The steps of City Hall were filled with excitement on Friday, Feb. 16, when Council Member Jumaane Williams announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor of New York state.
Colleagues, other elected officials and representatives from community organizations with whom Williams has worked with over the last decade and half declared their support for this maverick politician who was just elected to his third term from the 45th District in NYC City Council.
Speakers repeated the term “progressive” in describing Williams’ brand of Democratic Party politics.
State Senator Kevin Parker who has known Williams for years and taught him at Brooklyn College, where Williams earned a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in urban policy and administration, said, “I’m excited to continue to work with him on issues of public safety, fighting discrimination, protecting our environment, and more.”
He called Williams fearless, effective, and passionate in taking on issues in City Council.
In various recent public appearances, Williams speaks about running on his effectiveness in City Council. He introduced and passed more than 40 pieces of legislation — second only to the number introduced by the speaker.
On his behalf, Council Member I. Daneek Miller from Queens touted Williams’ advocacy for working people.
Labor activist and organizer Eddie Kay spoke of Williams as a fighter for the little guy, who would use the position as a voice that is one for the people.
Williams has spent several weekends on a listening tour around the state, meeting with local activists and progressive organizations since his Martin Luther King announcement that he was exploring the possibility of running for lieutenant governor.
It is their encouraging response, he says, that in part has informed his decision to formally enter the race.
Before a crowd of nearly 100 community members including those from East Flatbush Village, Elite Learners, GMACC-a violence prevention program, and Rabbi Ralbag and friends, Williams made his official announcement.
Williams’ older sister by five years, Jeanine Williams also spoke sharing personal anecdotes.
When Williams finally addressed the press, he said, “This is a big thing. I am first generation American / Brooklynite, and the son of Grenada.
I’ve spent my 41 years in Brooklyn and am a public school baby, up through Brooklyn College. My mother was my advocate. It’s where I get my strength and drive.”
Williams also paid tribute to and referenced others in history who inspired him: Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King, and Shirley Chisholm.
He acknowledged all those who were standing behind him as “having his back.” He said, “Together, we can do a whole lot. It’s not me, it’s us, together.”
And he offered his mantra: Do what you can, with what you have, for as many people as you have the privilege of serving, for as long as you can.
Concluding he said, “Together, we can prove that activist energy can overcome establishment money… can reject the politics of cautious inaction… amplify the voices of all those who aren’t being heard.”
In New York State, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in the primary, with the winners of each party’s nomination forming a joint ticket for the general election. Current Lt. Governor Kathy Houchul has confirmed that she will run for re-election. The primary is Sept. 11.
Williams was asked if he were elected in the primary and on the ticket with Cuomo, could he work with Cuomo, with whom he is critical.
“I am a Democrat. I’m going to be running as a ticket, but I am independent,” Williams said.