By Arthur Z. Schwartz
This year could be a watershed year in electoral politics, as Democrats attempt to win the House from the Republican Party, and regain hundreds of seats in State Legislature, including in New York.
But there will also be a fight within the Democratic Party for who its candidates will be. Will they be from the “establishment” wing of the party, or from the progressive wing, which had coalesced behind Bernie Sanders in 2016.
Several of those key races will be in New York State, perhaps none more important than Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Cuomo wants to run for President, but first he must emerge from this scandal plagued year with his power structure—including his job—in place. Actress and education activist Cynthia Nixon has recently announced a run against Cuomo (more on her candidacy next month) and NY City Council Member Jumaane Williams, of Brooklyn, has announced his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor, against Kathy Hochul, the incumbent.
For too long, New York has been run by insiders, who look the other way when politicians steal or make policy in return for campaign contributions. Jumaane is not an insider. With him in Albany, we will have an ethics watchdog who will blow the whistle when needed. And while he is doing that, he will be fighting for the needs of New Yorkers who don’t make big campaign contributions: to strengthen rent laws, enact single payer healthcare, and put the millions of dollars we need into education.
Jumaane is not a cookie cutter liberal. He has bold ideas.
He was a leader in the fight to end Mayor Bloomberg’s unconstitutional stop and frisk policy. In June 2013, the New York City Council passed Jumaane’s Community Safety Act, which established an Inspector General to oversee the NYPD and created an enforceable ban against bias-based profiling. The Act was passed over then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto.
In June, 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed Williams’ legislation, the Fair Chance Act, commonly known as Ban the Box. The law prohibits public and private employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional offer of employment is made.
Council Member Williams has long advocated for real, concerted efforts to end gun violence in New York City. As the co-chair of the City Council Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, Jumaane has worked with his colleagues and partners in the community to help end the pandemic of gun violence. He and his partners have used a multilayered approach, which included a collaborative effort with city agencies, administration and violence interrupters. And he has succeeded. Williams realized conversations on best practices were not occurring between local legislators, who were dealing with the gun violence issues in their cities. So he started the National Network to Combat Gun Violence.
Jumaane Williams prepared for running for office by working as the Executive Director of New York State Tenants & Neighbors, the State’s leading tenant advocacy organization, and the fight for affordable housing remains one of his priorities.
Jumaane has been re-elected to the City Council twice, both times 98% of the vote. And as a partner with Nixon, who cannot win without support in the Black and Hispanic communities of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, Jumaane is key. In 2014, Tim Wu, running with Zephyr Teachout, in an 8 week campaign, got 40% of the vote. I have no doubt that Jumaane can win, and when he does NY will never be the same.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Democratic District Leader in the Village. He is also counsel to the Jumaane Williams Campaign