North Western Brooklyn

Laurie Cumbo Likely Wins the 35th District

Laurie Cumbo, pictured here chatting with a voter on Tuesday afternoon, will likely be the new 35th District City Council Member, early returns show. (Photo by Kyle Ligman)
Laurie Cumbo, pictured here chatting with a voter on Tuesday afternoon, will likely be the new 35th District City Council Member, early returns showed. (Photo by Kyle Ligman)

Laurie Cumbo is projected to be the new 35th District City Council Member, according to unofficial Democratic primary returns. The returns reported that Cumbo snagged 6,836 votes – or 35.44 percent of the vote – in the election. Without a Republican running for the spot, Cumbo will automatically take the seat vacated by Letitia James, representing Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant and parts of Crown Heights.

Cumbo, the director of Fort Greene’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), told The Nabe last month that she spent lots of time in Albany and City Hall fighting for better resources for her museum and other non-profits, and soon realized that she could make a bigger difference as a City Council Member.

“I believe you should run for office when you’ve hit your threshold of what you can do as a private citizen,” Cumbo said last month.

Cumbo was the top fundraiser in the race, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board, raising more than $103,000. Her rival Ede Fox netted the second-highest amount, around $87,000. Candidate Olanike Alabi raised $44,000 in campaign contributions, while Jelani Mashariki received about $36,000 in contributions and F. Richard Hurley raised the least, just over $8,000.

Cumbo told The Nabe that she plans to use her time in office to improve living conditions for New York City Housing Authority residents. Her vision for the authority is similar to the city’s crackdowns on subway graffiti and the creation of the Arts for Transit Program that installed public art in the city’s subway stations during the 1980s, she said.

Her campaign saw its share of controversy: Cumbo recently came under fire after the real estate and corporate political action committee Jobs for New York issued brochures supporting her campaign, City Limits’ BK Bureau reported. Cumbo asked Jobs for New York to stop spending on her behalf, but thanked the PAC “for its excitement and belief in this campaign and I look forward to working with its various constituencies as your next City Council Member,” according to the site.

But when fellow candidates criticized her response, Cumbo changed her approach, issuing a press statement saying, “I appreciate their belief in my campaign,” leaving out the “various constituencies” reference, the site reported. Jobs for New York did not respond to Brooklyn Bureau’s queries about whether it would stop spending on Cumbo’s behalf.

One powerful endorsement for Cumbo came from SEIU Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, the city’s largest union. Kevin Finnegan, the union’s political director, told The Nabe that Cumbo’s “organizational skills” impressed the union’s endorsement committee.

Fox came in second place with 5,011 votes – or 25.98 percent of the vote, according to the unofficial returns. She previously served as Legislative and Budget Director for Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and then as Chief of Staff for Council Member Jumaane D. Williams and focused her campaign on affordable housing and job creation.

Alabi, who reportedly came in third, slightly trailed Fox with 4,992 votes, or 25.88 percent of the vote. She previously served as district leader for the 57th Assembly district in 2006, won a second term in 2010, and ran unsuccessfully for New York State Assembly last year. Mashariki received 1,254 votes – or 6.5 percent of the total – and Hurley, who came in last place with 1,197 votes, garnered approximately 6.2 percent of the ballots.

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