An Open Letter to People Seeking Change in Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant
I have decided to run for the New York City Council in the General Election on November 3. I will be running as a Democrat on the Working Families Party ballot line.
By now, you probably know the results of the recent Primary Election held on September 15th. I lost the Democratic nomination by a mere 600 votes to Al Vann -- a 35-year incumbent elected official -- and earned anywhere from two to five times the number of votes received by any other challenger.
Most strikingly, more than 70% of the electorate voted AGAINST the incumbent.
I am profoundly proud of the campaign we ran. It was smart, positive, and grassroots in nature. I am also grateful to so many of you who not only voted for me, but volunteered with the campaign and contributed in a variety of ways, including financially. I want to particularly thank two of my competitors in the September race -- David Grinage and Saquan Jones -- who have already pledged their support to me going forward. I will also be asking the four other Democratic challengers to stand with me, in the kind of united political front that is all too rare in this community.
Two things have become abundantly clear since I entered this race more than one year ago. First, while knocking on thousands of doors, I’ve been blown away by the visceral anti-Al Vann sentiment displayed by voters of all ages and walks of life -- the stories of people feeling like he’s been absent over the last decade and that he takes getting re-elected for granted. This view was only bolstered by his recent vote to extend term limits and then run for a third term, even after previously announcing that he would retire from politics at the end of 2009.
The other thing that struck me is the passionate yearning for change that my neighbors have been expressing across Central Brooklyn. The Primary Election results demonstrated that -- if enough people come out to support me on November 3rd -- change can indeed be brought to Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, the same way voters delivered change in the 2008 presidential election.
Although I’ve been deluged with people urging me run in the General Election, I know this race is not about me, or even Al Vann. This is about people seeking what that they haven’t had in quite some time:
1) An energetic, progressive advocate in City Hall who is engaged in issues of the day and will champion our causes;
2) A responsive City Council office that provides quality constituent service; and
3) A Councilperson that never forgets that he works for you rather than the other way around.
There is a lot at stake this November. I am ready to work hard to win, and, my guess is, so is Al Vann.
But allow me to be blunt: If you want new leadership, it will not arrive if we treat this race like a spectator sport. Beyond voting, you will have to put skin in this game.
You can do that by making this message viral and sending it to relevant blog sites and listservs.
You can host a gathering of your neighbors so that I can make a personal appeal to them.
You can make a financial contribution.
You can become a campaign volunteer.
Do one, some, or all of those things. Just do something.
As Frederick Douglas famously said, “power concedes nothing without a demand.” That demand must come not just from my campaign, but from a grassroots movement of people like you willing to actively and loudly reclaim your community.
Let’s make history.
Mark Winston Griffith
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