It ain’t over yet!
The Working Families Party will back Keron Alleyne in the Feb. 15 special election for East New York’s 60th Assembly District, setting up a continuing standoff between the Brooklyn Democratic Party and the Barrons, the area’s dominant political dynasty.
Alleyne will face off against Nikki Lucas, who this weekend won the Democratic nomination in a vote of the party’s County Committee. If victorious, Alleyne would be just the third person in New York City history to win elected office solely on the WFP line, joining the ranks of Letitia James, who won her Central Brooklyn City Council seat in 2003 as a WFP candidate and is now the state Attorney General, and Diana Richardson, who won her 2015 special election to the Assembly in central Brooklyn on just the WFP line (no Democrat appeared on the ballot in that race), and is now Deputy Borough President.
“We’re thrilled to endorse Keron Alleyne for State Assembly,” said Sochie Nnaemeka, director of the New York WFP, in a statement. “Keron’s deep roots in the district, service to his community, and commitment to bold solutions make him the ideal candidate to represent East Brooklyn. We know he’ll be a courageous champion for affordable housing, living wage jobs, and smarter approaches to public safety.”
The seat was vacated late last year by Charles Barron, the iconoclastic socialist and former Black Panther who left Albany to rejoin the City Council, succeeding his wife Inez, who herself had previously served in the Assembly seat. Inez was widely expected to seek her old Assembly seat, but instead decided to retire. To succeed them, the first couple of East New York backed Alleyne — a former Assembly staffer who unsuccessfully ran for Senate against Roxanne Persaud in 2020 — seeing him as a worthy successor to continue what they see as the district’s “independence” from the county machine.
“I’m honored to be the candidate on the WFP line,” Alleyne told Brooklyn Paper by phone on Tuesday. “It is an exciting opportunity for us to have particular conversations with community members with a line that represents values that we hold near and dear.”
Going up against the Democratic nominee in a district where 80 percent of registered voters are Democrats will likely be a tough climb, but it’s been done before. Alleyne said he thinks the WFP designation will resonate in the working class 60th.
“It changes the trajectory,” Alleyne said. “People are familiar with the WFP, and I feel like it’s something that resonates with a district like ours, where everybody and their momma is working, are working families, are folks who need the things that we’re going to advocate for. And it will change the complexion of their lives.”
Lucas, a local activist, former district leader, and longtime critic of the Barrons, who unsuccessfully challenged Charles for the Council seat last year, was selected as the Democratic nominee by the County Committee members in the 60th District on Jan. 16. She overwhelmingly won a “weighted” vote after, as she put it, organizing her supporters in County Committee to deliver victory.
“Lucas is an esteemed and dedicated activist in her community, whose platform of ‘change’ includes reforming the police, fighting homelessness, creating affordable housing, and ending gun violence,” said Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn in a Monday statement on Lucas’ victory. “We are pleased to have held a successful nominating meeting, and are confident that Nikki, as the Democratic Party candidate, will be a formidable contender in the special election.”
Bichotte Hermelyn was not immediately available for further comment.
Speaking to County Committee members, Lucas argued that the Barrons’ confrontational, lone-wolf style of politics (Charles has already made headlines as one of the few councilmembers to vote against Adrienne Adams for Speaker) had isolated East New York from much-needed funding and resources, allowing the district to suffer from some of the city’s highest levels of poverty and homelessness. She pitched herself instead as a partner and collaborator more attuned to the needs of her neighbors, noting she had organized her community to bring a strong showing to the vote.
“I’m about making partnerships,” Lucas said. “I’m not gonna agree with you all the time, I can’t agree with you all the time. But the one or two things that I can work with you, that’s what we’re gonna champion.”
Lucas could not be reached for further comment.
Barron defended his record as a collaborator in an interview with Brooklyn Paper: he highlighted recently-passed bills to study reparations for Black Americans and to improve education in state prisons, as well as having worked with state and federal officials to prevent the sale of Starrett City, where Lucas lives, to billionaire developers in a deal that would strip the massive complex of the government subsidies keeping it affordable.
“It’s public record that I worked with all of these people, so why would she get up there and lie,” Barron said. “You can’t lie your way to winning a seat. You have to run on your record. What have you done?”
Alleyne and the Barrons had not been particularly optimistic about winning the Democratic nomination in County Committee, positing as far back as October that the scales in County Committee were tipped in favor of Lucas, who was the favored candidate of Bichotte Hermelyn. Charles Barron, speaking to County Committee members on Sunday, called the process a “sham,” particularly in relation to the proxy votes Lucas collected.
“We knew how it was gonna turn out, we knew from the beginning what was gonna happen with that,” Barron said. “We don’t put a whole lot into that. The people will decide, and I believe that we have a very good chance of winning on Feb. 15.”
Alleyne characterized the nomination process as undemocratic in a speech at the meeting, and told Brooklyn Paper that the whole thing seemed “performative” and “orchestrated.”
“You got people reading off a paper for this performative, ceremonial process,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s truly what the community wants. That’s why we’re going with the WFP line and making sure folks have a true choice.”
Alleyne has said that if he could not win the special, he still would likely contest the Democratic primary in June, but notes that he’s optimistic about winning on the WFP line.
James and Richardson are the only two officials statewide to have won solely on the WFP line, but others have come close: before her successful 2003 victory, James nearly won her Council seat in 2001 running as a WFP candidate, and in a 2016 special election, Yuh-Line Niou ran a close race as the WFP candidate in a lower Manhattan race to succeed Sheldon Silver. She lost that race to Democrat Alice Cancel but went on to win the September Democratic primary.
Correction: a previous version of this article said Diana Richardson won her Assembly seat in 2014; she won it in 2015. This story has also been updated to note that she did not face a Democratic challenger in that race.