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Jumaane Williams Positions Himself as Progressive Alternative in NY Governor’s Race

December 17, 2021 by Reece Nations
Jumaane Williams Positions Himself as Progressive Alternative in NY Governor’s Race
Jumaane Williams (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

NEW YORK — New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will square off against Rep. Thomas Suozzi, D-N.Y., and incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul in 2022’s gubernatorial primary election.

A Brooklyn native, Williams received a bachelor of arts degree in political science before going on to earn a master’s degree in urban policy and administration from Brooklyn College in 2005. As a teenager, he was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and ADHD and has since become a public figure for individuals living with those conditions.

Williams, who announced his intention to run in November, has made a name for himself as an outspoken democratic socialist and community activist. He served as deputy leader of the New York City Council after defeating incumbent Councilmember Kendall Stewart in 2009 and received an endorsement from the Working Families Party.

“For over a decade in office, I’ve shaken things up while passing nearly 70 laws on behalf of the people and more than any public advocate in history,” Williams said in his campaign announcement video. “As I move around our state, I can see that we all want similar things, face similar obstacles, [and] struggle against the same entrenched systems. There is a movement building in New York. A courageous, progressive movement that challenges the powerful and helps restore that power to the people. A movement that I’m proud to be a part of.”

Williams was involved in an altercation with New York Police Department officers during an Occupy Wall Street event in 2012, although he was not arrested. In 2018 when immigrant-rights activist Ravi Ragbir was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during a routine check-in, Williams was arrested for protesting the detention.

During his time on the city council, Williams was harshly critical of NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program and authored legislation that created a ban against bias-based police profiling and created the NYPD’s Office of Inspector General. William’s legislation eventually passed after then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the bill.

A proponent of the “Ban the Box” public movement, Williams crafted legislation in 2015 that prohibits employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal history until they make a conditional offer of employment. That same year, Williams’s legislation to impose new restrictions on landlords to prevent them from employing specialists to buy out and relocate tenants was enacted by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Williams and Hochul faced each other in the Democratic primary during New York’s 2018 lieutenant governor’s race. Hochul defeated Williams before succeeding former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in November after Cuomo resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal.

The following year, Williams resigned from his position on the city council to run in the special election for New York City public advocate after Letitia James vacated the office to run for attorney general of New York. Williams won the election for public advocate with 33% of the vote despite contending with 18 other candidates.

Williams’s campaign platform centers squarely on a series of public investments on issues like public housing to combat homelessness, community-oriented solutions to tackle crime and the public health system. Williams is also pushing for additional investments to the public education and transit systems and making disability rights a focal point through hiring programs and accessibility initiatives.

Although mavericks at times, both Hochul and Suozzi are characterized as centrist-Democrats while Williams’s gubernatorial candidacy represents a progressive alternative for primary voters. The primary elections are slated for June 28 while the general election will be held on Nov. 8, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Williams continued in his campaign announcement, “I’ve never been one to sit still. When I see injustice or inertia, I’m moved to action.” 

Reece can be reached at reece@thewellnews.com.

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