AND THEN THERE WERE NINE

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While candidates for mayor to City Council this Tuesday begin the grueling process of collecting signatures to get on the ballot for September’s primary, some political hopefuls are already bowing out. First blood: Crown Heights.

Errol Louis, co-founder of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Central Brooklyn Federal Credit Union, dropped his race for City Councilmember Mary Pinkett’s seat last week. The cost of campaigning this year, said Louis, just didn’t add up. Although he won 30 percent of the vote in his 1997 race for the seat, he had only raised about $15,000 to date. “You have to really, really want to do it,” he said.

Veteran political observers say they’re not surprised Louis dropped out. Louis suffered a blow a few weeks ago when he lost his bid for support from the Working Families Party to Letitia James, an aide to Assemblymember Al Vann who has the backing of Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Clarence Norman. He also took a hit in April, when the New York Post published a story relaying an alleged offer Norman made to Louis in a private conversation: Leave the race, the story claimed Norman said, and I’ll get you a job in an Alan Hevesi Administration, should the comptroller win his race for mayor. Louis insists that is not how the conversation went, and said he certainly is not dropping his campaign in anticipation of such a post (“I’m supporting Mark Green,” he said).

The race is just too crowded, he said of the nine other people vying for the seat, all but one of whom are African-Americans from Crown Heights and Fort Greene. So rather than put his own neck out there, Louis will support his friend Peter Williams, director of the National Urban League (and a City Limits board member), whose 1991 Council campaign he managed. Other candidates include District Leader William Saunders and Avrohom Wasserman, a member of the Crown Heights Hasidic community.

Louis has not ruled out the possibility of facing one of these contenders in a 2003 election, when the city rewrites Council district lines based on new census data. Given those circumstances, he said, “There’s no hurry.”