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Which Brooklyn Council races could be competitive in November?

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REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

The city’s elections are mostly over. The Board of Elections on Tuesday night released updated ranked-choice tabulations for the primary election accounting for about 125,000 absentee ballots cast by voters, putting most of Brooklyn’s races to bed given Democrats’ overwhelming majority of registered voters in most areas. Eric Adams won the Democratic nomination for Mayor, while Brad Lander won the nomination for Comptroller and Antonio Reynoso won for Borough President; the three of them are all but certain to win the general, as are most Democratic nominees for City Council seats.

There are a few Brooklyn races, however, that aren’t quite settled yet. For a few Council seats in South Brooklyn, Democrats are certainly the favorites to win in the November election, but Republicans have nonetheless fielded candidates who could at least give the frontrunners a run for their money.

District 43 (Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach and parts of Bensonhurst)

Democratic Councilmember Justin Brannan did not face a primary challenger in the 43rd District, which includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and parts of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach: the incumbent is relatively popular and is rumored to be seeking the Council Speakership. Brannan spent much of primary season campaigning for other candidates all across the city.

But Brannan will face a more competitive general election. The district is historically one of the most GOP-friendly in Brooklyn, and is the area of the borough most recently represented by a Republican. Part of the area is represented in Congress by Republican Nicole Malliotakis, and it was represented in the State Senate by Republican Marty Golden as recently as 2019. Brannan’s victory in 2017 was one of the narrowest in the 2017 general election, beating Republican John Quaglione 48 percent to 45 percent.

However, the district has been trending in the Democratic direction for the past several years. Golden was narrowly beaten in 2018 by incumbent Democratic Senator Andrew Gounardes, who kept his seat by a slim margin against a challenge in 2020 by Republican Vito Bruno.

In Congress, a strong showing in Brooklyn in 2018 helped propel Democrat Max Rose to Washington. Rose won the Brooklyn section of the district in his 2020 reelection effort, but by a narrower margin, and Malliotakis’ strong showing in Staten Island pushed her over the top.

Brannan will be facing Republican Brian Fox, founder and managing partner of recruiting agency Phillip-Martin Talent Advisors, in the general. Fox will appear on the GOP and Conservative Party lines. Brannan has incumbency advantage, name recognition in the district, and a massive fundraising advantage over Fox, but the race will still in all likelihood be one of the closest general election contests in the city come November.

District 47 (Coney Island, Sea Gate, Gravesend, and Bensonhurst)

Ari Kagan, a District Leader and aide to incumbent Councilmember Mark Treyger, won the Democratic primary to represent District 47, which includes Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, and Sea Gate. In the past, we may not have included this district and have considered it locked up for Kagan, who ran with Treyger’s endorsement. The district has historically voted for Democrats: Treyger won his 2013 and 2017 general election contests in the district by 38 and 41 percentage points, respectively, against Republican opponents.

But that all changed in 2020, when Republican Mark Szuszkiewicz came from behind to very nearly defeat incumbent Democratic Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus, shocking local pols in the 46th Assembly District. Frontus ultimately prevailed narrowly, winning 48 percent to Szuszkiewicz’s 46 percent.

Szuszkiewicz, a financial advisor, actor, and trucker, who has voiced support on social media for the QAnon conspiracy theory, and was present at the Donald Trump rally that preceded the January 6 Capitol riot, is now running for City Council in the district on the Republican and Conservative Party lines. He’ll face Kagan in the general.

The Council and Assembly Districts are not the same; for one, the Assembly district includes much of Bay Ridge. Nonetheless, Szuszkiewicz’s strong showing in the 2020 Assembly race means the November contest for this district could potentially end up being a nailbiter.

District 48 (Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Homecrest, and Midwood)

Former Republican Steven Saperstein won the Democratic nomination in the 48th District, which includes Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, and parts of Midwood and Homecrest. Saperstein will face Republican/Conservative candidate Inna Vernikov on the November ballot, each vying to replace Democrat Chaim Deutsch, who was expelled from the Council this year after being convicted of tax fraud.

This race is less likely to be particularly close than the other two profiled here: Deutsch won comfortably against Republican opponents in each of his general election campaigns, beating David Storobin in 2013 by 12 points and beating Saperstein (a Republican at the time) in 2017 by 22 points. The local Assemblymember in most of the area, Helene Weinstein, has been in office since 1981 and won her last reelection in 2020 by 28 points.

But the race is nonetheless still one to watch. The area is conservative by the standards of the rest of the borough: Deutsch is a conservative Democrat who was often at odds with the Democratic caucus in the Council, and Saperstein is a former Republican. Perhaps more importantly, the district was one of Donald Trump’s strongest areas in the city in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, so a Republican should not be counted out in the race.

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