City Council Race Heats Up

By Stephen Witt

Laurie Cumbo Moving Forward As Frontrunner

CumboPortraitMultiColorDressOTPress.pngArt curator and entrepreneur Laurie Cumbo has emerged as the top fundraiser and front-runner in the crowded Democratic field to replace 35th District City Councilwoman Letitia James in the upcoming Democratic Party primary election this September.

The district includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and parts of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights.

According to the most recent filings with the city’s Campaign Finance Board, Cumbo has amassed about $69,000 while spending about $24,700, meaning she currently has about $44,300 on hand.

“What is really exciting is that most of the money is coming from the artistic/cultural/not-for-profit/ entrepreneurial community. It really shows that a new base of supporters have been energized,” said Cumbo, the founder and former president of MoCADA (Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts).

Cumbo’s campaign also appears fairly well-organized, having paid big-name political consulting company The Advance Group $13,300, or a little less than half of her expenditures thus far. The Advance Group is doing good business overall in Central Brooklyn, having also handled Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and Assemblyman Walter Moseley’s recent successful campaigns.

Additionally, Cumbo counts former Assemblyman Roger Green and artist/curator/entrepreneur Danny Simmons amongst her supporters.

However, not far behind Cumbo are several formidable candidates including Ede Fox, Jelani Mashariki, Olanike (Ola) Alabi and Jesse Hamilton. Fox, the former chief of staff for City Councilman Jumaane Williams, raised slightly more than $61,000 while spending a little more than $34,000, leaving about $27,000 on hand. Mashariki, an attorney, raised about $30,000 while spending about $21,000. Alabi, the former female 57th Democratic Assembly District Leader, raised nearly $22,000 while spending only $96. Jesse Hamilton, the 43rd Democratic Assembly District Leader, raised a fraction more than $13,500 while spending about $3,600.

All the candidates are expected to participate in the city’s public matching funds system in which taxpayers dole out six dollars for every dollar raised on city resident contributions up to $175. Under this system, candidates can spend no more than $168,000 for the September Democratic primary and $168,000 for the November general election.


Questions Remain About Tish James’ Expected Run

While the race is expected to get more heated throughout the spring and summer, all the candidates are also watching (with baited breath) for an official announcement from James that she is running for the citywide Public Advocate office. James is not term-limited and therefore eligible to run for her seat again.

Thus far, James has raised over a half-million dollars for the expected Public Advocate race, but that amount is dwarfed by the nearly $1 million raised by Sen. Daniel Squadron and Queens activist Reshma Saujani.

“She’s a political person and until she officially announces, you never know what she will do,” said one probable candidate.

A source backing Cumbo said if James decides to run for reelection, Cumbo, along with several other candidates, will probably back out of the race.

But Cumbo said she is not concerned about James. “She’s starting to get endorsements from a lot of unions, raised more than a half-million dollars and is doing her thing. You don’t put in this kind of time and resources to turn back.”

James also insisted that while she hasn’t made a formal announcement yet, she likes her chances in the Public Advocate race. “I’m looking forward to having $1.3 million to run for Public Advocate. In all likelihood, most of the unions will be supporting me,” she said.


Published:  Our Time Press, Vol. 18 No. 12, March 21-27, 2013 

Read more:  PDF version:

Do you like this post?