader, a volunteer position heading county Democrats.

Other Democrats considered running for Brennan's seat but ultimately decided against it. Doug Schneider, a Park Slope attorney, said he weighed a run but concluded that there wasn't enough time to mount an effective campaign.

"I took a serious look at the race, but ultimately decided that with the petitioning starting (Tuesday), that the deck was stacked against a run," Schneider said. "There wasn’t really time to build the type of operation that would have been necessary to run."

Sources close to Ryan Lynch, policy director for Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, said he, too, thought of entering the race but decided against it.

Other possible candidates for the seat include Pinny Ringel, a liaison between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Jewish community, sources said. Ringel could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Political observers have speculated that the Working Families Party and Republican party could field candidates in the race, but neither had as of Tuesday. Neither party responded to requests for comment.

Schneider called the dearth of candidates a loss for voters.

"We advertise ourselves as progressive and reformers, but no one has stood up since Brennan’s announcement to challenge the status quo," Schneider said of local Democrats. "Someone needs to say that the voters should be deciding elections."

Carroll has never held elected office but comes to the race with a long family history in local politics.

His grandfather helped found the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats in the 1960s, and his father, Jack Carroll, ran unsuccessfully against Bill de Blasio for City Council in 2001. Robert Carroll was president of CBID for two years, is a member of Community Board 7, and is a member of the Park Slope Civic Council.

He's racked up a slew of endorsements from elected officials including Assembly members Jo Anne Simon, Felix Ortiz and Walter Mosley. On Tuesday, Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Councilman Brad Lander added their names to Carroll's list of supporters.

Carroll announced his bid for district leader in late January 2015 and since then he's knocked on 3,000 doors in the 44th district, he said. His campaign collected contributions from more than 300 donors. As of Tuesday night, his first official day of collecting signatures for the Assembly seat race, he had collected more than 1,000 signatures, he said.

Carroll said he expects to "run a full campaign" and welcomes challengers.

“I humbly welcome anyone who wishes to run,” Carroll said. “The state Assembly is the rules-making body of the state. This is where the nitty gritty of our state laws — which run the gamut from education to housing to criminal justice — this is where it is done. We want to discuss all these issues because they’re important to every New Yorker, and specifically, the residents of 44th."

Stephen Witt, founder of the Kings County Politics blog, said he expects the Working Families party to field a candidate. He also noted that the demographics of the 44th Assembly District had changed considerably since Brennan took office, shifting from a mostly Italian and Irish community to one with a growing population of Muslim immigrants and Orthodox Jews who could be inclined to support more conservative candidates.

“While Bobby Carroll is the presumptive favorite, it is an open seat and anything can happen,” Witt said. “I’m not saying a Republican will slide through, but it’s not a done deal yet.”