With the primary season behind voters in the 43rd City Council District, the two candidates left standing, Democrat Justin Brannan and Republican John Quaglione – are a throwback of traditional Bay Ridge and its rich blue-collar Irish- and Italian-American civil service base.
And while the district, which also includes Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach, also has a longtime Arab-American constituent base, and growing Chinese-American presence, this race is also something of a throwback proxy race between State Sen. Marty Golden and City Councilmember Vincent Gentile.
Golden a former Republican city councilman, defeated then incumbent Democratic State Sen. Gentile for his senate seat in a hotly contested 2002 race. Gentile than took Golden’s old city council seat a year later in a special election.
And in an ironic switch, the Italian-American Quaglione cut his political teeth working for the Irish-American Golden, and the Irish-American Brannan cut his teeth working for the Italian-American Gentile.
Both Brannan and Quaglione are lifelong products of Bay Ridge, having gone to local schools and both are extremely active in the civic, cultural and business affairs in their district.
Brannan attended PS 185 at 8601 Ridge Blvd., McKinley Jr. High School 7205 Fort Hamilton Parkway in Dyker Heights and Xaverian High School, 7100 Shore Road. He went on to studying journalism at Fordham University and the College of Staten Island, before pursuing music and touring the world as a successful punk rock musician. Justin is an active member and Lector at St. Patrick’s Church, 9511 4th Avenue in Bay Ridge.
Quaglione attended PS 48 at 6015 18th Avenue,Public School 48, Xaverian’s Genesis Program for middle school, Adelphi Academy of Brooklyn, 8515 Ridge Boulevard. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from American University in Washington, D.C. Quaglione is on the education board and an active member of St. Anselm’s Roman Catholic Church, 356 82nd Street.
Judging from the primary turnout, Brannan appears to have the edge as 9,493 total Democrats turned out in his primary victory over four opponents, while 3,967 registered Republicans turned out for Quaglione’s primary victory over three opponents. That said, there are a few variables that will likely swing the election.
Among these variables is Brannan’s ability to shore up ties with longtime Southern Brooklyn political rival City Councilmember Mark Tryeger (D-Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend).
The long-standing feud between the two reaches at least as far back as 2015 when Treyger’s mentor, Assemblymember Bill Colton and Brannan’s former boss Gentile went head-to-head to run against the Republican candidate and then Staten Island District Attorney, Dan Donovan. Colton eventually dropped out of the race pitting Gentile against Donovan, with Donovan ultimately winning the seat to replace to Michael Grimm’s who vacated the seat because of tax fraud.
The feud further escalated when Treyger beat out Chris McCreight for district leader in the 46th Assembly district last year in a race where Treyger strongly supported current Assemblymember Pam Harris (D-Coney Island, Bay Ridge) while Brannan stayed out of the assembly race, which amounted to underlying support to Kate Cucco.
McCreight, who co-founded with Brannan the Bay Ridge Democrats club, has served as a volunteer and close advisor to Brannan’s primary run for city council.
But politics makes for strange bedfellows, and the two may just forge a political partnership with Treyger possibly having his eye on the borough president’s office in four years, and Brannan could use Treyger’s help in getting his primary opponent Nancy Tong’s Chinese-American vote.
“Councilman Treyger and I had a good conversation about the recent election,” Brannan told KCP shortly after his primary win. “I told him that Nancy Tong ran a great campaign and that I look forward to working with them in the future.”
Treyger also told KCP shortly after the primary that he and Brannan were in the process of setting up a meeting to discuss issues that are pertinent to the district. “We run issue oriented campaigns that are very important to our residents, so I look forward meeting with him,” said Treyger.
But even with Treyger’s support, the Chinese-American vote is not a sure thing because Golden has long been a huge advocate for the Chinese-American community, and Quaglione could tap into that good will.
Another wild card is Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge, Staten Island) and her run against incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio. Malliotakis may serve to further galvanize the sizable and conservative Greek-American constituency in the district, and exploit Brannan being close to the mayor, having worked in his administration.
A final constituency worth watching is the senior vote. Seniors tend to have amongst the highest turnout in the district, and given that both Quaglione and Brannan are both deep in the Bay Ridge fabric, these folks are more likely to vote for the individual candidate over the party.
At this point, KCP sees too many variables to single out a clear-cut favorite, and this remains a competitive Democratic/Republican district – perhaps the only one in all of Brooklyn.
The general election is Nov. 7.
-Kadia Goba contributed to this story.