Call it a strategic realignment.
A pair of rival Southern Brooklyn pols are now united in their mission to unseat state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) after both lined up behind one of the incumbent’s Democratic opponents.
Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) locked in an alliance with Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) by endorsing state Senate candidate Andrew Gounardes on July 6, saying that he believes Gounardes — who already has the backing of Brannan — will prioritize schools and pedestrian safety if he wins the seat.
“I’m proud to endorse Andrew Gounardes for State Senate, because his record of public service demonstrates that he is the advocate that Southern Brooklyn needs in Albany,” Treyger said. “As a former teacher and Chair of the city Council’s Committee on Education, I know that Andrew will fight to give our schools the resources they need to make sure that all kids can succeed. He’ll fight for pedestrian safety and speed cameras that keep our streets safe.”
The endorsement was something of a surprise turnabout for Treyger, because a political group closely affiliated with him, the Bay Democrats, had previously endorsed Gounardes’s Democratic primary opponent, Ross Barkan.
But some political insiders — who declined to be named — are skeptical of the supposed alliance between Brannan and Treyger, pointing to their contentious past, and suggesting that Treyger’s endorsement of Gounardes smacked of a back-room deal to help a former staffer in another primary race.
Just days after Treyger’s endorsement of Gounardes, Brannan’s chief of staff, Chris McCreight, dropped out of the race for the Coney Island Assembly seat vacated when former Assemblywoman Pamela Harris resigned in April. That move could improve the chances of Tregyer’s former chief of staff, Ethan Lustig-Elgrably, when he faces off with Mathylde Frontus in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary.
Gounardes did not respond to a request for comment by press time, and both McCreight and Treyger declined to comment. But Brannan denied the allegation that the endorsement was part of a deal.
“Fake news,” he said.
One veteran political strategist, however, said he would not rule out the possibility that there was a back-room deal, because he saw the race for the Coney Island Assembly seat as a political football for a pair of local pols vying for greater power.
“Why would anybody be surprised? The Assembly race has people in it with other long-term interests — the sponsors [Brannan and Treyger] have been rumored to want to be borough presidents,” said Hank Sheinkopf. “All these races are test cases for people’s power to be elected, or who see themselves as being influential. We have a new gang of bosses — they’re operating under a guise of calling themselves progressives, but they’re doing the same things everyone else did.”
McCreight — who is also president of Brannan-backing club the Bay Ridge Democrats — announced that he was abandoning the Assembly race at the July 12 meeting of the club, one month to the day after he first announced his campaign. The next day, he wrote on Twitter that he was disappointed to drop out of the race, but was doing so to support the candidates vying to replace Golden and Rep. Dan Donovan (R–Bay Ridge).
“To put it bluntly, this sucks,” McCreight wrote on Twitter on July 13 in a thread that hinted at a deal. “But it became increasingly clear that my candidacy was going to negatively affect our chances of defeating Marty Golden and Dan Donovan in November ... That this was used as a wedge is wrong but that doesn’t make it any less real and I concluded that the stakes are too high ... we are fighting fascists now and both of them have chosen the wrong side of history.”
Brannan lauded McCreight on Twitter, saying that his chief of staff’s decision to bow out of the race was a mark of leadership.
“Easily one of the hardest working, most loyal people I’ve ever known,” Brannan wrote. “I couldn’t have won my elections without Chris and I am proud to call him a friend. This is what a leader looks like. Onward!”
Frontus said she was sorry to hear that McCreight dropped out and would continue campaigning for the seat as she had all along.
“I’m sorry to hear that McCreight has dropped out of the race. I’ve said from day one that it’s important to have representation from all over the district in this race,” she said. “With that said, I’ve been campaigning in Bay Ridge for several months now and hope to continue earning the community’s trust come primary day.”
Lustig-Elgrably could not be reached by press time.
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