Battles to Fill Brooklyn’s Vacant Seats Heat Up

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Councilmembers Rafael Espinal and Alan Maisel, seen embracing Mayor de Blasio, are among two former state legislators who left Brooklyn seats vacant when they won municipal office last fall. A fifth seat was made vacant by a corruption conviction.

NYC Council

Councilmembers Rafael Espinal and Alan Maisel, seen embracing Mayor de Blasio, are among two former state legislators who left Brooklyn seats vacant when they won municipal office last fall. A fifth seat was made vacant by a corruption conviction.

Elected officials, clergy members and community leaders stood on the steps of the Brooklyn Borough Hall on July 14th to endorse Latrice Walker, an aide to Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, in her campaign for ex-assemblyman William Boyland Jr’s seat in Albany.

On Tuesday came word that former Congressman Edolphus Towns was endorsing one of Walker’s rivals, Lori Boozer. And the early part of this week is also when qualifying signatures are due from candidates hoping to be on the September primary ballot, and also when campaigns report their fundraising and spending totals so far to the state.

The primary for state offices is September 9 and the general election is November 4. All four statewide offices (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller) and all state Senate and Assembly seats are up.

Brooklyn is home to several races for open seats. The race to replace Boyland, who had to give up power in his Brownsville district after he was corrupted in March on several corruption counts, is just one of them. The 59th district—encompassing Marine Park, Bergen Beach, Gerritsen Beach, Mill Basin, Flatlands, and parts of Canarsie—is open because incumbent Alan Maisel won election to the City Council, as did Inez Barron, who had represented the 60th district (East New York) in the Assembly, and Rafael Espinal, who was the assemblyman for the 54th district (Bushwick, Cypress Hills).

The Senate seat previously held by Borough President Eric Adams, which covers a stretch of Brooklyn from Sunset Park to Brownsville, is also empty.

Taken together, the vacancies mean that hundreds of thousands of Brooklynites were without representation in at least one—and in some cases both—of the two state legislative chambers during this year’s budget process and the related debates over charter schools, UPK, traffic regulations and other policy issues.

At Tuesday event, Walker and her supporters emphasized themes of connection and competence. “I know how to get things done,” she said. “I’ve done it before and I am going to do it again.”

Congresswomen Yvette Clarke said that Walker was “born and raised in this community, she has never left it.”Assemblywoman Annette Robinson states that Walker “ knows the job,” and that “she has been engaged in the community.” Assemblyman Nick Perry said the district needs someone like Walker who can represent them proudly and can bring something to the table. Councilman Robert Cornegy and Councilwomen Laurie Cumbo both noted that Walker is not new to the responsibility of serving the 55th district. Cumbo says that Walker has “an undying love for the community,” and will show that in her leadership.

If elected Walker’s goals include raising minimum wage, helping seniors, improving public safety, creating jobs, keeping housing affordable, and improving public education. She will also fight for the DREAM act and address issues in NYCHA. Walker believes that the 55th district hasn’t had the representation it deserves and that she could finally bring change to the community.

Walker will be running against four other Democratic opponents. One is Ineisha Willford, the Director of Youth Programming for Councilwoman Darlene Mealy, who has been endorsed by Adams and the councilwoman. Boozer, a union representative, has New Kings Democrats, Communication Workers of America, and many other organizations backing her campaign. Anthony Jones, a community activist who ran against Boyland in the last election and Larmont Carolina, a member of Community Board 16, are also vying for the seat.