Haitian American Farah Louis emerged victorious Tuesday night in a crowded field in a special election to fill the seat vacated by former New York City Caribbean American Councilman Jumaane Williams, who was recently elected New York City public advocate.
Farah Louis, who was born in Brooklyn to Haitian immigrants and served as deputy chief-of-staff and budget director for Williams in the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, defeated seven other candidates in the intense race. Most of the candidates were either born in the Caribbean or are of Caribbean heritage.
With the strong backing of the Haitian and Jewish communities in Brooklyn, and support from many elected officials and labor unions, Louis garnered over 41 percent of the votes, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, according to New York City Board of Elections (BOE).
The BOE said Louis, who was not endorsed by Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, received 3,861 votes, or 41.8 percent, of the 9,200 votes cast on the rainy day.
Louis’s closest challenger, Monique Chandler-Waterman, the daughter of Jamaican and Barbadian immigrants, received 2,790 votes, or 30 percent. Chandler-Waterman, who was endorsed by Williams, served as the former councilman’s community outreach director in the district that comprises the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood and Canarsie.
Lawyer Jovia Radix, the daughter of Barbadian and Grenadian immigrants, placed third, receiving 849 votes, or 9.1 percent. Radix, a former Brooklyn regional director for New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, is the daughter of Grenadian-born dentist Dr. Joseph Radix and Barbadian-born Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix. They all reside in Brooklyn.
The other candidates in the special election were: Jamaican-born senior director at New York City Health + Hospitals, Rickie Tulloch; Trinidadian-born community advocate for seniors in Brooklyn, Anthony Alexis; Xamayla Rose, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants and trustee for the Brooklyn-based Christopher Rose Community Empowerment Campaign, which directs youth services; economist Victor Jordan; and Adina Sash, a small business owner and community activist in Brooklyn.
“This campaign has shown me the beauty, resiliency and power of this district,” Louis told jubilant supporters at her victory party late Tuesday night at the Haitian-owned Juicy Box, a restaurant and lounge on Nostrand Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
“Every person who contributed, every person who volunteered, every person who voted, and every person who offered a word of encouragement played an integral part in tonight’s outcome,” added Louis flanked by elected officials and Haitian and Jewish community leaders.
“I promise to be a good steward of our resources,” she continued. “I promise to listen. I promise to do all that I can to build a Brooklyn we can be proud of.”
Louis – who had the backing of the Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio, Borough Borough President Eric Adams and Haitian American New York State Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte – will serve out the remainder of Williams’s term, which runs through 2021.
But she reminded supporters Tuesday night that she will first have to triumph in the Democratic Party primary on June 25 and the general election in November.
“We won by fighting,” she said. “Let’s join together. We have another race on June 25.”
More than 188,000 people live in the 45th Council District, of which about 61 percent are either Caribbean American or African American, according to reports.
On the campaign trail, Louis had said that the district needed “a staunch advocate” to fight against “systemic inequality affecting our housing, education, businesses and healthcare.”
She told Caribbean Life that she is “an esteemed community organizer and publicist with over 15 years of experience and dedication to advocacy and public service.”
She said public service, workers’ rights and community empowerment are passions that she inherited from her family.
Louis said both of her parents worked on behalf of the community. Her mother is a long-time healthcare professional and 1199 union member, and her father served as a law enforcement professional and later as a yellow cab driver.
She said she had represented Williams in the district’s faith community; coordinated amongst not-for-profits in receipt of city funding to ensure services were delivered for constituents; oversaw the constituent services operations for the district office; and managed participatory budgeting submissions from community groups for the annual City Council budget process.
Prior to her time at the New York City Council, Louis said she spent eight years as a mental health professional and healthcare administrator in Brooklyn, during which she was an active 1199 union member.
Along with her service in the City Council, Louis said she successfully launched a number of aggressive grassroots initiatives with various city agencies, nonprofit organizations and businesses.
In addition, she is the founder of Girls Leading Up (GLU), an organization that offers educational workshops, programs and mentorship opportunities to prepare young women to become emerging global leaders and to “ensure young women are mentally, emotionally and skillfully ready to compete in today’s challenging economic market.”
Throughout the bitter campaign, Louis highlighted several key issues that she intends to address, including: Affordable housing for district residents; city support for small businesses and start-ups; job opportunities; school infrastructure; and the “desperate need for high-quality and holistic health.”