Mayor Eric Adams is wading into the special election for Assembly District 58 in East Flatbush, with the Democrat bucking his own party to endorse Hercules Reid, a young activist and his longtime aide.
Reid, 29, is running on the “Education is Key” ballot line in the special election to replace longtime area Assemblymember Nick Perry, who resigned after being confirmed as US Ambassador to Jamaica earlier this year. He will face Democratic and Working Families nominee Monique Chandler-Waterman in the May 24 contest, with early voting set to begin this Saturday, May 14.
Adams officially endorsed Reid Wednesday morning at the corner of East 56th Street and Linden Boulevard, where 12-year-old Kade Lewin was fatally shot last month. Hizzoner stated that Reid — who before working for Adams was a student government leader at City Tech and the CUNY University Student Senate, and who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2019 — is the right person for the job to combat gun violence, prevent gentrification, and ensure students get a good education.
“All I can say: look no further. Don’t look far,” the mayor said. “You don’t have to go into the biblical text to understand, we have our own Hercules. We have our own strongman. We have a person that will bring that strength to Albany.”
The mythical Hercules is one of the most famous heroes in Greek and Roman mythology and does not appear in the Bible.
The mayor said that he first met Reid when he was in student government at City Tech, his own alma mater, where he was so impressed by his advocacy on behalf of fellow CUNY students that he offered him a job in the Borough President’s office.
“Hercules is not new to this, he’s true to this,” Adams said. “I watched him nurture and evolve into the leader we see today. Mr. and Mrs. Reid, you should be so proud of your son. A dignified, respectable young man who has grown up in this community and understands the importance of leadership.”
Reid noted that his campaign has raised over $100,000 and knocked on over 6,000 doors in the district, which encompasses parts of East Flatbush, Brownsville, and Canarsie. He said that he stands out above his opponents by putting forward a “grander vision” for southeast Brooklyn, while also ensuring that children in the district receive a quality education and access to good jobs, and don’t face the same fate as Lewin did.
“I have a grander vision than most people will provide: not just empty promises, but a bold beacon of culture and prosperity that we can build right here in our community,” Reid said. “There’s this thing we know and have heard about called the Harlem Renaissance. And I’m running because I know that we can do it again, right here in Brooklyn. We all have the social, cultural, and economic ingredients that we need for our own renaissance, the Brooklyn Renaissance.”
Adams joins a cadre of Reid supporters that also includes state Sen. Kevin Parker, municipal workers union DC37, and the District Council of Carpenters. But the mayor’s support for Reid pits him against the nominee of his own party, Chandler-Waterman, and her own platoon of backers which includes Perry, Borough President Antonio Reynoso, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse, and union supporters 1199 SEIU and the New York State Nurses Association. She won the Democratic nomination in a vote of the district’s County Committee last month, and also has the Working Families Party line.
Chandler-Waterman — who most recently worked at the Test & Trace Corps, founded local nonprofit East Flatbush Village, and like Reid ran unsuccessfully in the 2019 special election for Council District 45 — said that her record and support in the district make her confident that she will still win the race even with the mayor backing her opponent.
“I’m proud to be the Democratic nominee and our campaign is focued on talking to voters about my lifetime of dedication to East Flatbush, Brownsville, Canarsie, and Crown Heights, my decades of experience working on the ground to reduce gun violence by meeting people where they are and offering real alternatives, and make sure that everyone in the 58th recovers from the pandemic stronger than before,” Chandler-Waterman said. “Our winning coalition is strong and growing everyday, and I look forward to continuing to make the case to my friends and neighbors through May 24th and ahead to June 28th.”
The County Democratic Party did not respond to a request for comment, and the mayor declined to answer questions from reporters at the rally.
In a statement, the WFP said it is sticking with Chandler-Waterman.
“Throughout her career in public service, Monique has been a powerful advocate for building a safer, healthier, and more equitable community,” said New York WFP director Sochie Nnaemeka. “We know she will be a dedicated champion for working families in East Flatbush.”
The choice to hold the endorsement rally at the site of Lewin’s killing was harshly criticized by local resident and Chandler-Waterman supporter Sandra Michelin, who lives nearby on East 55th Street. As she held a Monique sign, Michelin excoriated the mayor and Reid, yelling over them until police escorted her away.
“I live here, this is my location,” Michelin said. “I’m tired of these politicians using these locations when the crime happens. I’m sick and tired of this. Stop using the crime scene of an innocent kid who was gunned down for your own politics.”
Michelin said she had supported and even campaigned for Adams, but now feels he is “turning his back on us.” She said she is supporting Chandler-Waterman because she is “always out here no matter what hour of night” supporting local children and ensuring their safety.
Reid told reporters that he had spoken with Lewin’s mother Wednesday morning and gotten her blessing to hold the campaign rally at the site of her son’s killing, and insinuated Michelin was a hypocrite. “I think it’s interesting to hear that opinion from someone walking around with a political poster,” he said. “I don’t know [Michelin], she’s not the mom. I know the mom.”
The candidate chastised the selection of Chandler-Waterman as nominee via the County Committee process, wherein party functionaries select the Democratic nominee for special elections when incumbents resign; Perry’s resignation was the third for a Brooklyn Assemblymember this year. He endorsed reforming the County Committee process and said he hopes his candidacy gives voters in the 58th an option on May 24, rather than a foregone conclusion.
“There is a lot wrong with the County Committee selection process. In a community of 100,000+ people, there was only 40-something people on County Committee representing our entire community. How is that ever going to be okay? There were so many vacancies,” Reid said. “So we have to get more people involved, have them run for County Committee, get them involved in the process.”
Reformers are running a coalition of District Leader candidates this year, under the “Brooklyn Can’t Wait” slate, with the aim of reforming the process, making it more transparent, and wresting control of party operations from county boss Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn.
Reid will face Chandler-Waterman and Republican nominee Monique Allen-Davy in the May 24 special, and will again face Chandler-Waterman a month later in the Democratic primary on June 28. The primary for the Assembly and statewide offices are still scheduled for June 28, even as Congressional and state Senate primaries are being moved to August 23 to allow time to draw up new maps, after district lines drawn up by Albany Democrats were declared an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.
Reid said, given his Education is Key ballot line, his top policy priority when he gets to Albany will be education. He said a successful campaign and tenure in the Legislature would be knowing he could be an inspiration and mentor for young people in the district, as Adams was for him.
“Success for me is waking up every day knowing that I inspired somebody,” he said. “Success for me is knowing young people are growing up with a role model and a mentor. Success for me looks like winning an election that I didn’t think I could win, and long-term, success looks like this community coming together and seeing each other as neighbors again.”
This story has been updated with a statement from Monique Chandler-Waterman.