Community organizer Brian A. Cunningham scored the Democratic nomination with over 90% of the vote from the Kings County Dems, and then the backing of Mayor Eric Adams this Monday, March 14, in the 43rd assembly district special election in Brooklyn to replace former Assemblymember Diana Richardson.

The flurry snowstorm that wouldn’t end this past weekend may have something to do with the extremely low early voting turnout that began on Saturday. At the wrap of Day 2 of voting on Sunday, March 13, the Board of Elections announced via Twitter that a grand unofficial total of 39 people had voted so far.

Still, candidates are confident of their chances in the race.

“I understand the pulse of the community,” said Cunningham, “and want to take my skills to echo the voices of our communities and advocate for the changes that they’re asking for whether it be in affordable housing, whether it be access to health care, whether it’s public safety and criminal justice reform, or helping our small businesses recover from a post-COVID environment.”

Born and raised in Flatbush, Cunningham said that he’s dedicated the past 20 or so years to working in the city, state, and federal government as well as the nonprofit sector. He was known for his innovative ideas on how to improve transportation in the district.

Cunningham had last run for city council in District 40 to replace then term-limited Councilmember Mathieu Eugene in 2021, but reluctantly dropped out. Cunningham’s wife was battling Stage 4 endometriosis at the time. They decided to take the time off and tend to her health and family wellness rather than continue in the race, said Cunningham.

He’s thankful that he still has the support of the community and heavy endorsements from Adams and the county party going into the special. And because of his experiences he said public safety and Black maternal health are paramount to his campaign.

Jelanie Deshong was the director of government relations at SUNY Downstate Hospital and is running on the Working Families Party line against Cunningham. Most recently he served as assistant secretary of intergovernmental affairs for Gov. Kathy Hochul.

His campaign focuses on public safety, investing in the district’s hospitals, and housing. “And for me, working at Downstate, seeing the historic lack of investment in a state-run hospital in Brooklyn,” said Deshong, “one thing I want to do is provide sort of 5th Avenue care right here, and I think it’s achievable.”

Deshong also said that he anticipates that most voters will vote on Election Day so he’s not worried about low turnout.

Meanwhile, assembly candidates Pierre Albert and Tim Hunter said they have decided to play the long game by dropping out of the special election to compete later against the winner in the June primaries. It’s a riskier strategy but it can be done since there’s technically no guarantee that the candidate that wins the special election will be voted in again.

The district covers Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and Flatbush.

The special election concludes on Election Day, Tuesday, March 22.

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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