Velmanette Montgomery — the longest-serving member of the State Senate, with 35 years under her belt — officially announced her long-rumored retirement on Saturday, and endorsed Assemblymember Tremaine Wright to replace her in her central and western Brooklyn district.
Wright announced her campaign on Saturday with Montgomery at New York’s Public Transit Union, TWU Local 100’s, headquarters in Brooklyn Heights.
“I’m hopeful that we will be able to replace my presence with someone who will do us equally proud,” Montgomery said. “And that someone is Tremaine Wright.”
Wright’s entrance upends the campaign of the two earlier entrants, public school teacher and DSA-backed Jabari Brisport, and former Montgomery aide Jason Salmon. Montgomery said that her successor should be an established presence in the district and attuned to its needs, rather than a “pop-up candidate.”
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Besides Montgomery, Wright gained several other endorsements from colleagues in the legislature, including State Senator Kevin Parker, and Assemblymembers Latrice Walker, N. Nick Perry, and Diana Richardson.
At an earlier event on Saturday where she canvassed Central Brooklyn to combat deed theft, Attorney General Letitia James referred to Wright as a “young lady who’s about to ascend to a higher office” and “hopefully the next Senator of this district.” She later told Bklyner that did not constitute an official endorsement, however.
“She is a wise woman, and hopefully we’ll see who the best candidate is and we’ll announce our support for whatever candidate who believes in my same values,” James said.
In a statement, Brisport touted his campaign’s organizing prowess, but did not mention Montgomery’s retirement or Wright’s entrance into the race specifically.
“[H]undreds of volunteers have been out since November, knocking on over 5,000 doors and talking to their neighbors about our campaigns,” Brisport said. “That’s because this community is ready for something new. We’re fighting to have our voices heard.”
Salmon, in a statement, paid tribute to his former boss and made his case to succeed her.
“I have known Senator Montgomery since I was five years old,” Salmon said. “It was an honor to work for the Senator and a privilege to be a part of her office. There are no words to describe her legacy and what she has been able to achieve. For the past several months we have run a grassroots donor campaign with a growing list of endorsements while not taking a cent from real estate and corporate pacs. We need to continue to ensure that we have a representative that will stay strong and fight for truly affordable housing, criminal justice reform and educational equity — while not being beholden to corporate interests.”
Tributes to Montgomery, the architect of legislation such as the “Raise the Age” law, poured in from her colleagues.
“Senator Velmanette Montgomery has been a personal inspiration to me, and to thousands of New York women,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement. “First elected to the Senate in 1984, she has served with distinction and has truly become a Senate institution.”
“Everything we’ve fought for in the Senate — affordable housing, justice reform, education equity, black maternal health, & more — Velmanette has been doing in the Senate, literally, since before I was born.” Senator Zellnor Myrie said on Twitter. “She is a towering legend who’s greatness cannot be captured in words.”
Senator Andrew Gounardes called her a trailblazer, “I will miss Senator Velmanette Montgomery’s authenticity, her principled vision, and her dedication to helping others.”
Borough President Eric Adams said on Twitter, “She was a role model and a mentor to me. Velmanette was one of the original progressive electeds. We are a better state because of her voice.”