Democrats had a good night in Brooklyn on Tuesday, as candidates across Kings County secured victories in elections sure to shape the borough’s future — though southern Brooklyn turned noticeably red, with high turnout among the borough’s Republican voters.
Some contests saw a victor emerge in the early hours of election day, including Borough President Eric Adams in the mayor’s race, Park Slope Councilmember Brad Lander in the Comptroller’s election, and current-Councilmember Antonio Reynoso winning the borough president’s contest. Brooklyn native and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also secured reelection to his post.
The New York City Council is set to see significant changes, as the majority of legislators in the body are term-limited from seeking reelection, opening the door for dozens of newcomers.
Because Democrats significantly outnumber Republicans in the borough, most candidates on the Democratic party line won — though a cadre of southern Brooklyn Council districts remained up for grabs ahead of election day. Affidavit and absentee ballots will play a huge role in determining some of these close races, and will be counted in the days before and after election day.
So here’s where we stand:
Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island, Bay Ridge
Republican Inna Vernikov was elected to the City Council from South Brooklyn’s 48th District Tuesday night, trouncing her Democratic opponent Steven Saperstein in what was expected to be a close contest, as Republicans posted strong showings across the city.
According to Board of Elections results, Vernikov, a divorce attorney, held 64 percent of the vote to special education teacher Saperstein’s 36 percent with 96 percent of scanners reporting as of Wednesday, a massive 28-point margin in what many anticipated to be one of the tightest races in the entire city.
“This is not about me, this is about the people of this district,” Vernikov told Brooklyn Paper at her election night victory party in Midwood. “I think this was a loud message that was sent by this district to the Democrats, to the progressive left, that we are sick and tired of the policies they have implemented to destroy our city and our district.”
Saperstein conceded the race to Vernikov Wednesday morning, after determining the margin was too high a bar to cross even if absentee ballots went his way, postulating that a highly charged political atmosphere led residents to cast a protest vote for his opponent.
Vernikov’s strong showing came as Republicans outperformed expectations across the board. The GOP defended its three seats on the Council, two on Staten Island and one in Queens, and may assume up to seven in the coming Council.
In the 43rd District, Republican Brian Fox is narrowly beating incumbent Bay Ridge Councilmember — and speaker candidate — Justin Brannan, 50.44 to 49.39 percent with 98 percent of precincts reporting. Brannan said Wednesday morning that he “look[s] forward to counting every vote.”
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,” Daniel 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.”
In the Coney Island-centered 47th District, Democrat Ari Kagan is only narrowly leading Republican and QAnon subscriber Mark Szuszkiewicz, 51 to 49 percent, with 97 percent reporting. In 2020, Szuszkiewicz nearly toppled incumbent Democrat Mathylde Frontus in the area’s Assembly race, but local Democratic politicos expected a stronger showing by Kagan in the Council district since it does not include Republican-friendly Bay Ridge.
The GOP’s strength in the city even showed up in districts they didn’t contest: Borough Park Councilmember Kalman Yeger, a Democrat, won reelection to a second term in the 44th District running on both the Democratic and Republican lines, but the Board of Elections’ tally shows Kalman Yeger (R) beating Kalman Yeger (D) by 21 points, with Kalman Yeger (Conservative) trailing at 7.69 percent.
The GOP’s strong showing in the city mirrors its showing across the country as well, picking up the gubernatorial seat in Virginia and possibly doing the same in New Jersey.
“I think the performance of the GOP tonight shows us the people are angry,” Vernikov said. “They’re angry with the Democrats, they’re angry with the progressive left. And this is what we see coming out.”
Vernikov’s district has been without representation since April, when Councilmember Chaim Deutsch pled guilty to tax fraud and was expelled from the Council. Deutsch was sentenced over the summer to three months imprisonment, and was due to surrender to federal custody last week, but got a three-week extension until Nov. 19 so his newly administered COVID-19 vaccine can take effect. Because the seat is vacant, Vernikov will take office after the election is certified by the BOE in a few weeks, rather than on Jan. 1 like most incoming councilmembers.
Not far from Vernikov’s district, however, Democrat Mercedes Narcisse decisively won the race in District 46, beating Democrat-turned-Republican Donald Cranston by 25 points in the Jamaica Bay waterfront district which includes Canarsie, Marine Park, Flatlands, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Gerritsen Beach, and part of Sheepshead Bay. Narcisse, a nurse who won a crowded primary in June, is the first Black person to represent majority-Black Canarsie.
Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg, Fort Greene, Greenpoint, Downtown Brooklyn
Not many of north Brooklyn’s City Council races were surprising, but Lincoln Restler’s evening was perhaps the calmest as the unopposed former district leader cleaned up with more than 98 percent of votes, officially securing his spot as District 33’s newest representative.
Restler, who co-founded progressive organization New Kings Democrats and spent ten years working in city government, secured 64 percent of votes in the June primary after seven rounds of ranked-choice voting, beating out eight other candidates for the Democratic nomination, including Elizabeth Adams, the legislative director for incumbent Stephen Levin, who has represented the district since 2009 and is term limited.
A lifelong resident of District 33, which includes Greenpoint, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Downtown Brooklyn, Restler told Brooklyn Paper in June that he intends “to be a 24/7/365 resource, organizer, and problem solver for our neighborhoods. I want to be the first person you call, text, or email when you have an issue,” as councilman.
During his campaign, Restler put forward detailed plans to lower rents in north Brooklyn and to make District 33 the first carbon-neutral district in the city and picked up endorsements from the Working Families Party and local elected officials including state senators Julia Salazar and Jabari Brisport, as well as Stonewall Democrats of NYC and the United Federation of Teachers.
Park Slope, Kensington, Windsor Terrace, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens
Shahana Hanif has won the race for City Council in District 39, picking up nearly 90 percent of votes and coming full-circle as she heads to City Hall to represent Park Slope, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Windsor Terrace, and Kensington, where she was born and raised.
“I was born & raised in Brooklyn. I’m the daughter of Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants, a Lupus survivor, & an activist,” Hanif tweeted. “I’m humbled to be the first Muslim woman elected to the New York City Council and the first woman to represent my district. WE DID IT.”
Hanif won 57 percent of votes in the primary after six rounds of ranked-choice voting, beating out Brandon West by just about 4,000 votes. In the general election, she faced off against Libertarian Matthew Morgan and Conservative Brett Wynkoop, a member of the right-wing conspiracy group the Oath Keepers. Morgan and Wynkoop picked up just about 3,000 votes combined on election night.
Jennifer Gutiérrez is officially heading to the City Council to represent District 34 in January after securing about 90 percent of votes on Tuesday.
Gutiérrez’s victory came as no surprise — she clinched nearly 80 percent of the votes in the June primary and was without a Republican challenger. Her opponents, Terrell Finner and Lutchi Gayot, both ran third-party and each got about 5 percent of the total votes.
“Let’s get to work,” she tweeted.
It won’t be her first time serving the constituents of Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood — she’s worked as chief of staff for sitting councilman Antonio Reynoso, who’s headed to Borough Hall in the new year, since 2014.
Endorsed by big-name progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and unions including the New York Nurses Association and the Transit Workers Union Local 100, Gutiérrez ran on a platform including bringing utilities under municipal control and significantly reducing the budget of the New York City Police Department and reducing police presence in settings like public schools and homeless shelters in favor of rerouting that money to social services. She has also been vocal about reforming the city’s land use process and expanding rent relief programs.
Gutiérrez will join a record number of women headed to City Hall, including with newly-elected Shahana Hanif in District 39 and Alexa Avilés in District 38.
Sunset Park, Red Hook
Democratic candidate Alexa Avilés will be District 38’s next City Councilmember, leading Libertarian challenger Erik Frankel by a crushing 6,526 votes, according to unofficial election night results.
“I want to thank my neighbors, who have fought for themselves and their families, for all of our dignity; the tireless volunteers in NYC-DSA; the union members who put in shift after shift; the dedicated domestic workers, Las Damas of Sunset Park, who were with us every step of the way; the parents, teachers and students who have been improving our schools, every single day; and all the organizations and individuals that contributed to this victory,” Avilés said in a statement after declaring victory Wednesday morning.
Democratic Socialists of America and Working Families Party-backed Avilés celebrated her nomination at Maria’s Bistro in Sunset Park, which she will represent along with Greenwood Heights, Red Hook and parts of Borough Park, Windsor Terrace and Dyker Heights when she is inaugurated to a four-year term in January 2022.
Avilés said she will immediately begin scouting staff rooted in her community, as well as jumping into the budget and ensuring city funding is being spent where it will best serve the city’s most vulnerable residents.
With reporting by Ben Brachfeld, Kirstyn Brendlen, Aidan Graham, Meaghan McGoldrick, Jessica Parks and Ben Verde