After an unsuccessful bid for City Council Speaker last month, it looks like East Flatbush Councilmember Jumaane Williams (D-45) has his eyes on a bigger prize: the position of Lieutenant Governor.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are—that is the legacy of Dr. King. I take that very seriously, I try to do that the best I can in the New York City Council,” he told the crowd after an impassioned address to the Salem Baptist Church in Flatbush on Martin Luther King, Jr Day.
“I feel it’s time to do even more,” he added. “Today I am announcing I’m forming an exploratory committee towards the possibility of running for Lieutenant Governor of the state of New York.”
The move would come as a challenge to Kathy Hochul, Governor Cuomo’s current second in command. While the new Governor and Lieutenant Governor will be elected on a single ticket this fall, each position has a separate primary.
Recently, Williams made the news when he was arrested during a protest against the detention of immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir on January 11. In 2015, Williams was arrested in Albany, protesting for tenants rights alongside fellow Councilmember Laurie Cumbo. After the incident, Williams posted a message on Twitter: “Just arrested to send a message loud & clear to @NYGovCuomo: THE PEOPLE, UNITED, WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED! #TenantPower”
Williams, a progressive Democrat, has led the charge against gun violence and tenant harassment as chair of the council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings and as co-chair of the Council’s Task Force to Combat Gun Violence. Legislative victories for Williams include legislation curtailing tenant harassment and the Community Safety Act, which led to the creation of the Office of Inspector General for the NYPD.
The outspoken Councilmember has been a consistent on-the-ground advocate, even showing up outside his district to confront landlords on behalf of a wrongfully evicted tenant last year. As a proponent of police reform, the Councilmember eventually opposed half of the Right to Know Act last year, calling the final version of the legislation “watered down” and “significantly less effective.”
In the past, there was concern among other Council Democrats about Williams’ position on same-sex marriage and abortion, reported Politico. Since then, the Councilmember has clarified his positions in a letter to his fellow Councilmembers: “Let me be as clear as I can,” he wrote, “I support marriage equality for our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQIA communities. I support a woman’s right to have access to a safe, legal abortion.”
In the run-up to the City Council Speaker election, Councilmember Williams revealed at “New Deal” plan for New York City, aimed at boosting economic growth and youth employment. It also recommended increasing term limits for Councilmembers, from the current 8 years to a total of 12 years, across three 4-year terms. “I can personally testify that Members need at least three potential terms to truly be successful in representing their constituencies,” Williams wrote at the time.
Williams is currently starting his third term (due to a 2008 increase in term limits that was reversed 2010), and if his bid for Lieutenant Governor is successful, a special election would be held to elect a replacement Councilmember in the 45th.
“Join me on this path,” Williams exhorted the crowd after his announcement. “Join the march for a New York and a nation that holds true to its promise of progress and freedom and equity.”
The Councilmember’s speech can be seen below, courtesy of his YouTube channel:
Update 1/16: The article has been updated to clarify Councilmember Williams’ stance as a political advocate for the LGBTQIA community and for abortion rights.