Meet the new crop. They are not the same as the old crop, voters hope.
Amid the hoopla of a runaway DeBlasio mayoral victory in Tuesday night’s general election, it was easy to forget that two upstart council candidates were also busy preparing to shake things up at City Hall come January, in large part because their real victory took place at September’s Democratic primary.
In Sunset Park last night, Carlos Menchaca floated to a shoo-in win for the 38th District — which includes Red Hook, South Slope, Sunset Park, Greenwood Heights, and parts of Borough Park and Bay Ridge — over Conservative Party candidate Henry Lallave, garnering 91 percent of the vote. But victory was not so certain for the former aid to Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Borough President Markowitz going into September’s primary against two-term incumbent Sara Gonzalez. The 32-year-old had only moved to the district in February after helping out in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the sitting councilwoman would not let him forget it. And even his relief work came under fire from Gonzalez, who claimed that Menchaca misrepresented jobs he was doing for Speaker Quinn as genuine volunteer elbow grease.
But the primary painted a different picture, one of an electorate hungry for change, which voters ensured by pinning 58 percent of their ballots to the transplant. Menchaca, the first Mexican-American council-member and the first openly gay Brooklyn pol, has promised to repay the favor by making himself available to constituents in a way that he says Gonzalez never was.
“I’m going to be present. I’m going to be visible and vocal,” he told us in September. “I’m going to be someone that’s on the streets talking directly to the people of Sunset Park about the needs.”
Across town in Williamsburg on Tuesday, Antonio Reynoso sealed the deal to replace 34th District Councilwoman Diana Reyna, his former boss, by taking 96 percent of the button-pushes to School Choice Party foe Glays Santiago’s four. Again, the real drama was in September when Reynoso put the final kibosh on disgraced former borough Democratic boss Vito Lopez’s comeback hopes by a 12 percent margin.
Reynoso has pledged to not bow to special interests and to bring his college activist background to bear on the district that spans Williamsburg, Bushwick, and a section of Queens.
Both Reynoso and Menchaca drew the endorsement of the New Kings Democrats and Menchaca was the only council contender to unseat an incumbent, signalling a shift from the political climate that has long required fealty to the Kings County Democratic machine and a new level of sway for the young political group.
In Fort Greene, Laurie Cumbo had the ballot all to herself on Tuesday after a late summer primary win in a heated five-way race. The founder of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts will fill outgoing councilwoman Letitia James’s 35th District seat, serving Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, and parts of Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Cumbo has promised to be more friendly to developers, in contrast to James’s vocal opposition to the Atlantic Yards project, and to decrease crime.
Most of the council action may have been in the primary, but the results were not entirely a changing of the guard. In the 33rd District, which includes Greenpoint, Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Downtown and parts of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant, Steve Levin will retake his old seat.
So will incumbent 39th District Councilman Brad Lander, representing Gowanus, Park Slope, and Windsor Terrace, who has had it easiest of all, having spent primary day opponent-less, election day crushing Conservative Party adversary James Murray, and both days cheering on come-from-behind mayor-elect Bill DeBlasio. Wait, what were we talking about?