Councilman Jumaane Williams, who is running for New York lieutenant governor against incumbent Kathy Hochul, was endorsed by former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout last Thursday at City Hall.
Teachout, a law professor, ran against Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014. With little funding and nearly no name recognition, she garnered nearly 34 percent of the vote in the Democratic Primary.
This time around, the anti-corruption professor is serving as the campaign treasurer for Cuomo’s latest challenger, actress Cynthia Nixon.
Insisting that she was only representing herself at the City Hall rally, Teachout spoke about the “courage” Williams has displayed throughout his tenure as an elected official.
“When I ran for governor four years ago, when I met a lot of politicians, they’d wave at me, and then make sure they went to the other side of the room,” she said. “I’d talk to politicians who said they got a call from Joe Percoco every time they were seen standing too close to me.
“Jumaane Williams had a meeting with me here in his office,” Teachout said. “He was proud to let people know.”
The former gubernatorial candidate said the lieutenant governor has to be an “independent voice” in Albany. When she ran alongside running mate Tim Wu four years ago, Teachout said they had a deal that he would speak up when he disagreed with her.
“When Jumaane Williams is lieutenant governor, he’s not going to be a rubber stamp,” Teachout said. “He will speak up and say what is right.”
The law professor was optimistic about the Brooklyn councilman’s chances of winning. When Wu ran in 2014, he picked up 40 percent of the vote. Williams would need a simple majority to win the seat.
Williams praised Teachout for challenging Cuomo, even when it was politically inconvenient to do so.
“Way before 2018, the year of the woman, there was a woman showing us the way as usual,” he said. “Just your name alone makes waves of fear in establishment politics in New York State.”
Williams said Teachout tried to raise the issues of transparency and corruption in Albany, issues that are still relevant today because of the trial of Percoco, a former top aide to Cuomo.
“What if there was a lieutenant governor at that time who was unafraid to step forward and say something was wrong?” Williams said. “Perhaps the corruption would’ve been rooted out earlier.”
The councilman said he hopes to be “the people’s lieutenant governor,” raising issues about housing, homelessness and corruption.
“What we need is a lieutenant governor who is not just about ribbon cuttings,” he said. “We have to add a real voice, a real advocate for the people of the state of New York who is not beholden to any particular governor.”
Williams also received the support of New York Communities for Change, a progressive activist group that has protested gentrification, displacement and fought for police reform.
Leroy Johnson, the chair of the group’s Flatbush chapter, said Williams has been at the “forefront for justice,” starting when he fought for tenants in his neighborhood.
“Jumaane supports New York Communities for Change in most, if not every, effort we put out to fight for social justice,” Johnson said. “We think it’s most appropriate to endorse him.”
When Williams was asked if he has any plans to work with Nixon on a united ticket, the councilman said he’s most concerned about getting the campaigns “up and running” first.
“The campaigns are in communication,” he said. “We want to keep the focus on the messages of each campaign. Make sure that in 2018, everyone knows there are real choices on Election Day.”
But Jeffrey Lewis, chief of staff to Lieutenant Governor Hochul, pointed to Alfred DelBello as an example of a lieutenant governor who was ineffective because he was elected from a different ticket.
DelBello was the running mate of former New York City mayor and gubernatorial candidate Ed Koch, who lost to incumbent Mario Cuomo in 1982.
Though DelBello won his election, he resigned after just one year under the Cuomo administration.
“The most effective way to be lieutenant governor is to work in unison and have a functional executive chamber, rather than one that’s focused merely on in-fighting,” Lewis said.