Myrie Opens New Office, Hamilton Gets VIDA Nod

Sen. Jesse Hamilton

On a hot and muggy Sunday morning in Brooklyn, supporters of Democratic State Senate candidate Zellnor Myrie gathered to canvas and phone bank for the candidate they believe will bring about change in Central Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, incumbent State Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D), Myrie’s opponent, garnered a key endorsement as he continues to rack up support in the district’s black community.

The district includes Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, South Slope, and Sunset Park.

Senate Candidate Zellnor Myrie addresses supporters. Photo by RJ Sonbeek

Myrie’s supporters gathered to officially open the candidate’s new campaign headquarters at 140 Empire Boulevard – an area Myrie says he walked by every day growing up. Something he wants to see in the future, as he wants to ensure people will continue to be able to live in the area.

“There will be children growing up in central Brooklyn that will be able to afford to live here,” Myrie said.

The campaign is still in the process of collecting signatures to get on the ballot, and although campaign officials said it has already reached their goal, it is not stopping so they can reach as many people as possible in the area.

“You have to think about the future vision of this state,” Myrie told supporters.

Myrie was ecstatic with the turnout and said that the amount of people who showed up is a real testament to the enthusiasm that is being shown to grassroots campaigns, not only across his district but across New York City.

“I think we’ve seen that grassroots campaigns are what people are responding to now, and I think that’s what we’re seeing,” he said.

What separates him from his opponent is his willingness to go into the community and listen to the needs of every single person he speaks with, Myrie said.

“I think that anyone that does not want to engage with the community should not want to be in the business of representing,” he said. “People are serious about real change in central Brooklyn.”

People with different motivations met in the office to show their support for Myrie.

Eleanor Moretta, who does not live in the district Myrie is running in, showed up to help with the campaign because she thinks Hamilton as a former member of the senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), cannot continue to stay in the state senate.

“Because we don’t have easier voting and some of the reforms that other states have, we can’t pass a lot of legislation that’s really needed,” Moretta said, “Especially we have this IDC, and Zellnor is campaigning against the only IDC member in Brooklyn.”

Godfre Bayalama, who works a full-time job from the early morning to the mid-afternoon, has been spending his evenings and nights campaigning for Myrie. On some days, he has spent up to eight hours knocking on doors with Myrie. He has earned the nickname “door warrior” around the office.

Bayalama said he connected with the campaign through Twitter, and that his story was one he could really relate to.

“We want to elect someone with a lot of energy in this office, which is why I am giving it my all for him,” Bayalama said.

State Sen. Jesse Hamilton, second from right, receives the support of VIDA. Contributed photo.

Meanwhile, Hamilton was in Bedford Stuyvesant over the weekend getting the support of the Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA), the most powerful black political club in Brooklyn.

Among the current elected officials who have either been a member of the club or who went to the club for a key early endorsements were U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Public Advocate Letitia James, Assembly Members Latrice Walker and Tremaine Wrights, and City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. 

“Our endorsement of Senator Jesse Hamilton for re-election comes because he has served the 20th Senate District well.  He founded The Campus, the nation’s first technology and wellness hub. He helped establish the nation’s first free college tuition program for families, he has a plan to fight back against  President Trump’s agenda and meet 21st century needs of students and schools. Senator Hamilton’s many years of public service has given him a unique perspective in solving issues facing our community,” said VIDA President Henry Butler.

Hamilton said he was honored to receive the endorsement of one of the oldest black political clubs in the country.

“During my time in public office, I have fought to protect the health and well-being of all Brooklyn families and I’ll continue that fight. I will make it a priority to invest in Brooklyn’s housing, education, and economy, and I will continue to stand up to President Trump so we protect Brooklyn values. I believe that every Brooklynite deserves the opportunity to thrive and succeed, which is why voters can trust me to lift up all our communities and implement a progressive vision for our city,” said Hamilton.

But Myrie campaign spokesperson André M. Richardson called the VIDA endorsement a backroom deal ins a desperate attempt to mislead voters, and distract from the fact that Hamilton blocked Andrea Stewart-Cousins from becoming the first black woman to lead the State Senate.

“Jesse Hamilton didn’t compete for this endorsement – our requests to meet with VIDA members were never granted. Central Brooklyn deserves a representative who actually encourages participation in the political process,” said Richardson.

A Hamilton spokesperson responded that  Stewart-Cousins also endorsed Hamilton so to say he blocked from anything makes no sense.

“Senator Hamilton was endorsed by Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins because of his Democratic values and progressive voting record. He [Hamilton] is committed to make history  by electing the first African-American woman majority leader,” said the spokesperson.