Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Bill de Blasio both made visits on Sunday to Black churches in Brooklyn, a staple campaign stop for citywide and statewide candidates, providing evidence that the 2022 campaign season is in full swing, and Brooklyn is seen as a top prize.
The governor spoke at St. Paul Community Baptist Church in East New York Sunday morning before visiting two more houses of worship in Jamaica, Queens. The mayor, meanwhile, spoke at the Clarendon Road Church in East Flatbush Sunday evening.
The visits come as the wide-open 2022 campaigns for governor begin to take shape: Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James have already announced their campaigns for governor, while Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is expected to officially throw his hat in the ring this week, and de Blasio continues to indicate his intentions of running.
James, Williams, and de Blasio are all Brooklyn Democrats, signifying both the borough’s importance in statewide races as the most populous county in the state and its emergence as a political tour-de-force across New York. The incoming class of citywide electeds are all Brooklynites: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is now mayor-elect, Park Slope Councilmember Brad Lander will become comptroller in January, and Williams, a former Councilmember from Flatbush, solidly won reelection as public advocate this month.
At her speech in East New York, Hochul urged congregants to get vaccinated, and to get their young children vaccinated, especially with Thanksgiving coming up.
“We still have time. I want to ask every one of you take this week, talk to your loved ones, talk to your neighbor and say, are you vaccinated,” Hochul said. “Because if you’re not, you’re hurting other people.”
Hochul also noted that kids age 5 to 11 who get vaccinated will be entered into a raffle where they could possibly win a full ride to a SUNY school.
The governor further said there is “too much violence” in the streets, and stressed that addressing it would be a high priority should she remain governor.
“There is too much violence in our streets, way too much violence,” Hochul told the congregation. “I am dedicated to working with our next mayor to make sure that we make this a high priority to protect our neighborhoods, to make sure that our police have the resources they need to protect our communities, but to make sure they do it in the right and just way.”
The mayor, for his part, spoke at a “service of thanks” “for his investment in the faith community” at the Clarendon Road Church — a two-way affair of the mayor and the church thanking each other for having the other’s back, where the mayor took some digs at the media.
“I think where the real leadership is, where the real impact is, where the real change is, is too often left out of our discourse,” Hizzoner said. “The heroes, the change-makers, the truest public servants. I don’t see those stories portrayed the way they should be. I see every scoundrel portrayed in great detail, and I see those who pretend to care given all the airtime in the world. But the stories of the leaders who make each community great are so often left out. And I have recognized in everything I’ve been doing that there’s a source of power for the betterment of the people that is exemplified in this room.”
The mayor also touted and defended his record to congregants, urging them not to let “anyone airbrush the history” of his administration and erase his accomplishments such as universal pre-K and the substantial rollback of stop-and-frisk.
“I’m proud of my role, but in one way I was only the vessel of your desires and concerns,” he said. “But we did it. Don’t let anyone airbrush the history and tell you that what happened didn’t happen.”
Hizzoner got praise from Flatbush Councilmember Farah Louis, as well as Assemblymember Nick Perry, currently President Joe Biden’s nominee for Ambassador to Jamaica, who said he looks forward to his next moves.
“You have a desire for public service, so when you walk out of City Hall, you’re not just gonna hang up your duty calling and disappear,” Perry told the mayor. “We know that we’ll see you around, and certainly look forward to continue having you serve New York in other capacities.”
State Board of Elections data from February shows that Brooklyn, the most populous county in the state, has 1,737,903 registered voters, about 13 percent of the state’s 13,394,111 total registered voters, demonstrating its importance in statewide races. Brooklyn is even more important to statewide Democratic primaries: Kings County has 1,222,073 registered Democrats, a full 18 percent, or nearly one-fifth, of the state’s 6,748,526 total Dems.
Brooklyn has over 350,000 more registered Democrats than Manhattan, which has the second most registered Dems in the state.
The 2022 Democratic primary for governor is expected to be the most competitive in generations after the resignation of Andrew Cuomo in August. Hochul, who as lieutenant governor assumed the top job after Cuomo’s resignation, held sizable leads over potential challengers in an October Siena poll, but the absence of Cuomo and Hochul’s comparably low name recognition has led various prominent Dems to consider challenging her.
Of the big four Democrats — Hochul, James, Williams, and de Blasio — running or considering running, only Hochul is not from Brooklyn, meaning she comes in at a disadvantage in terms of building relationships in the borough. On the flipside, James, Williams, and de Blasio all being from Brooklyn, and all having demonstrated electoral strength among voters of color in the outer boroughs, could mean they split votes and allow Hochul to slide through.
Brooklyn’s shining moment comes even as its county party organization is in a state of flux. A cadre of reformist elected officials, district leaders, and advocates are now calling on party chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn to resign after her husband, District Leader Edu Hermelyn, allegedly spoke a vulgarity in Spanish to Williamsburg and Bushwick Assemblymember Maritza Davila (Hermelyn says he’s learning Spanish and misunderstood the song lyric as he was chatting with another District Leader). At the same Zoom meeting where that occurred, the party approved resolutions reducing official County Committee meetings down to one every two years and disallowing members to bring resolutions to a full vote, instead requiring they first go through a subcommittee they argue is controlled by leadership.
Critics like political club New Kings Democrats argue that the moves are part-and-parcel of a county organization aiming to consolidate power and reduce transparency, even as Democrats lost a Council seat in this month’s general election.
“It does look bad, especially that these voting rights proposals just failed at the ballot box and our party didn’t do anything to support them,” said Tony Melone, a spokesperson for New Kings Democrats. “If county leadership wasn’t so focused on consolidating power in the hands of so few people, I think the party would be doing a lot more outreach to voters.”
Still, county committee leaders stand by being more united than ever. Speaking to PoliticsNY about the most recent allegations, party boss Bichotte Hermelyn said her focus will remain on “Democratic inclusion instead of divisional criticisms that don’t hold water.”