By Oona Milliken and Matthew Fischetti | [email protected]
While the race for City Council District 47 was largely projected to be a close one, Democrat Justin Brannan easily sailed to re-election against Republican challenger Ari Kagan with a healthy 17 point lead, according to unofficial election night tallies.
The two incumbent councilmen faced off in the race after City Council District 47 was redrawn to cover both Coney Island and Bay Ridge, the former being Kagan’s home turf and the latter being Brannan’s home nabe. While Kagan had been involved in local Democratic politics for around a decade, he switched to the Republican party to vie for the council seat.
Shortly after the race was called, Brannan strutted into Brooklyn Firefly in Bay Ridge with the Beastie Boys classic No Sleep Till Brooklyn blaring over the sound system with a large cadre of democratic supporters, city politicians ranging from Comptroller Brad Lander to Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and campaign staff filling the tiny bar and restaurant.
In his victory speech, Brannan emphasized the importance of the win, noting how Bay Ridge used to be considered a solidly Republican area.
“People thought that Bay Ridge and Democrat was an oxymoron. It wasn’t that long ago. We’ve made great strides,” he said. And I think this race reminds us that all the gains we have made, could be taken away like that. We’ve got to fight harder than ever to keep that progress moving forward.”
While Brannan emphasized the electoral significance of retaining a Democrat seat in the nabe, he also shared a message against “political tribalism” and working for constituents regardless of affiliation.
“So, tonight, the campaign ends. Tomorrow, the work really continues. And I am a proud Democrat, but we’re public servants first and foremost,” said Brannan.
Later on in the night, Brannan told press that the Kings County Democratic Party Chairwoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn has “gotta go.” Shortly before the election, the Brooklyn Democratic Party released a statement criticizing Brannan by using an old allegation of harassment and bullying against a former coworker in the city council, when Brannan worked in former Councilman Vincent Gentile’s office. Michael Bistreich attempted to sue the city and Gentile for $10 million though a judge dismissed Gentile from the suit and the city settled for $850,000 in 2021. Brannan was not implicated by name in the settlement and has pushed back against the allegations by calling them cynical.
While the energy was high at Brooklyn Firefly, the atmosphere was subdued inside Bay Ridge Manor at Ari Kagan’s City Council election party on Tuesday Nov. 7 after the incumbent Republican lost to contestant Justin Brannan. The two were pitted against each other after a redistricting that changed the landscape of all City Council districts across the city. Kagan lost the vote by 17 percent, according to unofficial election night tallies. Kagan conceded on election night, and sent out a post on X around midnight, formerly known as Twitter, acknowledging his defeat.
“Though we didn’t achieve the result we wanted, I am proud of our campaign. We sent a powerful message that Southern Brooklyn strongly supports law enforcement, lower taxes & merit based education. Lucky to have wonderful family & so many supporters. TY very much!” Kagan wrote in an X post.
Christopher Leon Johnson, a politically active community member who identifies as a Democrat, said he supported Kagan due to his support for the NYPD and his critique of the migrant crisis in New York. Until 2022, Kagan was a registered Democrat, but switched before the election that landed him his City Council post.
“I support his campaign, I love him as a person, he does great stuff with his district, that’s why I’m here to support him,” Leon Johnson said. “He’s a moderate Republican, he has common sense values. He’s pro-cop, he’s pro-quality of life, he’s against the migrant crisis, a lot of things. So I’m sticking by him.”
Kathie and Barry Bistreich said they were out to support Kagan, partly because of his views on street safety and the NYPD, but also because their son, Michael Bistreich, claimed to be tormented by Brannan, and other staffers, during his time working in City Councilmember Vincent Gentile’s office.
“We’re here to support Ari because my son is working for him right now. He’s working on the campaign,” Kathie Bistreich said. “He was abused by Ari’s opponent, Justin Brannan.”
“Stronger police, safer streets, any number of things that he’s said that I can’t remember because I’m 75,” Barry Bistreich added.
Paul Rodriguez, another Republican candidate for city council in Brooklyn, said he was hopeful about the future of the Republican party in New York City, despite Kagan’s loss. Rodriguez also lost his race for District 38. Rodriguez pointed to the race in the Bronx where conservative Republican Kristy Marmorato beat Marjorie Velázquez, the first Bronx Republican to do so in 40 years.
“So, it’s maybe not the desired outcome but necessarily nothing that changes the narratives or changes the enthusiasm that we feel that things are moving,” Rodriguez said on the Kagan loss. “I’m optimistic and there’s another race in two years.”