Assemblymember Pamela Harris has notched a victory in her primary battle against challenger Kate Cucco, despite the money infused into the race on Cucco’s behalf by a super PAC, New Yorkers for Independent Action, which has targeted a handful of sitting representatives in different districts.
Based on unofficial returns from the New York City Board of Elections, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, Harris received 3,091 votes (63 percent), with Cucco getting 1,740 votes (37 percent). In so doing, Cucco won Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, totaling 1,038 votes in the two neighborhoods compared to Harris’s 728.
In the days before the September 13 primary, mailers and hand-outs created by NYIA assailed Harris, as well as suggesting that Cucco – and not Harris – was supported by popular City Councilmember Mark Treyger, whose district overlaps with the 46th Assembly District, now represented by Harris. Candidates are prohibited from coordinating with super PACs with respect to the ads they produce.
Treyger had not only backed Harris’s candidacy but also joined in a press conference with Harris just days before the September 13 primary to denounce the effort to tie him to Cucco, noting that he and Harris “remain committed to working together to unite Brooklyn, and won’t let these lies stand in our way.”
An extremely emotional Harris greeted supporters at the Gallery at MCU Park in Coney Island, tears in her eyes and her voice breaking up. Harris said, “Straight through all of this, I prayed every single day, dropped to my knees. I retired with a wonderful pension and they took it from me when I became assemblywoman. I said it was okay, I want to do this. I may not be politically savvy, but I will be your strongest voice when it comes to policy. I will learn it backwards and forwards, because the district, from Mermaid Avenue to Third Avenue, deserves every cotton-picking thing we haven’t gotten.
“Being your assemblywoman,” Harris added, “takes heart, passion and love for your district. I have had that love ever since I was a kid.”
According to reports, NYIA’s agenda is the enactment of the controversial Education Tax Credit which benefits private and parochial schools, potentially at the expense of public schools. Besides Harris, who is supported by the United Federation of Teachers, which is against the Education Tax Credit, the super PAC had also targeted another Brooklyn Assemblymember, Latrice Walker, as well as an assemblymember from Suffolk County and a state senator from the Bronx.
A flyer handed out outside St. Patrick School in Bay Ridge, for example, contended that “Pamela Harris has FAILED our Catholic Community,” because of Harris refusing to sponsor the Education Tax Credit bill, while stating “Kate Cucco SUPPORTS OUR Catholic VALUES,” and calling Cucco “a product of Catholic schools and a parishioner” who “supports the Education Tax Credit.”
At MCU, Treyger — who won a contentious district leader race in the 46th A.D. against Cucco ally Chris McCreight, 63 percent (2,947 votes) to 36 percent (1,670 votes), garnering 92 percent of the vote in the Brighton Beach/Coney Island section of the district, though McCreight won by better than a three-to-one margin in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, with a total of 1,256 votes in the two neighborhoods, compared to Treyger’s 404 — praised Harris.
“Many said this day would never come,” he noted. “What they don’t understand is that it’s not about where you’re from, it’s not about the color of your skin or your faith, it’s about your commitment and record to serve and help people. We need to support people of, by and for the community, who are there not just during the sweet times but during the tough times. She is going to work hard to unify the district.”
Cucco issued a written statement on the election results. “This has been a hard fought campaign and I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I have received,” she said. “While the result may not be what we had hoped for, we have worked hard and we have raised important issues. I would like to thank my friends, family and all of my supporters for their passion, their encouragement and their hard work. And we are not done fighting yet. The issues on which we built this campaign will not go away on their own and I promise to continue to fight to ensure our state government puts the needs of hard-working New Yorkers first. That’s because with the support of our community I know there is no limit to what we can accomplish together. Working class Brooklynites are the backbone not just of our city but our state and country. I will continue to dedicate myself to you and to making certain that our community continues to be a place we are proud to call home.”
Harris initially won the seat in a special election against Republican-Conservative candidate Lucretia Regina-Potter last November, after her predecessor, former Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny, stepped down to take a job in the private sector.
Cucco, who had been Brook-Krasny’s chief of staff, vied for the seat at that time as well; however, because of the timing of Brook-Krasny’s resignation, no primary was held, leaving the decision in the hands of party leaders, who tapped Harris to make the race.
The 46th A.D. encompasses portions of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, and portions of Coney Island, Seagate and Brighton Beach, with the two disparate sections of the district connected by the Belt Parkway. Harris’s base is in Coney Island; Cucco’s base is in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.