Jesse Hamilton’s political career hit a low point in 2018. He was one of six former Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) members in the New York Senate to lose their reelection campaign.
The splinter group angered many mainline Democrats because their political tactics enabled the Republicans to hold a slim majority and control the Senate. Hamilton faced a backlash from constituents and powerful New York Democrats. They viewed him as a self-interested, political traitor at a time when the party was battling Donald Trumpism.
Ultimately, he paid the political price in his 2018 primary election loss to Sen. Zellnor Myrie in their 20th Senate District race.
“When I lost my race, I said, ‘Wow, I did all I could do for the people. I don’t know how I lost this race’,” Hamilton told BK Reader, insisting that people misunderstood his political moves.
Hamilton is now trying to hit the political reset button. He wants to change the narrative by asking people in his district to take a close look at his Senate voting record.
“Do your research, look at the bills I passed, there was nothing adverse to Black people,” Hamilton said. “I voted more with Democrats than Democrats did – especially some Democrats from Long Island.”
He’s challenging incumbent Assemblywoman Diana Richardson for her 43rd Assembly District seat, which includes portions of Crown Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Wingate and Flatbush.
For many, it’s still unforgivable that Hamilton joined the breakaway group of Independent Democrats. However, Hamilton said he has encountered voters on the campaign trail who reevaluated his political maneuvering in the Senate.
“My campaign is going great. A lot of people are showing me love. A lot of people are saying I am the (Colin) Kaepernick of politics,” he said.
“They are saying, Jesse, you took a knee for the people who really needed help. A lot of people didn’t understand what you were doing, but now they are appreciating more what you did.”
Hamilton said he has no regrets about joining the IDC, which has disbanded, saying it was a means to get resources for his district. IDC members have said their positioning gave them some political leverage against Senate Republicans who needed the IDC to maintain control of the chamber.
On the campaign trail, Hamilton said people have also been congratulating him on the state’s recently passed police reform package, which included the Amy Cooper anti-discrimination 911 calling bill. Cooper, a white woman, was seen in a viral video calling the police on a Black man who harmlessly asked her to leash her dog while in Central Park.
In 2018, Hamilton introduced a 911 anti-discrimination bill in the Senate after a woman called 911 on him while he was campaigning. But he’s not impressed with the Amy Cooper law that just passed.
Hamilton said under his 2018 bill, a person who makes a racially motivated 911 call would face a criminal penalty, but there’s only a civil penalty under the newly passed legislation.
“Amy Cooper on the 911 bill that just passed does not go to jail,” he stated, adding that the victim could get arrested and go through the criminal justice system before authorities recognized that the call was racially motivated and frivolous. “If you want to sue the Amys of the world, you have to hire a lawyer.”
“They are trying to bamboozle us with the 911 bill that just passed,” Hamilton said. “Any blind man could see that this does not make sense.”
Hamilton’s attempt at a comeback isn’t the only reason that the 43rd Assembly District race has captured attention. Kings County Democratic Party leader, Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte of Flatbush, declined to endorse Richardson.
On June 15, Bichotte released a list of endorsements in which she announced support for all of the party’s incumbents to the state legislature except Richardson.
The snub came on the heels of Richardson releasing a nearly 38-minute video on Facebook, in which she accused Democratic Party leaders of quietly supporting Hamilton behind the scenes.
Hamilton responded with his own video on Facebook, in which he rejected Richardson’s claims and accused her of bullying. He declined to comment further on the issue to BK Reader.
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