Bushwick Councilman Erik Dilan announced his candidacy for the House on Thursday, perhaps giving 10-term incumbent Rep. Nydia Velazquez the toughest challenge of her political career.
Dilan, a three-term Democratic incumbent and strong ally of Brooklyn Democratic Chairman Vito Lopez, said North Brooklyn needs a force in Congress — not someone who watches from the sidelines.
“The time is right for change,” said Dilan, who claims representing his neighbors in Washington is something he has wanted to do since he was young. “We’ve had an incumbent who has been there for 20 years and she’s done little with the post. She’s going to have to justify after 20 years of nothing, why she should remain in office.”
When asked to comment about Dilan’s candidacy, a spokesman for Velazquez (D–Williamsburg) responded dismissively.
“That’s his prerogative,” the spokesman said.
The fight for the district — which stretches from Greenpoint through Bushwick, Williamsburg, DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, the Columbia Street Waterfront District, Red Hook, Gowanus, Greenwood Heights, Sunset Park, and small parts of lower Manhattan — should be intense.
Velazquez has assumed the mantle as the den mother of Brooklyn’s progressive Democrats, gaining support from reform groups such as New Kings Democrats that have challenged the county’s powerful Democratic Party apparatus over the past three years.
Dilan can count on his father, state Sen. Martin Dilan (D–Bushwick), and Lopez to be in his corner considering both pols helped his former chief of staff, Rafael Espinal, win an open state assembly seat in Cypress Hills last year.
“Vito is fully on board — I expect to have his full support,” said Dilan, who claims he could have run for the assembly job, but his heart wasn’t in it and he preferred to challenge Velazquez. “I expect everyone around me to be fully engaged and involved because that’s what it’s going to take to win.”
A third Democratic candidate, Dan O’Connor, formally announced his candidacy and opened his campaign office in Manhattan’s Chinatown on Thursday.
The race, and the district’s border, is up for grabs.
Velazquez and Dilan have been analyzing maps released by the state and the court that would significantly redraw Brooklyn’s ninth congressional district.
The most recent map, presented by Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann this week, removed Greenpoint and Williamsburg’s Northside from the district while adding large swaths of Hasidic South Williamsburg as well as Red Hook and Carroll Gardens.
Almost a dozen of Velazquez’s allies in Greenpoint and Williamsburg urged Mann to include both neighborhoods in the final draft at a redistricting hearing this week.
“The community would be lost without Nydia,” said Greenpoint resident Laura Hofmann. “She’s done a lot of great things for the community and she understands the environmental justice issues. She’s not new to this.”
Dilan said he prefers the district remain intact, but plans to run regardless of the new lines.
He hopes to follow some sage advice from his father, who once eyed a run for Congress but instead chose a life in Albany.
“Think everything through carefully — that’s what he said,” said Dilan.