District Leader challengers set to win big in absentee ballot count

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Kristina Naplatarski (left) and Shaquana Boykin declared victory in their bid for District Leader following the BOE’s absentee ballot count.
Sherri Daniels/Shaquana Boykin

A group of insurgent candidates for district leader — an unpaid position that serves as the governing body of Brooklyn’s Democratic party apparatus — have soared to victory as absentee ballots trickled in this week. 

“I am incredibly humbled to declare victory tonight. We did it,” said Kristina Naplatarski on Twitter July 21, announcing her win over longtime incumbent Linda Minucci for the seat to represent Greenpoint and Williamsburg. “After 36 years, the 50th Assembly District has a new District Leader. I promise to make my community proud.”

Naplatarski had been trailing by around 1,100 votes after the in-person primaries on June 23, but later overtook Minucci by around 2,000 votes after a strong showing among mail-in ballots — giving her enough of a boost to claim victory. 

A 25-year-old communications staffer for Bushwick Councilman Antonio Reynoso, Naplatarski joins a handful of other newly-elected district leaders looking to increase transparency in the functioning of the county’s Democratic party. 

In Fort Greene, public housing resident Shaquana Boykin announced her win over two contenders in the 57th Assembly District, including incumbent Olanike Alabi and local tenants organization president Beverly Newsome.

“I’m looking forward to building partnerships, connections, learning, listening, laughing, and crying with you all as we shape the future and take a deep dive into showing up more than ever in AD 57,” she tweeted.

In-person votes gave Boykin a 38 percent plurality with 5,050 votes, but she left her opponents further behind after tallying around 3,500 absentee votes — more than double what Alabi and Newsome each got, according to scanner sheets from Wednesday evening.

Bushwick candidate Samy Nemir-Olivares cemented his landslide in-person lead of 62 percent of the vote over politically-connected district leader Tommy Torres’s 36.8 percent in the 53rd Assembly District, after Nemir-Olivares raked in more than 4,000 mail-in votes versus Torres’s roughly 700, according to scanner results. 

The district leader upsets follow similar patterns of assembly and state senate races across the borough, with younger upstart candidates from the left unseating longtime incumbents and party-backed candidates for the Albany legislature. 

In the 52nd Assembly District — which covers brownstone neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill — Jesse Pierce, a former leader of the reform-minded political club New Kings Democrats, declared victory Friday after keeping a lead over Gowanus housing and environmental activist Rachel Eve Stein. 

“Humbled to declare victory in a race we’ve poured so much love into over the last year – and the first competitive DL race in the 52nd in over a decade,” Pierce said on Twitter on July 24. “We ran this campaign on our values of inclusivity, accessibility, and transparency, and we have this entire community to thank. We built coalitions of community leaders, organizers, and everyday Brooklynites to work toward a Democratic Party that fights for justice for everyone.”

Both politicos vied for the seat once held by Anne Swern, before she ran for Civil Court judge in 2019 and the district’s assembly member Jo Anne Simon appointed former assembly member Joan Millman, who plans to vacate the position.

Pierce had a small lead of 52 percent 5382 in-person votes over Stein on June 23, who garnered 47 percent and 4881 votes. Scanner numbers Thursday night showed Pierce expanding her advantage with more than 4,000 mail-in votes compared to her opponent’s roughly 2,600 absentee ballots.

Sunset Park community activist Julio Peña snagged three-quarters of the in-person vote on June 23 against Robert Berrios — a party-endorsed candidate and Red Hook civic leader — but said he wasn’t at BOE’s mail-in count and that he was awaiting the city’s certified results. 

Update (Friday, July 24): This article has been updated to include Jesse Pierce’s victory declaration in the 52nd Assembly District and the most recent BOE scanner numbers in that district.