Khari Edwards has snagged the backing of some of Brooklyn’s most notable elected officials in his bid to become Brooklyn Borough President.
Edwards, a former Brookdale Hospital executive, has been endorsed by Congresswoman Yvette Clake and two Assemblywomen, Diana Richardson and Latrice Walker, in his bid to win the seat. The Progressive Democrats Political Association, a club run by Clarke’s mother and borough power broker Dr. Una Clarke, is also backing Edwards.
“Khari and I understand the importance of community activism and how to affect real change in our society, which is why I am hitting the ground running to get him elected,” the younger Clarke said in a statement announcing the endorsement. “From housing and the economy to healthcare and public safety, Khari will be on the front lines fighting to help every Brooklynite.”
The new endorsements, along with previously-announced backing from Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, could give Edwards serious firepower as he looks to woo Black and Caribbean voters in central and eastern Brooklyn.
Though this is Edwards’ first time running for elected office, he’s no stranger to Brooklyn politics; before serving as Brookdale’s VP of External Affairs, he worked for the late former Congressman Major Owens and Assemblymember Nick Perry, who is also backing Edwards.
“I literally spent 20-plus years of my career in public service,” Edwards told Bklyner. “I’ve worked with Yvette very closely as it pertains to a lot of the healthcare inequities in central Brooklyn. Same thing with Latrice; the hospital that I worked at is within her district. Diana Richardson is basically a neighbor who, again, we worked on so many community issues.”
The endorsements, though, may also illustrate a complex and shifting web of political relationships in the borough.
The Clarkes are a Brooklyn institution; Una, who emigrated to the borough from Jamaica, won election to a Flatbush City Council seat in 1991, becoming the first Caribbean-born woman to serve in the chamber. Since leaving the office, she’s helped nurture the careers of a cohort of Black and Caribbean politicians, including Richardson, Walker and of course Yvette, who followed her mother’s footsteps in the Council before winning election to Congress in 2006.
But in backing Edwards, whose own parents were born in Trinidad and Guyana, the Clarkes have put themselves at odds with another Brooklyn power broker: Assemblywoman and Brooklyn Democratic Party chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, who is supporting a different candidate, Council Member Robert Cornegy, in the contest.
But there are also indications that the relationship is changing. Clarke was a no-show when Bichotte Hermelyn’s Shirley Chisholm Democratic Club hosted a congressional forum last June. And in this year’s race for Brooklyn’s 40th City Council District, the camps are again on opposite sides: Clarke has endorsed her former staffer, Kenya Handy-Hillard, while Bichotte is backing her cousin, Democratic District Leader Josue Pierre.
Bichotte and Richardson, meanwhile, have been engaged in open warfare since last year, when Richardson published a blistering video on Facebook in which she accused Bichotte of using the party for political retribution against her. Later, after a disastrous virtual party meeting in which Bichotte attempted to squash internal attempts at reform, Richardson tweeted that Bichotte was “totally unfit” to be the party’s chair.
Of course, none of that was mentioned in the statements of the elected officials announcing their endorsement of Edwards on Thursday. Instead, they focused on Edwards himself.
“Khari is a frontline worker who has fought for fair wages and benefits, expanded access to high-quality healthcare, and started a highly successful gun violence prevention program. He is exactly the type of leader we need in Borough Hall,” Richardson said in explaining her support.
Other frontrunners in the race to replace term-limited Eric Adams in the seat are Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, who currently represents a swath of western brownstone Brooklyn, and Council Member Antonio Reynoso, whose district includes parts of Williamsburg, Bushwick and Ridgewood in the City Council.
Another Caribbean candidate, current Flatbush Council Member Mathieu Eugene, is also running, though he’s garnered no major endorsements and raised far less money than Cornegy, Edwards, Reynoso or Simon.
The only poll of the race conducted to date found Reynoso coming out on top in a ranked choice simulation, though several candidates polled within the margin of error, and half of surveyed voters said they were undecided.