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Political Note #298   Diana Richardson NY AD 43

2020                             General Election

I don’t usually write notes about primaries.  Lenspoliticalnotes are intended to elect Democrats.  I write about a Democratic candidate before he or she has a primary when I believe that the candidate will win the primary and can benefit from early support.

I made an exception to that rule two years ago.  I supported Democrats jn New York running against members of the IDC (they called themselves the Independent Democratic Caucus).  They were New York state Senators who helped the Republicans organize the Senate.  The Republicans were then able to control the agenda.  Not just for the Senate, but for the State of New York.  They could block any reform Democrats sought.  In 2018, many Democrats organized to oust IDC members.  Six of the eight IDC members were defeated in Democratic primaries. All of the primary winners were then elected in November.  Incumbent Assemblywoman Diana Richardson has an opponent, Jesse Hamilton who was one of the defeated IDC State Senators.

The New York Democratic primary is on June 23 —  in just a few days.  If you are going to help out Diana Richardson, do it now – when it matters.

Here’s a clue to why ousted Jesse Hamilton may have thought Diana Richardson would be fair game.  Diana Richardson was first elected to the New York Assembly on the Working Families Party Line in a special election five years ago.  That is a progressive party and a haven for Democrats when the Democrats choose moderates or conservatives to represent them. After she was elected, she caucused with the Democrats and, since 2016, has run as a Democrat.  She was the first member of the Assembly to be elected running only on the Working Families Party Line.

Diana Richardson’s  NY AD 43 is in Brooklyn.  It includes parts of Crown Heights, Lefferts Gardens, Wingate, and East Flatbush.   The District is predominantly African American.  Both Crown Heights and Lefferts Gardens, for instance, are about 75% African American.  Crown Heights is 15% white; Lefferts Gardens is about 10% white.  It is not a shock that the primary contest is, in fact, the election.  There is a Republican candidate in 2020.  No Republican ran in 2016 or 2018.

This is a fairly young district.  The median age is just under 35.  The New York median is just under 39.  The median household income is just under $52,500, well below New York’s median of $65,000 plus.  Just under 19% of the people in the district are living below the poverty line, more than the approximately 14.5% of the population of New York.  Most people live in multi-family building and 80% rent.  Those who can afford to own their housing unit, own something valuable.  The median value of an owner-occupied home in the district is over $700,000.  14% of the people in the district own a home worth more than a million dollars.

More than 85% of the people in the district graduated high school.  More than 34% have earned a Bachelor’s Degree.  Neither are very different from New York State as a whole or the country as a whole.  What is different is that almost 40% of the people were born outside the United States.  For New York state, the percentage is about 22.5%.  For the country it is 13.5%.  NY AD 43 is most different from the rest of the country racially, in its percentage of foreign born, and in its being part of the country’s largest city.

Diana Richardson fits right in.  Her parents immigrated from Aruba.  She graduated from high school.  She is among the one third of the district population who graduated from college – Medger Evers College.  And she has a Master’s Degree from Baruch College in Public Administration.

Diana Richardson was born in Crown Heights and grew up there.  Her route to the state Assembly was through Community Board 9 and her relationship with the Crown Heights Tenant Union.  They urged her to run for the Assembly.  Working with the Crown Heights Tenant Union meant working with people trying to avoid getting run over by gentrification.  One example of the problems: Landlords were able to register their apartments for rent stabilization at a rate much higher than tenants are actually paying.  As the neighborhood attracted people willing and able to pay higher rent, that registration allowed them to start raising rents when leases were up, driving current tenants out of their apartments. She’s working to welcome the newcomers while developing tough love methods of dealing with the landlords.

Diana Richardson was subject to a little tough love herself.  In her teens, she dropped out of school.  Her parents sent her away.  Homeless, she found her way to Covenant House and found herself.

Diana Richardson also had an experience of tough love gone awry as a Mom, a single Mom, at that.  A few days before the November, 2016 election, an election in which she had no opposition, she told her 13 year old son to write her an essay about how he was going raise his grades.  He would not.  He went to the nearest police station and complained that his Mom hit him with a broomstick causing “redness and pain” on his left arm.  The police arrested her and charged her with second degree assault, endangering the welfare of a child, criminal possession of a weapon, and menacing.  Is this the paperwork equivalent police shooting an unarmed black woman?  Eventually, the charges were withdrawn.

Jesse Hamilton is a formidable, well-connected opponent.  He was a Democratic Party District Leader, served on the local school board, was president of a local Democratic Club, served as counsel to the current Borough President when he was a state senator.  Hamilton is currently the Secretary of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. He was elected to the state Senate in 2014 and had successes that were characteristic of IDC successes.  Working on juvenile justice issues, he was a leader in passing legislation that raised the age considered a juvenile from 16 to 17 and removed 16 and 17 year-olds from Rikers when practicable.  The legislation was dismissed by critics as a “watered down” version of a Democratic proposal.  Hamilton was defeated in the 2018 Democratic Primary by No-IDC candidate Zellnor Myrie in 2018 – with Diana Richardson’s help.

Diana Richardson has made a dent while in the New York Assembly.  She has worked on achieving a $1.4 Billion Vital Brooklyn Initiative intended to redress economic and health disparities in Central Brooklyn.  She was certainly not alone, but had a particular interest in passage the $15 per hour minimum wage.

As I said above: If you are going to help out Diana Richardson, do it now – when it matters.  The New York Democratic primary is on June 23 —  in just a few days.