It was all over but the applause by around 9:40 p.m., as Democrat Justin Brannan eased past four competitors to snag the Democratic nomination in the City Council race in the 43rd Council District, representing southwest Brooklyn.
Brannan, a former aide to the current Councilmember, Vincent Gentile — who is term-limited out of office at the end of 2017 — snagged 3,561 votes (38.8 percent), according to unofficial vote tallies, besting the other candidates, the Reverend Khader El-Yateem (2,879 votes; 31.3 percent); Nancy Tong (1,459 votes; 15.9 percent); Vincent Chirico (707 votes; 7.7 percent) and Kevin Peter Carroll (583 votes; 6.3 percent). In November, he will take on John Quaglione, an aide to State Senator Marty Golden, who snagged the Republican nomination in a four-way race. Overall, Brannan amassed more votes in his victory than did the top three GOP candidates in their primary.
The enthusiastic crowd gathered at Cebu, Third Avenue and 88th Street, for Brannan’s victory party, was led by mom Mary Brannan and wife Leigh Holliday Brannan, who could be seen wiping tears away from her eyes once her husband was projected the winner. Brannan himself was not present at that point, having returned to his home to spend some alone time before joining supporters who were eagerly awaiting him.
“Wow, we did it,” he told the cheering crowd upon arrival, noting wryly that, growing up, he little expected to find himself running for public office. “Growing up, I didn’t have politicians’ posters on my wall. I had the Ramones,” he remarked. But, through working with unions, he developed a passion for public service, with the working class, the middle class and union members squarely in his sights.
“No matter what is going on in Washington, D.C., now more than ever, we have to take care of the neighborhood first,” Brannan contended.
And, he kept that focus, even as he kept a focus on running a positive campaign. “I really ran on my merits,” he told the group. “I didn’t attack anybody. I didn’t go negative on anybody.”
And, he added, the primary is just the beginning. Recalling that, 10 years ago, when he founded the Bay Ridge Democrats, “A lot of people thought that Bay Ridge and Democrats was almost an oxymoron,” he cautioned supporters that the next 57 days would be crucial. “We can win this seat,” he urged. But, “it’s going to be tough. We can’t take it for granted. We have a fight on our hands. We need to listen to each other, and keep fighting for the working class, the middle class and labor unions.”
Just about a mile away, at Brooklyn Firefly, Third and Ovington Avenues, El-Yateem supporters were facing up to the defeat of a candidate who identified himself as a Democratic socialist and who, in making the race, hoped to become the first Arab-American member of the City Council.
Local activist Linda Sarsour made clear the boundaries that had been broken by El-Yateem’s campaign.
“Yesterday, we were already winners,” she told the group. “This campaign is just the beginning for us. This is the first time that we ran an Arab American in a district where Arab Americans have lived for at least the past 70 years. The fact that we were able to run a candidate and an operation like we did is absolutely remarkable, any which way you put it.”
El-Yateem concurred. “You are sending very strong and clear messages to the establishment that we are not going to stand up and be silent when you are standing on the wrong side of history,” he said. “All of us. Christians, Muslims, Jews, young, old, straight and gay came together to make this happen. As everybody said, this is only the beginning. I think this is a great victory worth celebrating because we went from zero to being a hero.”
The general election will take place on Tuesday, November 7.
Additional reporting contributed by Dylan Campbell.