Brannan, Kagan victorious in southern Brooklyn Council races, opponents concede

Coucilmember Justin Brannan (left) and District Leader Ari Kagan have come out on top in their southern Brooklyn Council races.
Courtesy of candidates

Southern Brooklyn Democrats are rejoicing Tuesday as two Republican Council candidates — Brian Fox and Mark Szuszkiewicz — conceded within an hour of each other just two days into absentee ballot counting.

After trailing his Republican opponent by more than 200 votes on election night, Councilmember Justin Brannan will continue to represent City Council’s 43rd District, which encompasses Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, and parts of Bensonhurst after mail-in ballots are finalized by the city’s Board of Elections.

Fox conceded in an emailed statement sent to press just before 4 pm on Nov. 16.

“I want to thank the thousands of Brooklyn voters — of all parties — who supported my crime-fighting bid for New York City Council,” Fox said. “Although we came up short in the end, we managed to come within one percentage point of victory, something none of the so-called experts predicted.”

Not long before, in District 47, Democrat Ari Kagan received a phone call from his Republican and Save the Planet party challenger, Szuszkiewicz, who congratulated him for winning the election to represent Coney Island, Sea Gate, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, and Gravesend.

“I called Ari about an hour ago, and congratulated him for running a clean race,” Szuzkiewicz told Brooklyn Paper. “I told him I would offer my help with any of the ideas I have.” 

Szuszkiewicz trailed Kagan on election night, but with just under 300 votes between them at the time, the race to rep the People’s Playground hinged heavily on absentee ballots.

Brannan and Kagan’s apparent wins come as Democrats faced losses across the state and the nation — a red wave which experts have credited to concerns over public safety and the outsized Democratic control of the state Legislature. On Election Day ballots alone, just one district over from Kagan, Republican Inna Vernikov trounced her Democratic opponent Steven Saperstein in what was expected to be a close contest for Sheepshead Bay’s 48th District.

Brannan, who declared victory on election night, trailed Fox by 255 votes prior to mail-in ballots being counted at the start of this week. According to his campaign, the incumbent — who is also vying to be Council Speaker — surpassed his Republican counterpart on Monday.

“With the paper votes counted, I am honored to have won re-election to continue serving Southern Brooklyn in the City Council,” Brannan said in a statement. “This process is vital to our democracy and I’m grateful for every voter who made their voice heard and to the Board of Elections workers who worked so diligently. As every vote was counted, this victory was never in doubt.” 

He said the race turn into one “driven by misinformation,” but that his win represents constituents’ dedication to the truth and understanding the work that needs to be done for their community to thrive. 

“Up against a red wave driven by misinformation, lies, and one of the dirtiest campaigns Southern Brooklyn has ever seen, we prevailed because we refused to be defined by simplistic right or left labels and instead focused on delivering for the hardworking people who call this district home,” he wrote. “We refused to be defined by the falsehoods of my opponent, trusting the voters to know the courage of our convictions. We made hard choices, but good and necessary choices even when they were not convenient or popular, and again trusted the voters to see the truth and vote to keep our community moving forward.”

Brannan said he plans to get started right away with pandemic recovery, addressing the district’s property taxes, keeping the community safe and supporting the area’s students and seniors — and possibly with more power than ever as his re-election clears a barrier to his bid for speaker.

Kagan’s election to represent District 47 is the first time he will serve in office, though he draws experience from his time working under outgoing Councilmember Mark Treyger, who he will succeed. He also currently serves as district leader for Assembly District 45, a post elected by members of the Kings County Democratic Party.

Kagan emailed a statement to Brooklyn Paper Tuesday evening declaring victory and thanking his supporters for putting their faith in him throughout his campaign. 

“It is my honor and privilege to inform you that today I won the election for New York City Council in the 47th District. The Board of Elections finished counting all absentee ballots and I am leading in this race by close to 1,000 votes,” he said. “There are still some outstanding affidavit ballots to be counted tomorrow. My opponent called me and conceded the race.” 

“There are no words to describe my feelings,” his statement further read. “I am immensely grateful to my wonderful family and my friends, my tireless campaign staff, the Advance Group and Berlin-Rosen company and all my strong supporters, including our amazing Councilman Mark Treyger, many other elected officials and community leaders from all over Southern Brooklyn and New York City.” 
The Councilmember-elect, a Belarussian immigrant, said he will fight to ensure others can live the America Dream as he was able to, and said his work for his district will begin right away to improve public safety, speed up pandemic recovery and expand the controversial Gifted and Talented program in city public schools that outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he would phase out last month and replace with a new, accelerated learning program billed as “Brilliant NYC.” 
“This country and this city gave me and my family, immigrants from Belarus, so many opportunities to succeed,” Kagan said. “I will work very hard to make sure the American Dream is alive and well for generations to come for families in my district and across New York City.”

Editor’s note: It is not immediately clear how many votes each candidate secured to win their respective seat. This story is developing and will be updated with finalized Board of Elections results as they come in.

Update (Nov. 17, 11:35 am): This story has been updated to include an emailed statement from Councilmember-elect Ari Kagan.