If you want your district to have the best possible representation in the city council right away, you should look beyond politics and pick Justin Brannan, a moderate Democrat.
I haven’t historically written endorsements in Bklyner, but many of you have asked me in the last couple of days who I think is the better choice for this district that now includes Bay Ridge and Coney Island – Ari Kagan (R) or Justin Brannan (D).
And one of the things I’ve learned from years of covering local elections here is just how little guidance voters get. The big citywide editorial boards often don’t endorse. The groups that do offer endorsements are often extremely partisan or single-issue and rarely connected to the districts. So I thought that given Bklyner reaches tens of thousands of Brooklyn voters, to offer my suggestion from the perspective of someone who thinks a lot more about policy than politics, and cares about making these neighborhoods and the city better.
I believe picking Justin Brannan on November 7 will be better for the district in this election, regardless of whether you are a Democrat or a Republican.
Brannan and Kagan come from very different places and backgrounds, but they both care deeply about the neighborhoods they represent and want what’s best for them. They work tirelessly to represent their constituents. And on the issues important in the district – better schools and SHSAT (Yes), better public safety (Yes), more affordable housing (well … depends … maybe), migrant shelters (No) – they seem to be on the same page. After all, Kagan was, until two years ago, a Democrat.
They are both populists, sometimes obnoxiously so, something that occasionally rubs me, and I’m sure some of you, the wrong way. Still, they are both moderates when it comes to city business.
To win this race, Brannan, always the pragmatist, has become more moderate, leaving the Progressive Caucus to align with the values of the more conservative district.
Kagan has moved to the right, running as a moderate Republican promoting change. But change will be hard to accomplish while in the minority and weaken his ability to get resources for the district that very much needs them. And while he won’t have a meaningful say on the subject, his anti-abortion position is neither moderate nor popular among Brooklyn voters.
Brannan has a solid track record of getting things done and has the benefit of six years in office. Due to his power in the council, he can influence how money is allocated and bring more to his new district over the next four years, even if he’s then term-limited out. He is an incredible promoter and a loud champion. His endorsement of Mayor Eric Adams in the last election was reciprocated on Thursday and won’t hurt his ability to deliver for his district either.
But Brannan faces a steep learning curve coming down south from Bay Ridge, and I hope he’s a quick study.
- Many voters feel forgotten by the city when promises are made and not fulfilled. We are on the other side of the ridge, fundamentally a beach town, the last to be developed, the first to get flooded. It takes forever to go anywhere – Marty Markowitz was right about leaving Brooklyn – Fuggedaboutit. Coney needs an express F train far more than a ferry, which would come at an insane cost if it were even possible.
- These are communities where residents have little patience for empty talk or frivolous spending. NYCHA and large private apartment complexes are unique ecosystems Brannan has never had to represent, and developing trust there will take time and humility.
- Brannan has to carefully build bridges with the Palestinian and Jewish communities in this district, help them unite, and navigate the impact of one of the greatest tragedies in the Middle East.
There is, of course, also politics, and this is where emotions take over pragmatic choices.
The greater national political split and the war on Hamas will undoubtedly play a significant role, even though they have little to do with what a council member can or cannot accomplish and might decide the race in favor of Ari Kagan. The world would not end, the potholes would still get fixed, and residents’ concerns addressed, but it may take longer for more significant investments to make their way to the district.
So, if you want your district to have the best possible representation in the city council right away, you should look beyond politics and pick Justin Brannan, a moderate Democrat. Brannan is a relentless and pragmatic champion of his constituents’ needs, with a strong record of bringing resources to the district he represents. He is the candidate who will be able to do more for the district in the next four years.