When state Sen. Tom Duane announced, to many people’s surprise, that he would retire after his current term ended, it opened an unexpected path for several hopeful candidates. There is now a three-way primary race under way for Duane’s seat representing the 27th Senate District, which covers a chunk of the Upper West Side as well as Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich Village, and parts of Midtown and East Midtown, the East Village and the Lower East Side.
The presumptive frontrunner is Brad Hoylman, who has been enthusiastically endorsed by Duane as well as U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and a slew of other local politicians. Hoylman, an attorney, recently stepped down from his position as the chair of Community Board 2, a position he held three times.
He’s been active in the community for years, a fact he touts as having given him the experience needed for the senator post, but his opponents say it’s an indication that he’s not the right choice.
“I think I have a strong and long record, and I think that’s why I’ve been fortunate in earning the endorsements,” said Hoylman.
Tom Greco, owner of The Ritz bar in Hell’s Kitchen and director of fundraising for the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, said that the reason he jumped into the race was that he didn’t like the idea that Duane and other Democratic leaders were calling for the party to get behind Hoylman.
“I didn’t appreciate the fact that this was going to be the first Senate primary in this district in decades and they just planned to avoid the whole democratic process,” Greco said.
Greco, who has raised $16,875 for his campaign, also touts his advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community in his campaign, something he said that should count for more with voters than the fact that Hoylman is gay and would be the only openly gay state senator in New York.
Greco also said that Hoylman’s ties to the Partnership for New York City, his former employer, a pro-business group that has taken positions contrary to those of the local community on issues like the expansion of NYU, make him too much of an industry insider.
Hoylman has tried to distinguish his work in the community and distance himself from the Partnership, citing his community board record of opposition to the university’s recently approved expansion plans. He vows to continue fighting the plan at the state level.
“It has the potential to dramatically alter the character of the central Village, and NYU has proven that it’s not a good steward of privately owned public space, so I’m very concerned with the approvals that have been granted to them,” Hoylman said.
The other candidate running, Tanika Inlaw, is a teacher with little experience in the political realm, but she said that she was inspired to run because she feels she can connect with constituents at every socioeconomic level, having come from a difficult background herself.
“I have a lot of experience with the public—I was a district leader. When I was in high school, I worked for [former Manhattan Borough President] Virginia Fields,” Inlaw said. “My knee-jerk reaction is, how do I help people?”
Inlaw’s main concerns are preserving affordable housing, education and gun control, she said (she lost her brother to gun violence at a young age). While her campaign account contains a mere $603 and she’s had trouble getting the support she had hoped for, she said that she’s still happy to be in the race.
“It’s an uphill battle for me, but I’m not deterred by that, I knew it would be. Nothing in my life has been a gravy train,” said Inlaw.
Hoylman, who has $209,410 in his campaign account, has been able to put forth the most detailed and specific plans for issues on which all three candidates generally agree. While he remains the clear frontrunner, he acknowledged that this oddly scheduled primary—on Thursday, Sept. 13—will be as much about getting people out to vote as anything else.
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