Laurie Cumbo Eyes Tish James’s Seat


Laurie Cumbo, the head of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, is looking at potentially leaping into the race to replace Councilwoman Tish James. Ms. James is currently running for Public Advocate, leaving her Fort Greene- and Clinton Hill-based seat vacant behind her.

“First and foremost, I would say that the political arena is in need of totally new, different of types of thinkers,” Ms. Cumbo told Politicker earlier today, stressing that she is merely exploring a run and has yet to make a decision. “I feel that that the arts and cultural community has not had a voice in government and I feel that there are many voices and important voices in government, but there has never been that creative, imaginative new way of thinking, out-of-the-box thinking, that has been a major voice in the political arena. I’m looking to fill that void.”

“There’s also been a divestment of investment into our communities, it began on the federal level with the attack on ‘pork’ that we call ‘meat and potatoes’ in our world,” she added, contending that this mindset is trickling down to lower levels of government and that member items are needed to deliver important services and help nonprofits.

As is usually the case with open seats in New York City, there are multiple other candidates in the race, including Councilman Jumaane Williams’s former chief of staff Ede Fox, Senator John Sampson’s aide Khari Edwards and Occupy Wall Street activist Jelani Mashariki.

Ms. Cumbo cited her record of delivering for the community to distinguish herself.

“I have a strong record of accomplishment, and I think that is also needed in the political arena,” she said. “I have built an institution that’s been in existence for 18 years. Instead of saying we need after-school programs, I’ll go out and start an after-school program. Instead of saying we need art festivals, I’ve created art festivals. Instead of saying we need to create more jobs, I’ve created jobs.”

“I think that you should only run for public office when you have exhausted your ability to serve the community in your current capacity,” she explained. “In my current capacity, I can’t do anything more than what I’m doing.”

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