It may have been one of the dirtiest campaigns in years, but City Councilmember Kendall Stewart’s Hail Mary pass sputtered and died as voters in the 45th Councilmanic District voted to elect his opponent, Democratic candidate Jumaane Williams, to replace him at City Hall.
Stewart, who had lost the Democratic nomination to Williams in a six-way race in September, never conceded, and immediately mounted a campaign as the Independence Party candidate, sending out a barrage of mailings in the final days of the campaign that sought to paint Williams as an interloper.
Voters didn’t buy that assessment, however, sending Stewart packing for the second time in two months, this time with finality.
When the dust had settled, unofficial totals had Williams -- who also appeared on the Working Families Party line -- with 76.52 percent of the vote, and Stewart with 17.42 percent of the vote, with 100 percent of the vote counted. That translated into 14,101 votes for Williams, and 3,211 votes for Stewart. A third candidate, Sal Grupico, who ran on the Republican and Conservative lines, amassed 1,117 votes, for 6.46 percent of the total.
“The voters in the 45th voted twice for term limits and twice for change,” Williams remarked, adding, “I am honored and humbled that they chose me. I am looking forward to working very hard for the community.”
Asked about Stewart’s negative campaigning, which manifested itself in a series of mailers and phone calls that Williams had called out as “distorting the truth,” Williams said, “I think it’s very sad. I am disappointed to see it.”
Stewart entered this campaign season with significant troubles. Two of his aides, including his chief of staff, pleaded guilty to embezzling council funds that had been allocated by Stewart. In addition, he carried the burden of being one of the 29 councilmembers who voted last year to extend term limits to a third term, a decision that raised ire among many voters.
Looking ahead, Williams said that his “first priority” now that the election is over will be to find an office and hire a staff. Then, he said, “I’ve got to meet with all the community leaders and make sure everyone together decides on what we need to be doing. I have my own ideas, and I’ve spoken with everyone already, but now as councilmember-elect, I want to regroup.”
Williams added that, throughout the campaign, “I never took anything for granted. I campaigned till 9:01 p.m. on November 3rd.” But, hard as he worked over the past few weeks, that’s just the beginning, he stressed. “The real work is about to begin now,” Williams concluded.