Jumaane D. Williams
BACKGROUND: Williams, 42, grew up in Brooklyn, the son of a Grenadian immigrant who moved to the United States to study medicine. He earned a political science degree from Brooklyn College, worked for a tenants’ rights group and was first elected to the New York City Council in 2009. On the council, he has gained notoriety for proposals dealing with tenants’ rights, reducing gun violence, opposing police stop-and-frisk policies and banning employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history. He calls himself an “activist-elected official” who has sought to “cause as much trouble” as he can — in a productive way, to shake up government. He once was convicted of blocking an ambulance to protest the deportation of a friend. He received the endorsement of the labor-backed Working Families Party over current Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul because, the party said, he had a stronger record of supporting progressive causes.
ISSUES: Williams says the holder of the state’s No. 2 office shouldn’t just be the governor’s lieutenant, but an “independent advocate for all New Yorkers.” He calls for legalizing marijuana, instituting single-payer (publicly run) health care, stopping the federal immigration agency from deporting immigrants who are in the country illegally, ending cash bail and reforming criminal sentencing guidelines. He has criticized Hochul and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for tacitly backing a band of renegade State Senate Democrats who had formed a power-sharing coalition with Republicans and who blocked, he said, Democrat initiatives. He is allied with and campaigns with gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon. Williams has fought back against criticism from some on the left because he formerly opposed same-sex marriage; he says he now supports it. He also has sought to counter Hochul's criticism about his personal debt (a foreclosed home) and outstanding tax warrants (from a failed restaurant). In part, Williams says he believes he has satisfied his debts and calls Hochul a “corporate Democrat” and an “elitist millionaire” who doesn’t know what it’s like to struggle.