In a stunning upset that was an outright rebuke of the incumbent’s decision to become a member of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of eight breakaway Dems that has enabled Republicans to maintain control of the New York State Senate, challenger Zellnor Myrie defeated sitting state Sen. Jesse Hamilton in the 20th Senatorial District primary.
On Thursday, September 13, unofficial tallies had Myrie receiving 56 percent of the vote (22,601) while Hamilton received a bit over 45 percent (19,138) with 98.12 percent of the votes reported.
Of the eight members of the IDC, which was in existence from January, 2011 through April 16, 2018, six went down to defeat. The other IDC members to lose their primaries were state Sen. Jeff Klein (the leader of the IDC), state Sen. Tony Avella, state Sen. Jose Peralta, state Sen. Marisol Alcantara and state Sen. David Valesky; only state Sen. Diane Savino, who represents portions of Brooklyn and Staten Island, and state Sen. David Carlucci succeeded in turning back challenges.
The 20th S.D. includes Crown Heights, Park Slope and Sunset Park.
Myrie, a lawyer, spoke to an excited crowd consisting of volunteers, family, and campaign members.
“They gave me a speech to give, but I ain’t giving that speech,” he told the crowd. “I just want to say how grateful I am to every single person in this room. When you run for political office, your face is obviously out there but anyone that is actually involved knows that it is a collective effort. It’s not just the people working on the campaign. It’s everyone. People vote because they believe in people that can get a mission accomplished. I’m really just so grateful there were so many people tonight that believed in our mission.”
He discussed his uphill battle to defeat Hamilton, who has held the seat since January, 2015.
“When we started this journey last year, there weren’t many people that thought we could get this done,” he said. “We believed in what we could do, not because of our ability, but because we knew what the needs were in our community. We knew that people didn’t want business as usual. We knew that the status quo couldn’t serve anymore and we knew that we needed new leadership right here in central Brooklyn.”
Myrie also discussed the needs of the district.
“The people of central Brooklyn sent a message tonight and that message was we need affordable housing,” Myrie said. “We need equally funded public schools. We need universal health care. We need common sense reproductive health legislation. We need true action on climate change right here in New York. We need true criminal justice reform. What we need is action. Not just talk.
“We are going to take some time to celebrate this victory but the real work begins in January because we have to pick up more seats, we need more Democrats in the state Senate,” Myrie added, stressing, also, “We have to take back the House of Representatives so that we can head into 2020 with a strong state legislature and a strong Congress so we can take out the madman we have in the White House.”
Hamilton made a statement to supporters via Twitter.
“I want to thank the tens of thousands of voters who engaged in this process, and whose continued engagement will see our communities through to overcoming the challenges we face,” he wrote. “I also want to express my heartfelt gratitude to my family, friends, and neighbors who believed in me.”
Following that was a list of accomplishments during his two terms in office. Finally, “I am proud of my record of public service and I am proud of the many things we achieved together. I also accept that my fellow Democrats have spoken,” Hamilton concluded.