Brad Hoylman’s Primary Win in Duane’s District Keeps Senate Seat Gay
Former Community Board 2 Chairman Brad Hoylman emerged victorious from the Democratic primary race to fill the seat being vacated by State Sen. Tom Duane, who is retiring. With no Republican opponent, Hoylman will head to Albany on January 1 to replace Duane as the only openly gay member of the State Senate.
"The seat became open, and representing this district in Albany is a tremendous opportunity," Hoylman told EDGE. "There is a lot of work to be done on the state level and on our community issues, but it was a tremendous opportunity for someone like me who is interested in public service, and I was delighted to throw my hat in the ring."
Although Hoylman had earlier sought to mount a race for City Council, his move to fill the Senate seat opened by Duane’s retirement garnered endorsements from Duane, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, as well as local LGBT political clubs and civic organizations.
Hoylman cited the support of elected officials, block associations, tenant groups and LGBT groups like the Empire State Pride Agenda. "I felt that we had built a strong campaign in just of couple of weeks," said Hoylman. "I have a lot to live up to, both from the standpoint of of owning up to Senator Duane’s legislative legacy, and from this gratifying margin, and I’m going to have to work hard to represent all of the voters in my district."
Hoylman won 69 percent of the vote for the 27th District, which includes Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, the Upper West Side and parts of the East Village. He beat out Tom Greco, the (straight but very gay friendly) owner of Hell’s Kitchen bar the Ritz, and public school teacher and former NAACP leader Tanika Inlaw. Greco got 24 percent of the vote; Inlaw, 8 percent.
Hoylman, a 46-year-old Village resident, said that his 15 years with CB2, plus his work with the Village Independent Democrats and the Community Service Society, made him the most qualified.
Certainly, the three candidates differed little if at all on issues in the heavily Democratic district, such as affordable housing, public schools, campaign finance reform and LGBT rights. Hoylman expressed concern over the lack of affordable housing in New York City. He pointed out middle-class housing complexes like Peter Cooper Village, Penn South and Manhattan Plaza as examples of affordable housing options that should be preserved and encouraged.
"We need to get New York City’s rent regulations laws back under the control of the city, work on vacancy control and work on ways to increase oversight of the NYCHA’s [New York City Housing Authority] public housing. That is the top priority," said Hoylman. The State Legislature currently has final say on the city’s rent regulations; market controls over city rents is one of the district hottest of hot-button issues.
"For the past two decades, Brad has been quietly making a difference in our neighborhoods and advancing so many of the progressive causes that have always been important to me," Duane told EDGE. "As chair of Community Board 2, he led the fight in major neighborhood preservation battles and has been much more than simply a pro-tenant activist. His idea for a developer-financed Tenant Defense Fund will help scores of low-income tenants get equal justice in Housing Court."
Hoylman and his partner David are the parents of a 21-month-old girl, Silvia, and expressed concerns about increasing funding for public schools, strengthening the community councils and allowing parents a greater say in school affairs.
Hoylman also heavily criticized the $100,000 ceiling on political donations in New York -- more than ten times the median amount permitted in other states across the nation.
He pointed to a million-dollar donation Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently gave to the Republican State Senate campaign via a party housekeeping accountant loophole. For Hoylman, that’s a classic case of the corrosive influence of unchecked money in a campaign. He denounced it as "a way for corporate interests and people with connections to undermine the middle class and folks who don’t have a lot of income."
"Brad will give reformers in Albany a strong new ally on issues like independent redistricting and campaign finance reform," said Duane.
Amidst all of the local and state concerns, Holyman did not neglect his core constituency. He brought up the long-delayed passage in Albany of a Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. If passed, GENDA would extend legal protections to transgendered New Yorkers.
Other gay issues Hoylman promised to address included strengthening services for people with HIV and AIDS. He also pledge to help "everyone from LGBT youth to seniors to the folks on the frontline fighting HIV/AIDS."
"As a former president of the Gay & Lesbian Independent Democrats, Brad will be a powerful voice for the LGBT community in Albany," Duane said, "whether it’s carrying on the battle for GENDA or standing up for poor New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS who are forced to choose between buying essentials and paying the rent."
Hoylman addressed an Upstate issue of concern to city residents: He promised to keep in place current regulations prohibiting hydrofracking, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo just announced he would review.
Above all, Hoylman pledge to protect the city’s poorest and most vulnerable residents, including youth, seniors and the incarcerated. "I think I have the responsibility to represent those people without a vote, including people who are incarcerated or trying to make the transition back to civil life after being in prison," he said.
Hoylman has some big shoes to fill. Duane was the State Senate’s first openly gay member and the first openly HIV-positive politician in the United States. During his 14 years in office, he helped see through the passage of laws that give families greater say in loved ones’ health decisions; strengthened anti-bullying initiatives in schools, and eased the way for LGBT adults to adopt children. The crowing moment of his career, however, came last year when his long-sought marriage-equality bill reached Gov. Cuomo’s desk.
Hoylman predicted his first move in Albany will be on the highly contentious issue of hydrofracking to extract natural gas. "But I want to take a broader view of looking at issues of poverty in our state, getting reform measures passed and continuing the case for further ethics reform in Albany," he said. "I have seen over the last month the failing of the ethics check-system, and we need to reexamine how we can strengthen those laws for our public officials."
Duane announced in June that he would not seek re-election. He cheerfully told the media that he was ready to "start the next chapter of his life" as a New York City resident. He leaves happy, however, that his anointed successor coasted to victor in the primary.
"I am a friend of Brad and David’s, and I love Silvia," said Duane. "That is why I am confident that his core values, commitment, compassion and work ethic represent my ideology and that of the district, and that Albany and the Senate will soon discover, as they did with me, that they need him."