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Two Brooklyn Dems set to take over House leadership roles

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Two Brooklyn pols are in the House — and about to control it!

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D–Canarsie) on Wednesday took on a new powerful role as the chairman of House Democratic Caucus following his reelection to a fourth term earlier this month, when voters across the country flipped the balance of power in Congress’s lower chamber by voting in some 234 Dems to some 199 Republicans.

Jeffries bested his opponent, the former Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California), raking in 123 of his colleagues’ votes to Lee’s 113, according to an NBC report.

The position opened up after Queens Congresswo­man–elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ousted powerful Rep. Joe Crowley, who currently chairs the caucus, from his seat in a stunning Democratic primary upset last June.

Some insiders floated Crowley as a potential successor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before his primary defeat, and it remains to be seen whether Jeffries will vie for an even higher office in the future.

The 48-year-old announced his candidacy earlier this month before pols and leaders at the Somos conference in Puerto Rico, reported City and State New York.

And the congressman’s colleague and fellow Brooklynite, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Red Hook), a vocal critic of President Trump, is poised to take over the House Judiciary Committee — a panel that can initiate impeachment proceedings — when his party takes control of the chamber in January.

• • •

The race for Public Advocate is growing ever more crowded after another Brooklyn candidate threw his hat in the ring.

Councilman Rafael Espinal (D-Bushwick) on Tuesday announced that he’s vying for the seat some of his fellow legislators want to abolish, weeks after his colleague, Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush), declared his candidacy in October, following his failed primary campaign to become the Democratic nominee for New York State Lieutenant Governor.

Espinal and Williams are just two of several hopefuls — including Councilman Eric Ulrich (R–Queens), former Democratic Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and activist and journalist Nomiki Konst — who have formally declared they want to succeed Public Advocate Tish James, who is headed to Albany in January as New York State’s first black attorney general after cruising to victory in November.

On Monday, leaders of the Brooklyn Reform Party hosted the borough’s first Public Advocate forum, which featured mostly outsider candidates, such as Konst, stumping at Bklyn’s Pizza in Dyker Heights.

Mayor DeBlasio will call a special election — the first ever non-partisan, citywide election — to fill the seat in early 2019.

• • •

And they’re off!

Two recently elected state pols recently announced the transition teams that will help the political newcomers prepare to take office before the Legislature convenes in Albany in January.

Freshman Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus (D-Coney Island) — who assumed office ahead of schedule this month due to her seat being vacant after her disgraced predecessor, Pamela Harris, resigned in April — corralled some 33 staffers for her transition team, led by her chief of staff Mike DeCillis.

DeCillis earlier this year lost to Congressman–elect Max Rose in the June Democratic congressional primary, and Rose went on to oust Republican incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan from his seat representing Bay Ridge and Staten Island in November’s general election.

And Andrew Gounardes — who knocked long-time GOP state Sen. Marty Golden from his seat of sixteen years in November — revealed his transition team, a bipartisan group chaired by Dyker Heights District Leader Tori Kelly.

Gounardes’s 54-person team also includes Councilmen Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge), Alan Maisel (D-Marine Park), Brooklyn Reform Party chairman and Courier Life columnist Bob Capano, and former Brooklyn Republican Party Chairman Craig Eaton.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Updated 10:11 am, December 5, 2018
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