Gallagher wins surprise victory over Lentol in 50th A.D. Democratic primary

July 22, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Gallagher wins surprise victory over Lentol in 50th A.D. Democratic primary
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Newcomer says she has `deep respect’ for 46-year veteran

In one of several stunning upsets during primary season, veteran Assemblymember Joe Lentol was defeated by activist Emily Gallagher in the Democratic primary in the 50th Assembly District.

Lentol, who has held the seat for 46 years, conceded after all of the absentee ballots were all counted on Wednesday, July 22.

“It’s decided: The voters in the 50th Assembly District voted for change. It’s been a great honor to represent the people of North Brooklyn in the Assembly,” Lentol wrote in a statement. “I’m proud of my years of service, delivering important legislation and always attending to constituents’ needs. My successor will be busy as the new Assembly Member. I wish her well as she faces the enormous challenges ahead.”

According to the Ballotpedia, Lentol led Gallagher 6,608 votes (57.3 percent) to Gallagher’s 4,845 (42 percent)  1,763 votes on Tuesday, June 23.

However, according to the NYC Board of Elections 9,689 absentee ballots had to be counted due to many voters’ deciding to vote from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, July 22, Gallagher’s camp gained confidence as she posted via Twitter, stating, “With the in-person vote included, we’re now ahead by 265. And our lead is growing.”

The following day, she declared victory.

“I can’t believe I am writing this but it’s official: we won,” Gallagher wrote. “This was a collective and truly grassroots campaign, powered by a deep love for North Brooklyn and a desire to make it better. Thank you so much for believing in me, against all the odds. This is my home and I love it. Its sense of community, its long history of organizing, its tenants and workers, its parks and waterfront, small businesses and cultural spaces.”

She also stated she is not a career politician and has spent most of my life living paycheck to paycheck.

‘To be honest, I did not expect to win,” she added. “But I ran anyway. I ran because I care about this community, I care about democracy, and I think it’s worth it to take big risks and to dream impossible dreams.

She discussed her opponent.

“Assemblymember Lentol leaves behind him a terrific legacy of legislation on many important issues and stood with the community many times in important battles,” she said.

“He will go down in history and he has earned his place there. Joe is beloved by many and I’m excited to see all the good work he will do as a community member.  I have deep respect for him and those who love him, and I look forward to being his successor,” she added.

Gallagher also is looking ahead to change.

“There is profound inequality, injustice and corruption in our state,” she said. “The pandemic has revealed it — and so much of our state’s response has made it worse. If there was ever a time that we could say ‘the world can’t wait,’ that time is now.”

This is the second race where absentee ballots resulted in surprising results. On July 16, Marcela Mitaynes won the Democratic primary in the 51st Assembly District, besting incumbent Felix Ortiz who held the seat for 26 years.

Lentol, the son of State Sen. and Supreme Court Justice Edward Lentol, is an attorney by profession. He served as chair of the Committee on Codes since 1992 and previously served as chair of the Committee on Governmental Employees and the Assembly Committee on Governmental Operations. In 2001, he was elected by his colleagues to head the Brooklyn Assembly Delegation.

He has been a supporter of pro-tenant legislation and criminal justice reforms. In addition for the Democratic nomination, he also was endorsed by the Working Families Party.

Gallagher grew up near Rochester, N.Y, and has lived in Greenpoint for 13 years. “I’ve been a renter, a roommate, a cyclist, a commuter,” she said. “I’ve been unemployed, underemployed, have known too many months where I scrambled to make rent.” She first became involved in community affairs when she joined Neighbors Alliance for Good Growth, and in 2010 became its co-chair.

In 2016, she ran unsuccessfully for female district leader in the 50th A.D., but was backed by the New Kings Democrats reform club. Afterward, she formed the Greenpoint Sexual Assault Task Force.

Additional reporting by Raanan Geberer

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