A former state senator vying to unseat an incumbent Brooklyn assembly member in Tuesday’s primary posted a video declaring himself the “Black Lives Matter” candidate — and slamming her as an “All Lives Matter” supporter.
Jesse Hamilton, who allied himself with Republicans while in the Senate, also declared himself the “real Obama Democratic Democrat” in the contest against Assemblymember Diana Richardson, who calls him “Shamilton.”
The final-hours invocation of “All Lives Matter” — a phrase embraced by critics of the Black Lives Matter movement — came in a fractious race in which Brooklyn Democratic Party leaders refused to endorse Richardson.
The candidates, both of whom are Black, seek to represent Crown Heights and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens in Albany.
#DianaCant - Jesse Hamilton Black History Bill Still not passed.
I introduced a Black History bill 2 years ago to instill self-pride, self-confidence and self-knowledge in our Black youth - Ask Diana why she did not pass it? #DianaCantPosted by Jesse Hamilton - Community Leader on Monday, June 22, 2020
Hamilton, who didn’t officially launch his candidacy until mid-May, was voted out of the Senate in 2018 after he joined the GOP-friendly Independent Democratic Conference.
The video his campaign released Monday includes a clip of Richardson in late 2018 dismissing a bill Hamilton sponsored that would have created a commission to study and recommend a curriculum of African-American history. The bill passed the Senate unanimously shortly after the IDC ended its alliance with the GOP.
Richardson, at the time, said she would not take up the measure in the Assembly — but would instead push a bill for broader, quicker curriculum change with the candidate who had just beat Hamilton.
“We’re going to do a comprehensive education bill. And I’m going to do it with Senator-elect Zellnor Myrie,” Richardson says in the video put out by Hamilton’s campaign. “So it won’t only be focused on African-American history, it’ll be focused on African-American history, Asian history, and indigenous communities’ history, and all history, which is reflective of all students in the New York City public school system.”
That clip is followed in Hamilton’s video by an accusatory title card.
“Listen Carefully,” it reads. “Instead of a Black Lives Matter Educational Bill, she wants an All Lives Matter bill.”
Richardson’s campaign declined to comment on the video.
The phrase “All Lives Matter” got a prominent platform last week when Vice President Mike Pence used it, after refusing to declare “Black Lives Matter” when talking to an interviewer about the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Hamilton’s sudden Assembly campaign got a surprise boost earlier this month when Kings County Democratic Party leader and Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte declined to endorse Richardson for reelection. Bichotte, meanwhile, endorsed every other incumbent in Brooklyn.
But the Brooklyn Young Democrats — the youth arm of the party — bucked county leadership and endorsed Richardson. Hamilton, the group said, didn’t bother to fill out its candidate survey.
“It was kind of a no-brainer for us, and the fact that Jesse Hamilton didn’t participate just underscores that he’s just kind of playing politics here and he isn’t really trying to support and represent the community,” said Julia Elmaleh-Sachs, executive vice president of the Brooklyn Young Democrats.
A spokesperson for the Kings County Democratic Party didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
New Kings Democrats — which helped campaigns unseat ex-members of the Independent Democratic Conference in 2018 — has also endorsed Richardson, who first won her seat in a 2015 special election.
“She’s a real Democrat. Jesse Hamilton isn’t a real Democrat,” said Morenike Lambert, a member of New Kings Democrats’ executive committee who lives in Richardson’s district. “For us, it’s not a purity test or anything, but where do your values align with the way that you represent your community?”
Hamilton’s campaign, aided by a $2,000 loan from himself, has cobbled together $7,691 to take on Richardson, who has raised over six times that amount for the race.
Still, a large portion of the 43rd Assembly District sits in Hamilton’s former State Senate district, where he enjoys name recognition.
Hamilton has brushed off concerns about his past affiliation with the IDC.
“I’m running for the community to affect change in Albany,” said Hamilton in another video, responding to a lengthy video from Richardson criticizing his candidacy. “I’m not in this for unity and to continue to fight for my community.
Since Hamilton leapt into the race, the two politicians have traded insults.
The bad blood goes back to 2018, when Richardson endorsed Myrie and called Hamilton “Brooklyn’s Donald Trump.”