NY City Council candidates challenge Democratic establishment

Mercedes Narcisse, Shirley Paul, Donald Cranston and Dimple Willabus outside the Thomas Jefferson (TJ) Democratic Club.
Chantelle Grant

On March 29, four candidates vying for the seat representing New York City Council District 46 in Brooklyn, stood in solidarity outside of the Thomas Jefferson (TJ) Democratic Club and held a joint press conference. The candidates wanted to express their discontent with recent petition objections that were filed at the NYC Board of Elections by members of the club.

Candidates, Dimple Willabus, Mercedes Narcisse, Shirley Paul, and Donald Cranston, aired their grievances outside the Club’s headquarters at 77 Conklin Ave., stating that amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, NYC council candidates were still required to collect 30 percent of the usual 900 signatures needed to gain ballot access for the Democratic primaries to be held on June 22, 2021.

They said that these interactions with voters over the course of the past couple weeks increased the possibilities for many volunteers, staffers, and even candidates to contract COVID-19 while meeting the mandatory signature, quota set by the state board of elections. The candidates stated that they abided by the requirements and each secured more than one thousand signatures for their respective campaigns, which were subsequently filed with the NYC Board of Elections, days prior to the March 25 deadline.

Nonetheless, associates of the long-time political club filed general objections against the named candidates herein, utilizing access to pro bono election lawyers, in an attempt to void candidates’ signatures and prevent their names from being listed on ballots, even before the democratic primary.

When questioned by the media about the TJ club’s motives for the objections and whether there was any validity to their efforts, candidate Willabus responded, “The process of objecting to petitions is part of the democratic process and allows citizens to have a voice in the local electoral politics, but unfortunately, the political establishment has used it as a tool to suppress the voice and the will of the electorate by denying ballot options.”

The candidates assert that this is a blatant manipulation of democracy and a desperate attempt by the political elites to try to hold on to power. “A simple review of the objectors exposes the fact that they are all TJ club loyalists, including its current president. The same four people filed all objections at the same time, against opponents of the club, such as myself. This is an orchestrated attempt to usurp the will of the people,” argued Willabus.

Willabus said she was targeted to be kicked off the ballot by the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club because the petition objections that have been lodged against me are clearly a tactic by the political establishment to “remove the most viable candidates from the ballot.”

Willabus added that many in the community are dismayed by the NYC political process due to its history of manipulation, lack of transparency and cronyism. “My candidacy is viewed as a threat to the political, economic and cultural stranglehold that they’ve maintained in our community for decades. The TJ club and the political elitists know that I am an advocate for transparency, for inclusivity and for greater opportunity for ALL families, workers and small businesses within our community,” contended the candidate.

Willabus, and the other three candidates are attempting to pull down the curtain of the political establishment in Brooklyn. Willabus and her fellow competitor-candidates expressed that they are hoping to reinvigorate the electorate by re-establishing trust through transparency and accountability. “One of the key terms this year has been the new normal and part of the new normal must be that community comes first,” Willabus stated.

When asked what response she should expect from the candidates that are being backed by the TJ club, Willabus was blunt in her response, “They can’t speak freely! They must respond when and how the establishment tells them to. If they can’t speak for themselves, how can they speak for our community?”

When queried as to why she should be considered “a viable candidate” Willabus talked about her leadership within the community and her focus on providing the community with resources and opportunities that will provide them with progress and opportunity in their daily life. She continued, “The community knows that I have no problem speaking up against inequity. I’m looking to bring real change, opportunity and prosperity to our residents, rather than to appease them with limited resources based on political allegiance.”

Willabus stated that she was awaiting the specific allegations that will be filed by the establishment lawyers, and will respond accordingly. She is confident that their attempts will be futile and that voters will have the final say in June at the ballot box, when her name is expected to be listed as a candidate to represent District 46.

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