Brooklyn Municipal Candidate Evaluations: 2017 Primary Elections
BROOKLYN DISTRICT ATTORNEY
★ Preferred Candidate – Eric Gonzalez – Dem ★
Age: 48 Occupation: Acting District Attorney, Kings County
Education: Cornell University, B.A.; University of Michigan Law School, J.D.
Eric Gonzalez has been the acting District Attorney since the death of D.A. Kenneth Thompson in October 2016, after serving as his deputy for several years. Under Thompson, Gonzalez was involved in the launch of a number of the administration’s signature initiatives, including the creation of the Conviction Review Unit and the policy not to seek prosecution for low-level marijuana possession. As acting District Attorney, Gonzalez has continued Thompson’s work creating a fairer and more equitable criminal justice system in Brooklyn by scrutinizing allegations of wrongful convictions and avoiding prosecution for low-level crimes that have historically led to disproportionate levels of incarceration among communities of color. Gonzalez told Citizens Union that he views the position as a nonpolitical office and would strive to fulfill its responsibilities independently of other interests or personal aspirations. He supports bail reform and will reduce the number of cases in which A.D.A.s request bail; minimizing immigration-related collateral consequences; videotaping police interrogations; and will pursue cases related to public corruption and “pay-to-play” impropriety. In line with his belief that the District Attorney’s office should avoid overtly political stances, he has not taken a position on holding a Constitutional Convention but told Citizens Union that he does not believe it is the only strategy to achieve meaningful criminal justice reform. Citizen’s Union prefers Gonzalez in this race because of his experience in the D.A.’s office, his commitment to ameliorating inequality in the criminal justice system through greater conviction integrity, inaugurated by his predecessor, and to pursue cases of public corruption.
Ama Dwimoh – Dem
Occupation: Special Counsel to Brooklyn Borough President
Education: Barnard College, B.A.; Columbia Law School, J.D.
Ama Dwimoh is the Special Counsel to the Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and had previously worked in the Brooklyn D.A.’s office for twenty years as a senior trial attorney and head of the Crimes Against Children Bureau. If elected, Dwimoh will focus on stronger punishment of police misconduct, especially in instances of excessive use of force, and would appoint a special prosecutor to handle such cases; take a hard stance
against the practice of Stop, Question, and Frisk; and create units to support vulnerable populations like seniors, workers, tenants, and children. She supports police body cameras and videotaping police interrogations, closing Rikers Island, and she opposes holding a Constitutional Convention. Citizens Union does not prefer her in the race for District Attorney because of concerns about her ability to lead the office based on allegations of friction with subordinates, and because of the relative appeal of her competitors.
Marc Fliedner – Dem
Age: 55 Occupation: Civil Rights Attorney
Education: American University, B.A.; George Washington Law School, J.D.
Marc Fliedner is a civil rights attorney who began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office in the late eighties. If elected, Fliedner says he would move away from a statistics-driven criminal justice model of arrest and prosecution and would focus more resources on investigating and preventing gun and drug trafficking; expand the Public Integrity Bureau; prosecute hate crimes and domestic terrorism; and improve the Early Case Assessment Bureau, which determines whether prosecution is appropriate after arrest. He supports holding a Constitutional Convention and closing Rikers Island, and like his opponents support videotaping police interrogations. Citizens Union does not support Fliedner in this race because, while supportive of many of the organization’s positions on police accountability and criminal justice reform, there is concern that he would not develop a relationship with police that would be conducive to the work of District Attorney.
Patricia Gatling – Dem
Occupation: Attorney at Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf
Education: Johns Hopkins University, B.A.; University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, J.D.
Patricia Gatling is currently an attorney at Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf, specializing in transportation equity, employment, and civil rights issues. She began her legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in the Brooklyn D.A.’s office and has since served as the Commissioner and Chair of the New York City Commission on Human Rights and the Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights under Governor Andrew Cuomo. One of Gatling’s primary goals is to create a unit composed of attorneys, social workers, and investigators to educate and protect seniors from exploitation. If elected, she would also implement a Prosecutor’s Integrity Bureau (PIB) that will audit cases and complaints concerning members of the District Attorney’s staff in order to increase accountability. Her views on transparency and police accountability are in line with those of Citizens Union, but she opposes holding the Constitutional Convention. Citizens Union was impressed by Gatling’s record but felt that she may be motivated by loftier political aspirations and that the incumbent would serve as a more balanced District Attorney.
Vincent Gentile - Dem
Age: 58 Occupation: NYC Council Member, District 43
Education: Cornell University, B.A.; Fordham University, J.D.
Vincent Gentile has served as a New York lawmaker for the last two decades, first as a state Senator from 1997 to 2002, and then as a member of the Council, a position he held since 2003 but will leave at the end of this year, due to term limits. Prior to his political involvement, Gentile worked for 11 years in the Queens County District Attorney’s office as a prosecutor and A.D.A. His priorities for the office are to expand the Conviction Review Unit, establish a narcotics investigations bureau, seriously pursue gun-possession prosecutions, and establish a unit to protect seniors from financial fraud schemes. Citizens Union commends Gentile’s service as a legislator but does not prefer him in this race because he appears to view the responsibilities of the District Attorney from a political perspective, as though it were a legislative office, rather than from a criminal justice lens concerned with pursuing justice through the law.
Anne Swern – Dem
Age: 61 Occupation: Attorney, Adjunct Professor at Brooklyn Law School
Education: University of Buffalo, B.A.; Brooklyn Law School, J.D.
Anne Swern is a former Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn, serving for over thirty years, many of which as deputy to District Attorney Charlies Hynes, and is an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School. Her priorities for the District Attorney’s office are to address the disproportionate contact of minorities with the criminal justice system through comprehensive statistical analysis; implement better assessment of when prosecution is appropriate, with an eye toward avoiding penalizing poverty; curb the sources of drugs; address public corruption and police oversight. Swern also supports videotaping police interrogations, improving police accountability through comprehensive data collection, and mitigating a “pay-to-play” culture by stringently enforcing campaign finance rules and regulations. Despite her priorities, which align closely with Citizens Union’s, Citizens Union does not prefer Swern in this race because of her close association with Hynes’s tenure in office, and questions about her role in the ongoing controversy related to wrongful convictions, especially during his final years in office. Citizens Union believes it is time for Brooklyn to affirmatively end this sad chapter in the city’s history.
NYC COUNCIL DISTRICT 35
★ Preferred Candidate - Ede Fox - Dem ★
Age: 46 Occupation: Full-time Candidate
Education: University of Michigan, B.A.; University of California, Los Angeles, M.A.
Ede Fox is a co-founder of Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform and has been a longtime activist in her community. She currently serves as the Environmental/Sanitation Chair for Brooklyn Community Board 8 and has served as a top aide and the Legislative and Budget Director for NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverto. Her top priority issues include creating affordable housing based on the district’s median income, creating new local jobs, and ensuring that District 35 residents and schools have clean, lead-free drinking water. Fox has emphasized the importance of openness and transparency in government, especially as a means of curbing “pay-to-play” politics in New York City. She is a strong proponent of civic engagement on the local level and will promote participatory budgeting in the district, which was introduced by the incumbent. On Citizens Union’s issues, Fox is opposed to establishing a nonpartisan, top-two primary system, and holding a Constitutional Convention. Citizens Union prefers Fox because she has demonstrated a deep knowledge of and commitment to the issues in her district, has the legislative and political experience to be an effective reformer and representative in the Council and is supportive of many of Citizens Union’s municipal level advocacy goals. Her interest in and ability to represent the entire district is another factor in her favor, unlike the incumbent who created unnecessary controversy during her first term related to the racial dynamics of the district. Fox acknowledges some of the good work of the incumbent, such as allocating funding for women’s issues, senior centers, and NYCHA improvements in the district, and has committed to continuing those efforts.
Laurie Cumbo - Dem
Age: 42 Occupation: NYC Councilmember, District 35
Education: Spelman College, B.A.; New York University, M.A.
Laurie Cumbo was elected to the New York City Council to represent District 35 in 2013 and is currently seeking reelection. In the Council, she has been a champion of women’s issues including expanding the budget for services to address domestic violence and sex education, an advocate against gun violence, and a promoter of public art and landmarking. Her top priorities for a second term include improving housing stock and creating affordable housing, improving schools, protecting social services, protecting women’s rights, and preventing gun violence. Cumbo expressed support for most of Citizens Union’s reform goals, however, like her opponent, she opposes establishing non-partisan, top-two primaries, and holding a Constitutional Convention. She is also opposed to reducing the overall number of committees in the Council so that members can participate more meaningfully, a measure that Citizens Union supports. She provoked controversy in her first term after comments she made about the racial dynamics of the district. Laurie Cumbo has a good record of service in the Council, but the strength of her challenger and the specificity of Fox’s ideas to improve the district and city government lead us to prefer Cumbo’s challenger.
NYC COUNCIL DISTRICT 38
★ Preferred Candidate - Carlos Menchaca - Dem ★
Age: 36 Occupation: NYC Council Member, District 38
Education: University of San Francisco, B.A.
Carlos Menchaca was elected to the New York City Council in 2013 and was the only candidate to defeat an incumbent, in a Democratic Primary upset, that year. Menchaca serves as the chair of the City Council Committee on Immigration and is a member of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus, the L.G.B.T. Caucus, and the Progressive Caucus. Representing a district with a large Asian and Latino community, Menchaca has prioritized, among others, immigration issues: he co-sponsored and was heavily involved in IDNYC legislation, and has secured funds for public defenders of undocumented immigrants and for adult literacy services. In his first term, he also increased the number of public school seats in his district and introduced participatory budgeting. If re-elected he would prioritize criminal justice reform, including passing the Right to Know Act, public housing issues like implementing the Right to Counsel initiative, civic engagement of immigrant and youth communities, protecting the working waterfront, and expanding access to legal representation, education, and healthcare for immigrants. Menchaca supports almost all of Citizens Union agenda points, but for holding a Constitutional Convention, and said that he would seek novel approaches to reforming city government processes such as reducing the county political committees’ strong influence on the choice of Council Speaker. Menchaca has proven himself to be an independent actor in the Council and an ambitious advocate for his community. Citizens Union prefers him in this race because of his support for the organization’s values and reform goals and for his courage in speaking his mind.
Sara Gonzalez - Dem
Age: 67 Occupation: Consultant
Education: CUNY College of Staten Island, B.A.
Sara Gonzalez is a political consultant who previously represented District 38 from the 2002 special election and until she was defeated in the 2013 Democratic Primary by the current incumbent. She was defeated in 2013 after coming under scrutiny for her poor attendance record in the Council and lack of legislative accomplishments, which she disputes. Gonzalez is running for the same seat because she claims, she was asked to by members of the community who feel their concerns—especially on immigration issues and senior services—are not being addressed. If elected, she would focus on supporting local immigrant communities, addressing displacement and preserving affordable housing, expanding senior services, and funding more public school seats. Gonzalez did not mention any reform issues on her websites, literature, or questionnaire, but when asked in
the interview she stated she would like to serve on the ethics committee if elected. Citizens Union does not prefer Gonzalez’s candidacy due to her previous record in the Council, and her lack of a clear vision for reform and how she would improve as a Councilmember.
No known campaign website at this time.
Félix Ortiz - Dem
Age: 57 Occupation: New York State Assembly Member, 51st District
Education: Boricua College, B.A.; New York University, M.P.A.
Félix Ortiz is a Member of the New York State Assembly, representing the 51st Assembly District for the last 23 years. He serves on a number of committees and in 2015 was named Assistant Speaker of the Assembly. He began his long tenure by addressing sweatshops in Sunset Park and harmful labor practices in manufacturing jobs; he later focused on public health issues, initiating programs and legislations on childhood obesity, eating disorder centers, menu labeling, and nutrition standards for schools. He was instrumental in instituting the nation’s first ban on hand-held cell phone use while driving in early 2000’s. Other issues Ortiz supported are single-payer health care criminal justice reform, environmental protection, and LGBT rights. Ortiz is seeking to leave the Assembly for a Council seat following, he says, requests from local community members who aredissatisfied with the incumbent. While his platform does not highlight specific Citizens Union issues, he expressed support to almost all of Citizens Union questionnaire items and in his interview proposed changes to campaign finance rules and using the Home Rule. While Citizens Union commends Ortiz’s work in the state Assembly and has preferred him in the past, the organization does not prefer him because of his incumbent opponent’s record in the Council and support for Citizens Union’s reform goals.
Chris Q. Miao - Dem
Candidate did not receive questionnaire.
Delvis Valdes - Dem
Has not returned the questionnaire.
NYC COUNCIL DISTRICT 41
★ Preferred Candidate - Alicka Ampry Samuel - Dem ★
Occupation: Full-time Candidate
Education: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, B.A.; City of New York School of Law at Queens College, J.D.
Alicka Ampry Samuel was a Senior Advisor at NYCHA, after serving as the chief of staff for Assembly Member Latrice Walker. She has also worked as a child protective specialist for ACS, a human rights coordinator for the U.S. State Department, and a legislative aide and constituent services manager to two different members of the New York City Council. Her top priority is to improve housing in the district through homeowner protections against predatory speculation, new affordable housing development, and improving the quality of shelters in the district. Samuel expressed support for almost every reform goal on the Citizens Union questionnaire and is a strong supporter of oversight reforms to curb “pay-to-play” politics. She does not, however, support holding a Constitutional Convention. Samuel is the preferred candidate in this race because as she will likely be among the most effective reformers in the Council given her experience in local government and her alignment with Citizens Union’s reform agenda.
Henry Butler - Dem
Age: 50 Occupation: District Manager, Community Board 3
Education: Hunter College, B.A.
Henry Butler is the District Manager for Community Board 3 in Brooklyn. He previously worked as a train conductor for 15 years and was a union representative at TWU Local 100, and Chairman of the Labor Committee of the Brooklyn NAACP. His top priorities are to secure resources for public schools and college readiness programs, improve preventative care in the community, introduce participatory budgeting to the district, and work with the
Small Business Administration to bring jobs and career training to the district. Butler is opposed to establishing a nonpartisan, top-two election system, reducing the number of council committees, and holding a Constitutional Convention. Citizens Union does not prefer Butler in this race because of a lack of alignment with Citizens Union’s reform priorities.
Cory Provost - Dem
Age: 31 Occupation: Community Organizer
Education: CUNY Brooklyn College, B.A., M.A.
Cory Provost is the Democratic District Leader of the 58th Assembly District. His priorities are to require greater affordability standards in the creation of new housing in the district, allocate funding for senior housing and transportation, closing Rikers Island, introducing participatory budgeting, and ameliorating police issues like ending the school-to-prison pipeline and broken windows policing. Provost supports most of Citizen Union’s reform
issues, especially in the area of voting and elections, but he opposed reducing overall number committees in the Council and holding a Constitutional Convention. Citizens Union does not prefer Provost because of his relative inexperience in local government but appreciates his knowledge of the issues facing his district.
Deidre Olivera - Dem
Age: 46 Occupation: Small business employee
Education: The College of New Rochelle, B.A.
Deidre Olivera is a member of Community Board 16 and a Council Executive Member of the 73rd Precinct and is the editor-in-chief of the Brownsville Collective Community Newspaper. Her priority issues are affordable housing, preventative health care, women’s rights such as pay equality, and affordable childcare. Olivera is opposed to enhancing the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s authority to initiate investigations without receipt of a formal
complaint and holding a Constitutional Convention. On her questionnaire, she did not indicate whether or not she supports reinstating the zero tolerance penalty for false official statements by public officers. Citizens Union does not prefer Olivera because of doubts that she will be an effective and strong supporter of reform.
Royston Antoine - Dem
Candidate did not receive questionnaire.
Moreen King - Dem
Has not returned questionnaire.
Leopold Cox - Dem
Has not returned questionnaire.
Victor Jordan - Dem
Candidate did not receive questionnaire.
David R. Miller - Dem
Candidate did not receive questionnaire.
NYC COUNCIL DISTRICT 43
★ Preferred Candidate - Justin Brannan - Dem ★
Age: 38 Occupation: Full-time Candidate
Education: Fordham University and College of Staten Island, B.A.
Justin Brannan is currently a full-time candidate and has previously served as Chief of Staff for Council Member Vincent Gentile, and is the founder of Bay Ridge Cares, a nonprofit to address quality of life issues in Bay Ridge. Brannan’s top priorities in the district are to improve public transportation options, address overcrowding in classrooms, support small businesses, increase funding for senior services, and increase community-police interaction. He supports almost all of Citizens Union’s reform priorities and is especially supportive of Council rules reforms to make the process of policymaking more fair, efficient, and external to the political dynamics of the Council. Brannan splits notably with Citizens Union’s agenda on the subject of holding a Constitutional Convention, which he opposes. Citizens Union prefers Brannan because, in addition to his knowledge of the issues facing his district, he is the candidate most versed in reform issues and presents as the candidate with the greatest ability to successfully negotiate the dynamics of the Council.
Khader El-Yateem - Dem
Age: 48 Occupation: Founder of Salam Arabic Lutheran Church and Clergy Liaison for the NYPD
Education: Evangelical Theological Seminary, B.A.; Lutheran Theological Seminary, M.Div.
Khader El-Yateem is currently the Clergy Liaison for the NYPD and is the founder of the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church. He is also the Treasurer of the Arab American Association of New York. El-Yateem is focused on addressing the opioid epidemic in District 43, creating more affordable housing, increasing funding to public schools, fully funding CUNY, and improving the MTA. Of Citizens Union’s issues, El-Yateem supports electoral reform, independent budgeting, and police reform. He is a strong supporter of the latter, advocating to pass the Right to Know Act and end broken windows policing. He does not, however, support establishing independent budgeting for community boards, nor holding a Constitutional Convention. Citizens Union does not prefer El-Yateem because of the appeal of his competitor but does acknowledge his commitment and efforts to improve his district.
Kevin Peter Carroll - Dem
Occupation: Democratic District Leader of the 64th Assembly District and aide to Council Member Stephen Levin
Education: College of Staten Island, B.A.
Kevin Peter Carroll currently serves as the Democratic District Leader of the 64th Assembly District and is a staffer of Councilmember Stephen Levin. His priorities include addressing overcrowding in schools, improving the wheelchair accessibility of public transportation in the district, protecting the waterfront environment, and preserving housing for seniors. In terms of Citizens Union’s issues, Carroll most supports reforming the city’s campaign finance system. On the other hand, he opposes establishing a nonpartisan election system in New York City, enhancing the authority of the Civil Complaint Review Board to initiate investigations without a formal complaint, establishing independent budgeting for a number of public offices and agencies, and holding a Constitutional Convention. Citizens Union does not prefer Carroll because of his opposition to a number of democratic reform measures championed by the organization.
Nancy Tong - Dem
Age: 62 Occupation: Democratic District Leader of the 47th Assembly District and the Public Relation Director for Assembly Member William Colton
Education: High School
Nancy Tong is currently the Democratic District Leader of the 47th Assembly District and the Public Relations Director for Assembly Member William Colton. Her top priorities are to address overcrowding in schools and expand extra-curricular support services, block the construction of the Southwest Brooklyn garbage transfer station, create more affordable housing, and having a responsive district office. As for Citizens Union’s issues, she is a proponent of campaign finance and Council rules reforms. However, she does not support holding a Constitutional Convention. Tong also believes that requiring the NYPD to publish a regular report of use of force incidents with data disaggregated by race would be “divisive” and would oppose the measure. Citizens Union does not prefer Tong because of concerns that she will not be an effective reformer in the Council and because of her opposition to parts of the organization’s police accountability reform agenda, and the Constitutional Convention.
Vincent Chirico - Dem
Has not returned questionnaire.
NYC COUNCIL DISTRICT 43
★ Preferred Candidate - John Quaglione - Rep ★
Age: 38 Occupation: Deputy Chief of Staff and Press Secretary for Senator Martin Golden
Education: American University, B.A.
John Quaglione is currently the Deputy Chief of Staff and Press Secretary for State Senator Martin Golden and serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Saint Anselm Catholic Academy. Qualgione’s top priorities are creating a city-wide database of cell phone videos and pictures taken by civilians to assist NYPD investigations, increasing the presence of police in District 43, introducing participatory budgeting, improving public transportation, and increasing funding for senior services like the SCRIE and EPIC programs. Quaglione supports a number of Citizens Union’s reform goals, but deviates on the subject of police accountability, holding a Constitutional Convention, and independent budgeting for certain public offices and agencies. He does, however, believe that the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent police oversight agency, should be empowered to prosecute officers found lying during their investigation. Citizens Union prefers Quaglione because he presents as the primary candidate best able to represent the diverse communities and political ideologies of the district, and for his alignment with many of Citizens Union’s reform priorities, especially elections and Council reform.
Liam McCabe - Rep
Age: 38 Occupation: Full-time Candidate
Education: St. Francis College, B.S.
Liam McCabe is currently a full-time candidate but has previously served as an aide to U.S. Representative Dan Donovan. McCabe’s priorities if elected are to stop illegal home conversions, improve public transportation options, expand educational resources for special needs students, and encourage economic development in his district. McCabe supports all of Citizens Union’s voting and election reform objectives, including adopting a nonpartisan election system. However, he opposes numerous other Citizens Union democratic reform goals in the areas of public oversight of police misconduct, Council reform, budget reform, and holding a Constitutional Convention. Citizens Union does not prefer McCabe because of his opposition to so many Citizens Union reform priorities.
Robert Capano - Rep
Age: 42 Occupation: Grestides Supermarket’s Store Manager; Adjunct Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Education: SUNY New Paltz, B.A.; Brooklyn College, M.A.
Robert Capano is a store manager and an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Capano’s top priorities are to reduce regulations on small businesses, introduce legislation to curb illegal home conversions, keeping Riker’s Island open, and creating more youth recreational programs in District 43. Capano finds voting and election accessibility to be the most important Citizens Union issue but opposes other Citizens Union reforms like expanding the public matching fund program (his campaign participates in the program) and requiring the police department to publish a regular report on use of force incidents with data on race. He is also opposed to granting the Civilian Complaint Review Board the authority to initiate an investigation into reported incidents of police misconduct without receipt of a formal complaint, which Citizens Union supports. Citizens Union does not prefer Capano because of doubts that he will be an effective reformer and representative of his district in the Council.
Lucretia Regina-Potter - Rep
Candidate did not receive questionnaire.