Salty Dog Slugfest: Brannan, Carroll, El-Yateem Step To The Plate

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 Three of the Democratic candidates – Justin Brannan, Kevin Peter Carroll and Rev. Khader El-Yateem – in the congested District 43 City Council race showed up to The Salty Dog Bar And Restaurant, 7509 3rd Avenue, last night to garner an endorsement from the Brooklyn Young Democrats (BYD) political club.

It was the BYD’s second session of a three-part candidate forum series in the southern region of Brooklyn and about 50 energetic and vocal constituents were present. Each candidate was given a three-minute opening along with room for three follow-up questions. While the Cavalier’s and the Golden State Warriors battled it out in the main room, it was a political Game 7 of the World Series in the adjacent annex of the Salty Dog.

Justin Brannan. Photo by Kadia Goba

The first candidate to the plate was Brannan. The current chief-of-staff of incumbent City Councilmember, Vincent Gentile, used his three minutes of talk time to give a little history about himself, concentrating on his decade-long music tour abroad, his stint with AFTRA and his involvement in animal activism. Brannan attributed those key life experiences as the pathway to his career in politics and the jumpstart was securing a position with the term-limited lawmaker Gentile that he’s looking to replace.

“That’s where it really sort of jelled for me. I was able to help people with their problems [and see immediate results] –– that instant gratification of activism,” said Brannan.

The Q & A followed. After a couple of fastballs, a young Democrat threw Brannan a meatball allowing for an easy base hit.

 “My vision for the District is to be inclusive, one of the biggest reasons I’m running is to get more people involved and bring more people to the table,” said Brannan when asked what his thoughts are on working across religions, races and ethnicities in such a diverse community as District 43, which includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach.

Peter Kevin Carroll. Photo by Kadia Goba

Next up to bat was Democratic District Leader Carroll, the youngest candidate in the race and also a BYD member. 

Carroll professed his deep insight into District 43, made known his various platforms as an incumbent district leader, and boasted his victorious campaign to reestablish the B37 Bus. The candidate told the audience he campaigned for the abolishment of the MTA 7 years ago and maintains his position of wanting to make the transit system a transparent entity run by city officials.

When an audience member questioned Carroll’s ability to maintain his independence after his filings revealed that he received several donations from judges, the candidate responded by saying, “I’ve taken money from a lot of different people. A lot of candidates do that. I have not always supported judges who have given me donations. If I felt someone else would be better I supported them. I supported, last year, Odessa Kennedy for the civil court judge.”

“But she gave you money,” interjected the audience member.

“So did her opponent,” retorted Carroll.

Carroll concluded with a line drive down the middle declaring himself a lifelong Democrat –– “which is something some of my opponents can’t say,” said Carroll.

Rev. Khader El-Yateem. Photo by Kadia Goba

Finally, El-Yateem stepped to the plate and quickly credited the “civically engaged” constituency of District 43 for his own start in community activism. El-Yateem is a long-time member of Community Board 10 and an appointed New York Police Department (NYPD) community liaison. Consistent with his mantra of “putting people above politics,” El-Yateem focused on social aspects that impact the community. The candidate said he is running for city council because he wants to address economic and racial justice, housing affordability and illegal drugs.

“I held the first town hall meeting in this area to address the illegal problem. I raised money to open the first drug-counseling center. I need to continue to fight illegal [home] conversions and people taking advantage of undocumented people in our city,” said El-Yateem.

The first curve ball came from a woman constituent when she asked the reverend how he would reconcile LGBTQ and pro-choice issues. The candidate responded by hitting it out of the park, which drew an extended applause.

“As a person of the cloth, a clergy person, all my life, I have through the church defended the rights of the LGBTQ community and see it as a right of justice,” said El-Yateem. “ I believe that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. I believe in the women’s right to choose. I support pro-choice and I am a pro-choice candidate.”

BYD Vice President Mariya Markh, 29, concluded the session with an important message to the audience.

“There are a few different kind of candidates running, a few Democrats and Republicans,” said Markh.  “Whatever happens we will be with the Democratic candidate who wins for that general election. This is going to be a very, very important location for us, even in the November election because this is where it actually counts. It is very important that you come out to the South –– no matter who makes it we are going to support the Democrats.”