BY JACKSON CHEN | Brian Benjamin, the Democratic Party’s candidate for State Senate District 30, won easily in the special election held on May 23.
Benjamin, a real estate developer and chair of Community Board 10, is looking to build on his years of community service in filling the seat vacated by Bill Perkins, who won an earlier special election to the City Council. With six years on CB10, Benjamin is already familiar with most of the district, which includes portions of the Upper West Side, East and Central Harlem, and Upper Manhattan.
“I am honored and humbled that the voters have chosen me to be the next New York State Senator for the 30th District,” Benjamin said in a statement shortly after the polls closed. “Our community has a long history of trailblazing public officials, from the Upper West Side to Harlem and El Barrio. I’m proud to join the ranks of so many tireless men and women and follow their lead in fighting for our families.”
According to unofficial returns from the New York City Board of Elections, the victor grabbed nearly 92 percent of just under 8,200 votes cast.
The CB10 chair faced off against the Republican Party’s Dawn Simmons and the Reform Party’s Ruben Dario Vargas. Benjamin’s bid got last-minute boosts with endorsements by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the New York State United Teachers, a union of more than 600,000 education professionals.
Benjamin worked with de Blasio and his administration throughout the years as an affordable housing developer with Genesis Companies and through CB10.
The mayor said that Benjamin has a proven track record of representing the community.
“I believe that we need strong Democrats like [Benjamin] up in Albany, ready to help make our communities more affordable, and push back against the dangerous Trump agenda,” de Blasio said in a written release. “With Brian as New York’s newest State Senator, we can work to restore Democratic control to the Legislature and make these priorities a reality.”
Even with a Benjamin victory, however, the Democrats, unable to command the support of Brooklyn conservative Democrat Simcha Felder, will not have enough votes to secure control of the Senate. With Republicans in charge, Democrats also face defections by a rump Independent Democratic Conference, whose members have won some leadership positions as well, in some cases, as enhanced pay — known informally as lulus — for their cooperation with the GOP.
In his election night statement, Benjamin pledged to remain loyal to the mainline Democrats, though he has also said he hopes to be a uniting force between the Democrats and the eight-member IDC.
“I will go to Albany and work as a proud Democrat, fighting for our families,” he said in claiming victory. “Together with my colleagues in the Democratic Conference, I will work to achieve meaningful bail reform, protect a woman’s right to choose, and secure the Campaign for Fiscal Equity funding our public schools deserve.”
Benjamin’s statement also outlined his other priorities in Albany.
“A growing affordable housing crisis impacts thousands of families and threatens their ability to stay in the community they know and love,” he said. “Far too often, our children do not receive the education they need to succeed. The progressive values we as New Yorkers share in criminal justice reform, immigrants’ rights, and a woman’s reproductive health are under attack by Donald Trump and the Republicans.” — Additional reporting by Paul Schindler