He played the long game last time. This time, Brian Cunningham is first to drop out from a crowded field of candidates looking to represent Flatbush and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens in the City Council.
In a post shared to Facebook on Wednesday morning, the 36-year-old Cunningham announced he was suspending his campaign to focus on “family, learning, my mental, spiritual and physical health.”
“The hardest decision after deciding to run, is the decision not to run,” Cunningham wrote. “Over the last few months I have wrestled with this, but in the end I have concluded it is not the right time.”
Cunningham first announced his campaign in December 2019, but wrote that “since that announcement a lot has changed in our city, and the world. The challenges ahead of us are great, and I intend to be a part of helping our community recover, but not as a candidate.”
Cunningham works as a project manager at the political data consulting firm Hawkfish, and previously held positions at the Center for Court Innovation and at My Brother’s Keepers Alliance, an initiative launched by former President Barack Obama to address opportunity gaps facing young men of color. He also served as Chief of Staff for outgoing Council Member Laurie Cumbo.
He first ran for the 40th Council District seat in 2017, positioning himself as a young reformer against then 63-year-old incumbent Mathieu Eugene, and picking up endorsements from progressive political groups like the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats and Tenants PAC.
Interpreting those numbers as a sign of the voters’ desire for change, Cunningham continued to campaign against Eugene, running on the Reform Party line in an attempt to pick up some of Raymond’s voters. He received a surprise endorsement from the New York Working Families Party in the general election, and while it was not enough, it illustrated the discontent many in the district felt with the incumbent. Eugene won just 60% of the vote in the heavily Democratic District, while Cunningham earned 36%.
This time around, with Eugene forced out by term-limits, the field of competitors is deep and fierce. Several contenders, including NYPD whistleblower Edwin Raymond, educator Rita Joseph, former Clarke staffer Kenya Handy-Hilliard and Democratic District Leader Josue Pierre, have raised more money in private donations than Cunningham in recent months.
Other candidates include attorney Blake Morris, educator Cecilia Cortez, Eugene’s brother Maxi Eugene, construction company owner Vivia Morgan, church administrator Harriet Hines and Medgar Evers College student Kenneth Lee.