Last week’s special election was a seminal moment for Brooklyn City Councilmember Jumaane Williams. Previously elected District 45’s representative three times in a row, Williams will now assume the role of Public Advocate, which is the second highest ranking elected office in the city.
Williams had run against 16 other candidates and won with a breakaway 33.2 percent of the vote, over roughly 110,000 votes in total, according to the Associated Press.
The Public Advocate serves as the people’s watchdog over city agencies, ensuring that all New Yorkers have a platform to speak and that their complaints against the municipal government are heard. Although a largely symbolic role, Williams promised in his victory speech that he would continue his fight against the “housing-and homelessness crisis,” as well as the “system of injustice that criminalizes brown and black communities.”
Williams was a prominent Councilmember, renowned for his progressive stances and history on the frontlines of protests, but his consequent accession to Public Advocate has left an empty seat in the Council, and candidates are already coming forward with plans to run—even before Mayor Bill de Blasio had announced a date for the next special election.
Soon, residents of District 45, which includes Flatbush, Midwood and Canarsie, will be called upon to elect Williams’ successor as representative. Among those running are Williams’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Farah Louis and Monique Waterman, founder of East Flatbush Village, to name just a few.
Louis’s proximity to Williams and history as a communications representative for Mayor de Blasio has helped set her apart from the rest of the candidates. Considering William’ status and the ensuing press coverage after his victory, his deputy would certainly have a leg up over the opposition. But Louis is also the only candidate who has been endorsed by a member of the Assembly; Flatbush Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte has publicly given Louis her support, a move that has helped legitimize her candidature and cement the public’s favor.
But while Louis has promised to continue her Councilmember’s legacy, she has her own plans for the future of District 45.
Addressing the affordable housing crisis, fostering small businesses and the overall quality of life in her community to realize their full potential, Louis says she’s here for the uphill battle no matter what.
“I am for the people at the end of the day,” she told reporters during a recent interview. “Whatever the people in my district need, ‘Farah is there to provide it.’ I’ve always been that way. I’ve been that way for five and a half years and I will always be that way,”
Getting into the other candidates there is also runner-up Monique Waterman. She is a strong advocate for equal education, which is at the forefront of her platform. Waterman has been awarded the Caribbean Life Impact 40 under 40 Award, and is the founder of the social nonprofit, East Flatbush, Inc., which “provides programs for youth and resources to families including mental health tools,” according to her website.
Other candidates include Xamayla Rose, Anthony Beckford and Louis Cespedes; Cespedes has a history of running against Williams and Bichotte.
Rose is a campaign consultant who launched the youth nonprofit, the Christopher Rose Community Empowerment Campaign, in honor of her late brother, Christopher Rose, whose life was taken by gang violence in 2005. While she does not have a formal campaign platform yet, several sources have confirmed her intention of running in the upcoming special election. Her past work aligns with many of the same stances shared by the other candidates; she does, however, appear to have a stronger focus on youth services.
Beckford is a Marine Corps veteran, community activist and the son of Jamaican immigrants. He has worked in the past with Williams and other elected officials with regards to gun violence, mental health issues, housing, and public safety; all of which are part of his campaign platform. Beckford helped deliver justice to the three black women viciously beaten with broomsticks in an East Flatbush nail salon. He is also the leader of Brooklyn’s Copwatch Patrol Unit, a grassroots police accountability group that monitors police relations within communities and during protests.
Finally, there is Cespedes, who previously ran as representative for City Council against none other than Williams himself. While he only received 10% of the votes, according to ballotpedia, that has not stopped him from throwing his hat into the ring once more in a bid for Williams’s soon-to-be-vacant seat.
Cespedes is an architect and urban planer with a Bachelor in Architecture from Pratt University. It is more than an accolade to Cespedes; he believes his knowledge and expertise in city planning is what sets him apart from the other candidates. “Everyone who is running has acknowledged the housing crisis in our community but no one else has any experience producing results,” he explained during an interview with Workers World Today, coincidentally taking a brief pause from his day job in the construction industry to do so. He promises to take addressing the housing crisis of the district’s “wish list,” and to create real change for the community.
At least five of the candidates are registered with the state Board of Elections at this time. District 45 occupies one of 51 City Council seats; it is also currently one of the only districts with declared candidates. The next primary election will be held 3 years from now in 2021.
This puts Williams’ seat in a very special situation. Candidates will have to run twice this year, once on May 14th, as the Mayor has recently announced, and again sometime in November, in a special election to retain their seat in the Council.
The first special election will concern the end of Williams’ term, as he assumes Letitia James’s Public Advocacy role. The second election near the end of 2019, will determine who will remain District 45’s representative for the remaining time until the next primary. According to the Board of Elections the estimated costs of running the February 26th special election was in the range of $15- to $22 million