Community activists gathered on the steps of City Hall Tuesday to deliver scorching criticisms of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul for what they say was a race-baiting political attack on City Council Member Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood), who is challenging Hochul in the Democratic primary as Cynthia Nixon’s running mate.
The heated primary between the two candidates was brought to another level when Hochul released an ad that criticized Williams for being in debt.
The ad, which shows a candid picture of Williams, was used to attack him for owing money on a loan for a failed restaurant Williams opened.
“Williams still owes $10k in taxes and $625k on a loan from a failed business,” the digital ad released on Friday reads. “Our NY State budget is $168.3 billion per year. If he can’t manage his own finances, do you really want him managing yours?” the ad said.
The activists said the advertisement perpetuated the stereotype of the “angry black man,” and was nothing more than a scare tactic for affluent voters in upstate New York.
“We’ve had enough of this race-baiting, this is not new, we have zero tolerance for this,” said Zakiyah Ansari, the activist who lead the rally.
“We must not be desensitized to what the words are,” she said.
Other activists shared Ansari’s sentiment. Maurice Mitchell of the Working Families Party, called the ad both racist and classist.
“Let’s be very clear, these attacks are anti-black and anti-working class,” Mitchell said.
He said Hochul’s ad paints the political system in a way where only those with money should be able to hold office, and people with debts such as student loans and mortgages are excluded from public service with that logic.
Mitchell said Hochul should withdraw the ad and apologize to Williams, and reminded everyone these issues are not exclusive to New York.
“This is nothing new and it’s happening all around this county,” he said.
Williams and Nixon expressed similar opinions to the activists who held the rally. The two said that they would expect this kind of low-blow from members of the Republican party, but not from fellow Democrats.
“Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul should be ashamed of this ad and should take it down immediately. It’s incredibly offensive to say that someone is unqualified for public office because their small business shuttered, or because they are going through a foreclosure. We expect this sort of dog-whistling and poor-shaming from Republicans— not Democrats. If anything, we need more elected officials who know what it’s like to struggle, who can empathize with the challenges that New Yorkers are facing every day. That’s why as the daughter of a single mom and the son of immigrants, we are running to take on corporate Democrats like Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul. The Governor and his running mate have always put their Wall Street donors first, and this ad is merely the latest example of just how out of touch they’ve become,” the statement said.
Hochul doubled-down on her attacks on Williams. In a statement, she alleged Williams of lacking the same transparency he accused Donald Trump of having when Trump was running for president.
“The Nixon/Williams transparency charade continues. Cynthia Nixon preaches accountability while her running mate Jumaane Williams has called on President Trump to release at least five years of tax returns. But rather than set the example, Williams has refused to release even one year’s worth of returns to the public. What is he hiding? What are they hiding? What conflicts of interest and financial ties exist? Nixon and Williams must come clean with New Yorkers and release ten years’ worth of returns as is standard of all candidates running for statewide office,” Hochul said.