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ONGOING: Fox leads Brannan for D43 council seat by 255 votes, awaiting absentee ballot count

Brian Fox (right) leads Councilman Justin Brannan by 255 votes after election night.
Photo courtesy of the candidates

Republican candidate Brian Fox is leading incumbent City Councilmember Justin Brannan by 255 votes for the District 43 city council seat as of last night’s unofficial election results — though the district is still waiting for at least 1,456 returned absentee ballots to be counted in the coming days. 

“We are feeling phenomenal, I mean it is just a great feeling here, we had confidence all along, you know we got a lot of great feedback from our polling throughout the entire campaign,” Liam McCabe, Fox’s campaign spokesperson told Brooklyn Paper. “We knew the numbers were there and we were just patient and waited for them to come and they came in the way we thought they were going to come in.”

Both campaigns said they expect to see victory when absentee ballots are counted — with Brannan’s spokesperson arguing that there were 802 more Democratic absentee ballots over Republican-registered ballots as of Election Day and Fox’s spokesperson saying their edge lies with the military ballots they’ve pushed for. 

“We feel very strong, you know we’ve got some absentee and some military ballots we campaign hard for them as well, and we expect to win them as they say the paper usually breaks the way of the election,” McCabe said. 

“We are confident that when all the votes are counted, Councilmember Justin Brannan will be re-elected despite a nationally turbulent atmosphere. Just as in 2020, absentee votes will make up the margin of victory, and Democrats have a massive 1,083 to 281 lead with absentees as of Tuesday,” Daniele de Groot said in a statement. “This Democratic edge will only grow as more ballots are returned — which is why we are confident we expect to overwhelmingly win on paper and prevail once every vote is counted.” 

The Democratic councilmember, who was rumored to be in the circuit for Council Speaker, declared victory around 10 pm on Tuesday night at a jubilant watch party at Bay Ridge’s the Wicked Monk when it showed he was in the lead, thanking voters for taking a step against hate when voting against his opponent. 

“It became about love over hate, it became about truth over lies, it became about facts over fear and hope over despair, and I couldn’t have done it without you guys,” Brannan told the crowd at the Third Avenue pub. “So it is really, really meaningful to have this victory, we have come so far, we all know that there is so much more to do, but we have really come so far together.”

But the race took a turn around 11:30 pm when Fox shot past Brannan by 21 votes, and within the following hour that margin increased to 255 votes with 98 percent of precincts reporting— showing Fox with 12,145 votes and Brannan with 11,890 votes. 

“Look, it was premature, we knew it was going to eventually turn our way and I guess he was wrong in doing that,” McCabe told Brooklyn Paper, “but the numbers now have come in and we see that we have won the night and we realize there are still some votes to be counted but we expect to win them as well.” 

McCabe said reports of firehouses and emergency services being unstaffed due to the vaccine mandate has helped his candidate as Fox has been a vocal opponent against what he claims is an undue burden on small businesses — though the accounts of firehouses full out closing is said to be mildly exaggerated. (Brannan was also just recently endorsed by both FDNY unions currently fighting the vaccine mandate.)

“We have spent the past few days experiencing shutdowns, shutdown police precincts or lowered staff at police precincts and sanitation garages,” McCabe said. “Literally firehouses in some cases were closed … so I think there is a sense that we want to open up and get moving again.”

Despite the highly contentious atmosphere of the District 43 election thus far, McCabe said Fox will put all hard feelings aside and gladly work with the councilmember to ensure a smooth transition if the official results come in Fox’s favor. 

“Brian is going to be the councilman for everyone, and I am sure they will reach out soon  and talk and hopefully go through a very good transition,” McCabe said, “because, at the end of the day, it’s about the needs of the constituents and they really come first.”

Brannan similarly said during his election night speech that what happens during election season stays in election season and all constituents are welcome to his office or to reach out for assistance no matter their political affiliation. 

“In my office, anyone that comes into our office gets helped, we don’t ask if they are Democrat or Republican. Tomorrow morning, we are not going to ask if they voted for us or not, we don’t care, it doesn’t matter,” Brannan said. “We are here to help, that’s our job, it’s my job to serve. So tomorrow, we put politics aside and we go back to work.” 

Brannan’s campaign released a memo Wednesday night with absentee ballot statistics expected to lead a pathway to the incumbent councilman’s re-election.

“Councilman Justin Brannan may have a deficit as of today—but this is one that will convincingly disappear once all Vote-By-Mail ballots are counted,” wrote Matthew Rey. “This raw vote difference is -255—but with no-excuse absentee voting and the complete politicization of mail-in voting, we know that there is overwhelming Democratic strength in the votes left to count.”

The memo revealed the campaign expects to have another 1,000 votes in the bank as they submitted that many absentee applications for voters who pledged to vote for Brannan— though only 1,089 Democratic ballots have been returned as of Wednesday nig, they expect hundreds more to be returned in the coming days. 

“Finally—while the return rate is only 45%, we expect that to rise to 60-70%. This will increase our margins on paper to the +570 to +1,010 range,” the memo read. “All of the most conservative models provide Councilman Brannan with a margin substantially above 255—and provide enough room to build a winning margin despite a horrible climate for Democrats across the country.”

Update (Nov. 4 at 10:45 am): The story has been updated to include the memo released from Brannan’s campaign. 

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