Speaking on the steps of City Hall, City Council Member Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood) formally announced his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor on Friday, ending weeks of speculation. Williams will challenge current Lt. Gov Kathy Hochul in the Democratic Primary in September.
Without mentioning his opponent by name, Williams pitched himself as an independent champion of progressive activism, in contrast with Hochul’s establishment incrementalism. He spoke of the need to “reject people who espouse poll tested principles,” and promised to be “the people’s advocate in Albany.”
A Brooklyn native, Williams has been a vocal liberal Democrat since his 2009 election to the city council, where he now serves as deputy leader. He recently lost a bid to become the city council speaker to Manhattan resident Corey Johnson.
Williams describes himself as “an activist elected official,” running to “ensure that New York State is a beacon for progressive leadership, equality, and justice for all people.”
Initially floated as a possible contender for governor, Williams declined the chance to challenge Governor Andrew Cuomo, who boasts strong approval ratings and a $30 million campaign war chest.
Williams will instead contend in the lieutenant governor’s race, which has become viewed by many as a referendum on the divides within the Democratic party. Williams, a member of the progressive left, served as a delegate to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential election. Hochul, by contrast, campaigned for Hillary Clinton.
After deriding the actions of the Trump administration, Williams’ criticism quickly turned to establishment Democrats, implicitly criticizing Cuomo and Hochul in saying “issues that have plagued our state for decades still exist. Even in a supposed progressive beacon like New York, there are places where we lag woefully behind. There are people suffering by the inaction of our leaders.”
Williams spoke of the need for criminal justice reform, new statewide affordable housing programs, improving the educational system, and increased healthcare coverage. He acknowledged the uphill climb he is facing against an established incumbent, but assured supporters that “together we can prove that activist energy can overcome establishment money.”
Hochul, a former Congresswoman, defeated progressive primary challenger Tim Wu during her initial election for Lieutenant Governor in 2014 with 60.2% of the vote.
The Democratic Primary will take place on September 11, 2018.