James AG Win Would Upset Brooklyn Politics Applecart

Public Advocate Letitia James raises hands in solidarity with City Council Member Laurie Cumbo to her right. Photo by Kelly Mena

If Brooklynite Public Advocate Letitia James should win the state attorney general office this year and become the first woman of color to hold New York statewide office, it will very likely create a mad scramble in the borough’s political hierarchy.

Public Advocate Letitia James
Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams

That’s because while James doesn’t have to give up her city public advocate seat to run for attorney general, she will have to give it up on Jan. 1 2019 if she wins and takes state office. This means there will be a special election for the public advocate’s seat to fill the remaining two years of her term, which runs out in 2021.

As the public advocate seat is widely seen as a stepping stone to becoming mayor and with Mayor Bill de Blasio term-limited out of office in 2021, it is likely that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will seek that seat. Adams has let it be known a number of times he is running for mayor, and being public advocate would give him a much greater citywide presence in the runup to the mayoral election.

Then should Adams win that seat there will very likely be a mad scramble for the borough president’s seat in yet another special election.

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo
City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr

Among those considered frontrunners for the borough president’s race are City Council Members  Laurie Cumbo, Robert Cornegy Jr., Rafael Espinal Jr. and Mark Treyger.

Of these, Cumbo appears to be the early frontrunner as she is well spoken and being a woman of color with a young baby is a plus in progressive politics. There has been talk that she may take City Council Member Chaim Deutsch to run as deputy borough president as a running mate. While borough presidents currently appoint the deputy borough president, and they don’t have running mates, running in tandem with Deutsch would be smart politics and cement the already close relations between blacks and Jews.

City Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr.
City Councilman Mark Treyger

Close behind Cumbo on the Central Brooklyn side would be Cornegy, who nearly won the city council speaker’s race. Cornegy is more of a common sense candidate as opposed to far left progressive candidate, and may be the only candidate with the ability to bridge the borough’s various points of view.

Espinal is already making moves in the brough president’s race in visiting local Democratic clubs such as the Bay Ridge Democrats, which is a long way both socio economically and in distance from his East New York, Bushwick district. If Espinal can galvanize the Hispanic vote and has a good relationship with Jewish voters. If he can pull in some of the black and white vote, he could be a formidable candidate.

Treyger is a hard worker and crafty campaigner, who has wide support in the former Soviet Union, Pacific-Asian and Jewish communities. A former public school teacher, Treyger also could have the support of U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, and squeak through if Cumbo and Cornegy split the black vote.

Others that may look to run include State Senators Jesse Hamilton and Kevin Parker, Assemblymembers Rodneyse Bichotte and Latrice Walker, and City Councilmembers Antonio Reynoso and Carlos Menchaca.

According to election laws none of the candidate would have to give up their current seats unless they won. That would set off another scramble for a special election to replace their current seat.