On Tuesday, September 9, democracy limped its way to the finish line in this year’s state legislative primaries, with low – sometimes abysmally low – turnouts in local races, despite the fact that, in several cases, the seats have been vacant since the beginning of the year.
With 307,356 people in an average State Senate district, the Democratic Brooklyn senate primary with the largest turnout garnered only 13,325 votes, according to unofficial results from the city’s Board of Elections. Similarly, while the average Assembly district population is 129,089, only one Assembly primary in the borough exceeded 10,000 voters, despite the electorate being barraged, in many cases, with mail and phone calls.
In the 18th Senate District Democratic primary, incumbent Martin Malave Dilan, with 5,333 votes (58 percent) handily defeated insurgent Debbie Medina, who got 3,859 votes (42 percent).
In the 19th S.D., embattled incumbent John Sampson, despite having been indicted on corruption charges, was victorious, capturing 7,218 votes (54 percent), easily exceeding the totals of his three challengers: Dell Smitherman (3,981 votes, 30 percent); Sean Henry (1,668 votes, 12.5 percent) and Elias Weir (458 votes, 3.5 percent).
In the 20th S.D. – unrepresented since January 1 because its prior occupant, Eric Adams, took office as borough president – the victor was Jesse Hamilton, whom Adams supported, with 9,090 votes (65 percent), over Rubain Dorancy, who had a laundry list of endorsements including Mayor Bill de Blasio, with 4,189 votes (30 percent), and Guillermo Philpotts, who got 728 votes (five percent).
In Democratic Assembly primaries, Rodneyse Bichotte emerged as the winner in the 42nd A.D., where current veteran Assemblymember Rhoda Jacobs is retiring. Bichotte captured 49 percent of the vote (2,669 votes), beating out Rickie Tulloch (1,592 votes, 29.5 percent), Michele Adolphe (800 votes, 15 percent) and Victor Jordan (306 votes, 5.5 percent).
In the 45th A.D., incumbent Steven Cymbrowitz, with 2,137 votes (57 percent), easily held off a challenge by insurgent Ben Akselrod, who garnered 1,599 votes (43 percent).
In the 51st A.D., incumbent Felix Ortiz was victorious over challenger Ceasar Zuniga, with Ortiz capturing 2,190 votes (71 percent) and Zuniga, 906 votes (29 percent).
In the Assembly primary with the highest turnout in the borough, the 52nd A.D., Jo Anne Simon was the winner, with 5,482 votes (53 percent), besting Peter Sikora (4,137 votes, 40 percent) and Doug Biviano (752 votes, seven percent). Simon was supported by the retiring incumbent, Joan Millman, while Sikora had the mayor’s backing.
In the 54th A.D., incumbent Erik Martin Dilan defeated insurgent Kimberly Council, with 1,903 votes (60 percent), compared to Council’s 1,277 (40 percent).
In the 55th A.D., seven candidates lined up to run for the seat vacated by William Boyland, Jr. after his conviction earlier this year on extortion charges. The winner was Latrice Walker with 1,843 votes (40 percent), over Lori Boozer (1,036 votes, 22 percent), Ineisha Williford (500 votes, 11 percent), Anthony Jones (498 votes, 11 percent), Tony Herbert (379 votes, eight percent), David Miller (269 votes, six percent) and Bilal Malik (97 votes, two percent).
In the 60th A.D., former Councilmember Charles Barron (who was term-limited out of office) won the seat vacated by his wife, Inez, when she won her husband’s seat in the City Council. Barron, who got 3,990 votes (63 percent), defeated Christopher Banks, who received 2,320 votes (37 percent).
There was one Republican primary in Brooklyn, in the 46th A.D. In that race (see story on page 10), Stamatis Lilikakis defeated Lucretia Regina-Potter, garnering 540 votes (58.5 percent) compared to her 383 votes (41.5 percent).
While the November 4 general election awaits, the reality is that, in Brooklyn, the primary is often the real election, thanks to the borough’s overwhelmingly Democratic tilt, as Councilmember David Greenfield pointed out.
“People don’t understand that, in New York City, 99 percent of the races are decided in the primary,” he told this paper. So, he added, “People who actually vote, especially in the local races, end up having a disproportionate influence.”
The answer, of course, is increasing voter turnout, said Assemblymember Karim Camara, though the formula for that has so far proven elusive.
“We have to find a way to explain, particularly to young people, that there is a correlation between their participation in the electoral process and the system being responsive to the needs,” Camara stressed. “One of the best ways of putting demands on the system is demonstrating power at the polls.”