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Voters pick Brannan and Quaglione to face off in 43rd-District Council race

The contenders: Primary voters tapped John Quaglione, left, will be the Republican standard-bearer in the Nov. 7 general election, and Justin Brannan, right, to represent the Democrats.
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Primary voters in the 43rd Council District picked Democrat Justin Brannan and Republican John Quaglione to face off in the Nov. 7 general election for the open Council seat.

The district hosted a crowded primary race this election cycle, with ten candidates in total — including the controversial John J. Bruno — gunning for the nominations for the open seat currently occupied by term-limited Councilman Vincent Gentile.

Both Brannan and Quaglione were tipped as favorites, since both were longtime staffers to elected officials in the district — Brannan worked for the incumbent, Gentile, and Quaglione for state Sen. Marty Golden, who formerly held that Council seat.

To earn the right to represent Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, and Bath Beach on the Council, the eventual winner will have to prove to potential constituents that he will be most effective in addressing the biggest problems plaguing the district: illegal conversions, lack of affordable housing and school overcrowding, according to voters who turned out on Tuesday. One resident said he thinks the illegal conversions plaguing the district are tied to unaffordable housing, and he hopes the next Councilman tackles both issues.

“Most of the candidates concentrated on illegal conversions, and it is a big issue,” said Fahmi Assabhi. “Real estate is going up, up, up. It has to be stopped because people cannot pay rent anymore, so hopefully they’ll do something about this.”

Another voter said that as a mother, she was concerned about how the Council candidates would tackle school overcrowding in the district.

“A lot of the schools are so overcrowded, so that’s a big one,” said Fahmida Rashid.

Another voter agreed, and said that he would also like to see the next Councilman expand after-school programs in the district’s schools.

“After-school programs are important,” Eric Powell said. “I don’t think there’s enough of that besides what’s offered at our library. My daughter’s school is huge, shuts down in the afternoon, and there’s a lot of empty space and parents who can’t afford childcare.”

Brannan, a Bay Ridge resident and former DeBlasio and Gentile staffer, faced four other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, including runner-up Rev. Khader El-Yateem, whom Brannan edged out by less than nine percentage points. Nancy Tong, district leader of the 47th Assembly District, lawyer Vince Chirico, and Kevin Peter Carroll, district leader of the 64th Assembly District, all trailed well behind the two frontrunners.

In the Republican race, Bay Ridge resident Quaglione beat out second-place candidate Liam McCabe by eighteen percentage points. Bob Capano, trailed in third place, but is guaranteed a spot on the November ballot as the Reform party candidate. And Lucretia Regina-Potter, Republican district leader of the 46th district, came in last, with 4.5 percent of the vote.

The Democratic nominee previously worked as Councilman Gentile’s director of communications and legislative affairs and then his chief of staff, and also spent two years as the deputy director of intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Education. The former punk rocker also owns a children’s art school in Bay Ridge with his wife. In his interview with the Community News Group last month, Brannan pledged to build a school within his first term as a Councilmember to combat school overcrowding, crack down on landlords creating illegal home conversions, and make drug education and prevention a top priority to curb the opioid epidemic.

Quaglione worked as state Sen. Marty Golden’s deputy chief of staff and press secretary from the time he joined the office in 1998 until he took a leave of absence this past Aug. 1. In his interview with the Community News Group last month, Quaglione promised to build public middle schools in the district in response to overcrowding, push the Department of Buildings to get tough on illegal home conversions, and dedicate funds to building more schools and senior centers rather than safe-injection sites for heroin users, calling on the city to instead work with drug education nonprofits.

Brannan is the favorite to win the heavily Democratic district — he received 3,561 primary votes, nearly as many as all the Republican candidates combined — but the district also has a conservative reputation, and is considered one of the few genuinely competitive seats in the city.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 3:18 pm, September 13, 2017
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