Prior to formally announcing his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor in February, Brooklyn New York councilman Jumaane D. Williams visited upstate New York in late January during a tour to “test the waters” for his run. The self-described “activist-legislator” received a warm welcome in Rochester and Buffalo (Syracuse was also on his agenda)) where the turnouts were impressive. Appearing at Buffalo’s Allentown Hardware before an enthusiastic audience, Mr. Williams spoke briefly about his career. Recounting how he has been told that he was “too principled and too much of an activist” to go any further politically, he said that suggestion is one he is very much seeking to defy.
“We need principles in politics,” he stated. As an activist/politician, he said the two things that surprises him the most is “how hard it is for people to do the right thing,… and how cheaply people sell out not to do the right thing… I’d rather lose an election and lose my seat than lose who I am!” he said to applause.
Gov. Cuomo and others like him, he continued, “sound progressive now,” but they take that ‘progressive coat” on and off.
“I want to be the people’s Lt. Governor,” he declared. If the governor is doing the right thing, he said he would applaud it. “But we need someone who also has to be able to say “the emperor has no clothes!”
The 41-year-old progressive Democrat has led the charge against gun violence in New York. He commended members of Buffalo’s SNUG Organization (guns spelled backwards) who attended the Buffalo gathering. He has also been an outspoken advocate against tenant harassment; a proponent of police reform and led the effort to end discriminatory stop-and-frisk.
The Bklyner. reported that when he announced his run for Lt. governor, Williams stated: “The Lieutenant Governor position needs to be more than ribbon cutting and rubber stamping. I want to be the people’s advocate in Albany, pushing the Governor and the legislature to enact the progressive policies that are the promise of our state. I want to represent the diverse needs of the people of our state– and by the way, our state government could use some diversity.”
A fellow lawmaker had high praise for the life long activist.
“Jumaane Williams is the strongest, clearest, and most fearless voice for justice that I know in elected office,” fellow Councilmember Brad Lander told the Bklyner. on the day Williams announced.
Added Eddie Kay, veteran labor organizer, “I know he’ll utilize the position of Lieutenant Governor as more than the Governor’s mouthpiece—his voice is one for the people.”
Jumaane’s move is a challenge to Kathy Hochul, Governor Cuomo’s current second in command. While the new Governor and Lieutenant Governor will be elected on a single ticket this fall, each position has a separate primary.
Jumaane Williams (3rd from left) poses with Cariol Horne, her son and a PUSH Buffalo member following a spirited rally in Buffalo.