Left-leaning insurgents declare victory after ballot count
by Benjamin Fang
Jul 29, 2020 | 374 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Greenpoint activist Emily Gallagher has unseated 46-year incumbent Joseph Lentol in the race for Assembly.
Greenpoint activist Emily Gallagher has unseated 46-year incumbent Joseph Lentol in the race for Assembly.
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A new class of democratic socialists is heading to Albany next year.

Last week, several first-time Assembly candidates, most of whom are backed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), declared victory over incumbents in the city’s primary elections.

Although the results from the Board of Elections have not been certified yet given the hundreds of thousands of total absentee ballots that have to be counted, several incumbents conceded their races.

In these overwhelmingly Democratic districts, the Democratic nominees are all but guaranteed to win in the general election, if they even have a challenger.

The biggest upset came in Brooklyn’s 50th Assembly District, where Greenpoint activist Emily Gallagher unseated longtime Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, who has represented north Brooklyn in the Assembly for the last 46 years.

Although Lentol led Gallagher by 1,763 votes when the polls closed on June 23, the insurgent challenger earned over 2,000 more votes in the absentee ballot count, giving her the edge.

In a message to her supporters, Gallagher shared the news that she won.

“This was a collective and deeply grassroots campaign, powered by a profound love for North Brooklyn and a desire to make it better,” she said. “This is my home and I cherish it.”

Gallagher noted that she did not expect to win, but ran against a 23-term incumbent anyway because she cares about the community and democracy, and believes “it’s worth it to take big risks and to dream impossible dreams.”

“When we act with urgency and clarity of vision, the world responds in kind,” she wrote. “And I will take that energy to Albany.”

The Greenpoint activist also expressed her gratitude to the incumbent, thanking Lentol for his decades of service. She said the longtime “dean” of the Assembly leaves behind a “terrific legacy of legislation” on many important issues and stood with the community in many battles.

“Joe is beloved by many and I’m excited to see all the good work he will do as a community member,” Gallagher said. “I have a deep respect for him and those who love him, and I look forward to being his successor. He will go down in history and he has earned his place there.”

Lentol, who conceded shortly after the absentee ballot count ended, said in a statement that the voters of the 50th Assembly District voted for change. He wished Gallagher well as she faces “the enormous challenges ahead.”

“It’s been a great honor to represent the people of North Brooklyn in the Assembly,” he said. “I’m proud of my years of service, delivering important legislation and always attending to my constituents’ needs.”

Another DSA-backed candidate who claimed victory was Phara Souffrant Forrest, a nurse and housing activist who defeated Assemblyman Walter Mosley in the 57th Assembly District, which includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights.

Forrest wrote on Twitter that her victory represents a win for tenants struggling to make rent, immigrants deprived of their democratic rights, and people targeted by police violence and disinvestment.

“Together, we made history by electing a socialist nurse in the middle of the worst pandemic in 100 years,” she wrote. “Our win is a rejection of politics as usual. This win shows that our time is now.”

On primary night Mosley led by just 588 votes, but Forrest surpassed the incumbent in the absentee ballot count.

In a statement, Mosley, who was backed by the Working Families Party, said he is proud of the work he’s done in the Assembly, including passing strong rent laws, universal pre-kindergarten, banning the use of police chokeholds and criminal justice reforms like Raise the Age.

“It has been a privilege to represent the community I grew up in as a member of the Assembly,” he said, “and I am confident that Ms. Souffrant Forrest will continue to be a strong voice for this district in Albany.”

In Astoria, Zohran Kwame Mamdani, a foreclosure prevention counselor and DSA member, ousted Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, who has represented the district for a decade. Mamdani led Simotas by 589 votes on the night of the primary, and emerged victorious after the absentee ballot count.

In a statement, the 29-year-old socialist said his campaign began with ideas like housing as a human right, lower energy prices from publicly owned utilities, and the right to live in safe neighborhoods free from police abuse and mass incarceration.

Mamdani said he also championed New Yorkers who “have long been excluded from our politics,” including Muslim and South Asian communities in Astoria.

He noted that his campaign registered new Muslim and South Asian voters, inspired hundreds of volunteers to canvass and, when the pandemic hit, transformed the operation into one of mutual aid.

“I’m honored and humbled by the trust placed in me by the voters of Astoria,” he said. “But the movement you helped us build can’t end here.

“It has to be beyond any one election or any one candidate,” Mamdani added. “We have to build something that will endure for years to fight for a New York for the many, not the few.”

In a tweet, Simotas congratulated her opponent for a well-run campaign.

“I wish you the best as you begin your legislative career and fight for the 36th AD,” she wrote.

With the likely win of Jabari Brisport in the three-way primary race for the open seat in the 25th Senate District, which encompasses Red Hook, Boerum Hill, Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant, the DSA is calling their victories of state races “a sweep.”

On primary night, Brisport, a public school teacher and activist, led the way with 52 percent of the vote. He was 3,812 votes ahead of Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright, who was endorsed by the Kings County Democratic Party.

A third candidate, Jason Salmon, a former staffer for outgoing State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, won 2,278 votes, or 7 percent.

As for Queens borough president, Councilman Donovan Richards, who led on the night of the primary ahead of former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, has secured the nomination.

Richards was ahead by nearly 10,000 votes, and before the absentee ballot count was over, Crowley conceded.

She wrote on Twitter that despite running a competitive campaign filled with ideas and plans for the borough, “the numbers to win are just not with us.” Crowley said she called Richards, a former colleague in the City Council, to congratulate him and give him her full support.

“From the onset of this campaign, I would have never imagined the year we have all gone through,” Crowley wrote. “But I remain hopeful and optimistic not just for myself, but for Queens and the country as a whole.”

Councilman Costa Constantinides, who will likely finish third in the race, also congratulated Richards, whom he called “one of my best friends,” for a hard-fought victory.

“We are all rooting for you to deliver Queens through the other side of this crisis,” he said.

The Astoria representative said he hopes the ideas he ran on, like investing in new hospitals, closing dirty power plants and pushing for a green new economy, will outlive his campaign.

“It has been a privilege to serve alongside Donovan in the City Council over the last six-and-a-half years,” Constantinides added. “While his presence there will be sorely missed, I am so excited to see what he will do as our next borough president.”
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