Justin Brannan has long sought to be City Council speaker, but he can’t get there without first securing a second term.
“I already voted for you,” a passerby told him recently in Bay Ridge. “Right after that thing at St. Mary’s.”
Brannan responded, “Aw, thank you! Right on! Right on!”
The Democrat is in nasty fight to represent the 43rd District in Southern Brooklyn against Republican Brian Fox, who has an IT staffing company.
“Thank you very much. I appreciate that,” Fox recently told a woman in Dyker Heights as she offered her support.
The Brannan-Fox race is one of a small handful of council contests that could be competitive.
The highest-profile races feature Joann Ariola and Felicia Singh in Queens and Sal Albanese, David Carr and George Wonica on Staten Island.
But in Queens’ 19th District, an open seat that includes Bayside and Whitestone, Democratic former State Senator Tony Avella is losing the fundraising race to Republican small business owner Vickie Paladino.
“I know what it’s like to pay the property taxes, put my kids through school and fight like hell for what they need to learn in school,” Paladino said. “I know what it’s like to fight for a family member who happens to be mentally challenged.”
Avella seeks a return to the City Council, where he last served 12 years ago.
He did not return NY1’s multiple requests for an interview.
His endorsements include the Police Benevolent Association.
Paladino responded, “I’ll tell you why it doesn’t mean a thing. Because the PBA is the establishment. I got the rank-and-file.”
Other races to watch include Brooklyn’s 48th district, an open seat where Democrat Steven Saperstein faces Republican Inna Vernikov.
In the 43rd District, Brannan’s bid is backed by the likes of the firefighter unions and the Transport Workers Union.
“I think that anybody that knows me knows that I work 24/7, 365,” Brannan said. “I’m answering emails at 4 o’clock in the morning. I wake up fighting for this neighborhood. I wake up caring. This is the neighborhood where I grew up.”
Brannan’s allies have spotlighted Fox’s alt-right, conspiracy theorist leanings and support for Donald Trump.
Fox calls them smears.
Fox’s closing argument involves an autistic man who, like Brannan, was a council aide to Vincent Gentile.
Michael Bistreich sued the city and Gentile saying he was tormented at his workplace.
“It was just really, really disgusting,” Fox said. “It was mental attacks. It was physical attacks. They locked him in a basement at one point.”
Brannan wasn’t named in the initial 2016 complaint, but he was mentioned in a subsequent affidavit.
Gentile was dismissed as a defendant before Bistreich and the city settled.
Brannan was not working for Gentile when Bistreich was harassed.