This Monday, instead of being booed up for Valentine’s Day, candidates running for the now-vacant seat in the 43rd State Assembly district decided to show their #Love for the community by tuning into a virtual forum held by the Kings County Dems.

Former Assembly Member Diana Richardson was tapped by new Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso to be deputy borough president, kicking off a special election to replace her by March 22. The district covers Crown Heights, parts of Flatbush, and Prospect Lefferts Gardens in Brooklyn, and is primarily made up of middle to low-income Black and Caribbean communities.

The forum featured five democratic candidates: Pierre Albert, Brian Cunningham, Jelani Deshong, Tim Hunter, and Sharon Wedderburn.

Albert was a driver and bodyman for then-Senator, now-Mayor Eric Adams. He then went on to be a scheduler for former Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and worked with Karim Camara. He’s native to the district and is passionate about housing and public service.

Cunningham is a former chief of staff to former Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and has run for city council’s district 40 twice. “The 43rd assembly district kind of is the thread that keeps my life together. It neatly stitches together who I am as a person,” said Cunningham.

Deshong works for Intergovernmental Affairs under Governor Kathy Hochul, according to the Brooklyn Paper. He’s also worked in city hall. He said that the community raised him and his aim is to give back.
Hunter, the youngest candidate, is a former spokesperson for Senator Julia Salazar and is a housing advocate. “We need a representative that’s not going to be beholden to real estate, not going to be beholden to any other governmental powers that be,” said Hunter. “We need someone that’s going to be representative of the community.”

Wedderburn ran in the city council district 35 race last year. She is a financial services professional currently. She said a legislator should always take the community into the room and make sure their needs are met.

Topics were wide ranging, touching on the issue with 421-A and overdevelopment as well as property taxes and public safety. Though many residents in the Zoom chat complained that the questions asked of the candidates didn’t always center on state issues related to the assembly. The State Assembly’s main function is to write and vote on laws, approve state budgets, and uphold or override the governors’ vetoes.

“It’s always the same. You hear the same questions, you hear the same answers,” said local activist Alicia Boyd who attended the forum. “They didn’t ask any questions I would have wanted them to answer.”

Boyd said that the people gravitated towards the youngest candidate, Hunter, because he made “true statements” during the forum, but she doubts that will be enough to carry him through office. Boyd thinks that Richardson said many true things during her time in office but couldn’t get legislation passed.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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