‘It’s a war right now’: Politicos hurl insults as central Brooklyn primary race heats up

Assemblywoman Diana Richardson and Jesse Hamilton.
Photos by Ben Verde

The race for Brooklyn’s 43rd Assembly district has devolved into an intra-party mudslinging fest — with name-calling, personal attacks, and call-outs all on the table.

Sitting Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, who has held the seat spanning Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and Flatbush since 2015, has been vocal about her primary challenger — former State Sen. Jesse Hamilton, who she has dubbed “Shamilton” — ever since he entered the race in February.

In a 37-minute long Facebook live address to supporters posted June 6, Richardson blasted the Kings County Democratic Party for their supposed support of Hamilton, despite previously vowing to back incumbents.

“We have got to overhaul the Brooklyn Democratic Party,” she said. “It’s a war right now.”

Richardson alleged in her livestream that party bosses are targeting her for past political moves — including declining to back party-favored Farah Louis’ bid for the 45th City Council District in June 2019, and supporting Zellnor Myrie’s successful bid to unseat Hamilton from his senate seat in 2018. 

Richardson also criticized party boss Rodneyse Bichotte for allegedly engaging in complex insider politics during her effort to assume control of the county party last January. 

To secure support of the party’s power brokers, Bichotte, according to Richardson, had agreed to support Borough President Eric Adams’ campaign for mayor, First Lady Chirlane McCray’s campaign for Borough President, and Hamilton’s campaign against Richardson for Assembly. 

And Richardson’s words during her June 6 livestream appear to be prescient, as the Kings County Democratic Party released on June 15 their slate of endorsements — which included mostly incumbents, but made no mention of the 43rd Assembly district at all. A spokesman for the party declined to comment as to why Richardson was left off the list.

Hamilton is looking to return to Albany in the legislature’s lower chamber after he was voted out of his senate seat in 2018 — largely because he joined the Republican-aligned Independent Democratic Conference, which helped give Republicans control of the State Senate between 2013 and 2019. 

Hamilton and six other IDC members lost their seats in that election, leading to a wave of progressive legislation — including sweeping new rent laws and bail reform.

Richardson, whose Assembly district largely aligns with the senate district that Hamilton had represented, was a staunch advocate for Myrie — and a vocal critic of Hamilton. 

Now, Hamilton, an Eric Adams protege, has set his sights on Richardson’s seat. 

In response to Richardson’s straight-to-camera video, Hamilton has begun hurling insults of his own. 

“Where are your receipts?” he said in a Facebook video recorded in Brower Park. “Where is your affordable housing? You have none! You have no receipts, you keep saying the same thing over and over again.” 

Hamilton also lambasted Richardson for accepting funding from his office while he was involved with the GOP-friendly Democrats, before eventually endorsing his primary challenger. 

“When I was allegedly in the IDC, you was taking money from me!” said Hamilton, whose membership in the rogue caucus is well documented. “You stood by me while the money was coming in.”

 The central Brooklyn politicos have sparred over whose legislation benefited their communities more — including a recently passed bill sponsored by Richardson that makes filing a false race-based 911 complaint a civil offense. 

Hamilton introduced similar legislation in 2018 after a white woman called the police on him while he was campaigning in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. His bill made the same action a criminal offense. 

At a press conference outside the Prospect Park subway station on June 12, Hamilton and a smattering of loyalists blasted Richardson’s bill as toothless. 

“How could anybody vote for a bill with no sanctions for Amy Cooper?” Hamilton said, referring to the white woman filmed calling the police on a Black birdwatcher in Central Park on May 25, whose actions sparked national outrage. “This bill is so watered down it’s not even water — it’s like vapors.” 

Hamilton called out his former colleagues in the legislature for supporting the bill as well. 

“Shame on you Diana Richardson!” he said. “Shame on you Walter Mosley! Shame on you Jo Anne Simon! For voting on this vapor watered-down bill that does nothing to the Amy Coopers of the world.” 

Richardson declined to comment on Hamilton’s criticisms of the legislation but said she was unphased. 

“I can’t worry about what anyone else is doing at this time,” she said on Friday. 

The primary election for the 43rd Assembly District is June 23.