Williams loses bid for New York Lt. Governor

Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams delivering concession speech Thursday night, flanked to his right by his Grenadian-born mother Patricia Williams.
Ernest Skinner

Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams Thursday night lost a spirited bid to become lieutenant governor of New York State, losing to the incumbent Kathy Hochul by six percentage points in New York Democratic Primary elections.

Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, conceded defeat to Hochul at Café Omar, a night spot in Brooklyn, owned by his once nemesis, former New York City Councilman Vincentian Dr. Kendall Stewart, who Williams had defeated in his initial bid in the 45th Council District.

“Tonight, hundreds of thousands of people across the Empire State [New York] struck back,” said Williams in an impassioned speech.

“Our revolution is stronger than ever,” he added to throngs of supporters,” hinting that he will continue to fight for higher office. “I’m going to stand tall right here, making good trouble, fighting the good fight.”

Williams, a self-described political activist and three-term councilman, narrowly lost to Hochul, a former US Congresswoman from Buffalo, an upstate New York city.

Polls had given Hochul a huge lead over Williams going into Thursday’s Democratic Primary.

Williams secured 538,611 votes, or 47 percent, to Hochul’s 600,823 votes, or 53 percent.

Williams had campaigned on holding elected officials accountable and ensuring that New York State Government is “always working in the best interest of the people who need it the most, not the wealthy corporation and the politicians.”

If he was elected, Williams said he would have pushed “our State to lead from the front on progressive issues, be a voice for the most vulnerable in our State, and promote equality and justice for all.”

In the age of US President Donald J. Trump, he said “New York must do more.”

Williams said he had a plan to do more by making healthcare more accessible to all; protect women’s rights and empower them to lead; make housing more affordable for all; and “protect the hard-fought gains of immigrant, the formerly incarcerated, the LGBTQ communities.”

In addition, he said he would have, among other things, improved the quality of New York’s education system; protected the environment from “destruction and corporate takeover”; protected the voting rights of all citizens; strengthened labor organizations in their fight for the work; and protected communities from gun violence.

Political pundits said if Williams had defeated Hochul, it would have generated a very uncomfortable situation for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who handsomely beat activist Cynthia Nixon in the primary.

Though the governor and the lieutenant governor run on separate tickets in the primary, they usually contest the general elections in November on the same ticket.

Williams had campaigned strongly against Cuomo’s policies. On the other hand, Hochul touted much of the governor’s achievements.

The position of lieutenant governor, however, is largely ceremonial in New York.

Williams had received a large swath of endorsements from elected officials, labor unions and publications across New York State.

A week before the primary, former US presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed him.

In endorsing Williams, the prestigious New York Times said he was the Democratic Party’s “best bet for Lieutenant Governor” of New York State.

The editorial board of the Times – which represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher, and is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section – said Williams, “an independent-minded New York City Council member, has shown that he can be a real leader and is the right choice for lieutenant governor in the Democratic Primary next Thursday.”

The Times said that while Hochul, a lawyer and former county clerk and House member from Buffalo, is a dedicated public servant, in her more than three years in office, she “has served as little more than an echo for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.”

If he was elected lieutenant governor, Williams said he would have been committed to working with Cuomo, when they are “acting in the best interest of the people and living up to their progressive promises, and exerting pressure when they are not.”

He said his years in city government have been marked by the use of his voice “to elevate struggling.”

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