Out gay former State Senator Tom Duane, who also served on the City Council, is backing Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer in his race for Queens borough president, adding to the out gay candidate’s growing roster of endorsements ahead of the March special election to replace Melinda Katz.
“Jimmy Van Bramer is one of the bravest people I know,” Duane said in a written statement to Gay City News. “He is also an incredibly hard worker, effective organizer, fiercely independent, and true progressive… I am proud to endorse Jimmy Van Bramer for borough president because Queens will be very well served.”
Duane praised Van Bramer for his work on queer issues dating back to when the beep hopeful attended St. John’s University, but he also cited his advocacy as a councilmember in the areas of public transportation, government services, and tenants’ rights, as well as his political autonomy in the face of establishment forces in the borough.
“Jimmy is fiercely independent and has stood up to party bosses and won a seat at the table, where he is a strong voice for those who may not have had such an empathetic and tenacious representative,” Duane added.
Van Bramer welcomed Duane’s endorsement, telling Gay City News in a phone interview that he has known Duane since May of 1991 when he volunteered for the former elected official’s historic campaign for City Council. That year, Duane and Antonio Pagán became the Council’s first out gay members, and Duane later went on to become the first out gay person elected to the State Senate. Duane was the second out LGBTQ member of the Legislature following lesbian Deborah Glick’s ascendance to the Assembly in 1990. Duane was also the only out HIV-positive member of the Legislature.
“Tom’s endorsement is incredibly meaningful because he is, and always will be for many of us, a pioneer and a legendary figure in the New York City LGBTQ community, obviously along with Deborah Glick,” Van Bramer said. “I’m really humbled to have Tom’s support.”
At press time, Duane was scheduled to announce his endorsement in a January 15 press conference alongside activists from Van Bramer’s past as well as out LGBTQ drag artist and City Council candidate Marti Gould Cummings, who is also backing Van Bramer. Cecilia Gentili, a trans LGBTQ rights advocate who also endorsed Van Bramer, is scheduled to be in attendance at the presser, as well, along with longtime transgender political activist Melissa Sklarz.
Duane’s backing comes after Van Bramer scored early support from key progressive voices in the city and state — including former gubernatorial candidates Zephyr Teachout and Cynthia Nixon, an out lesbian, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and social justice activist Shaun King.
“I do think we have demonstrated a broad and growing coalition of progressives endorsing my campaign and I think it clearly demonstrates we are the progressive insurgent in the race,” Van Bramer said.
The Sunnyside Democrat is up against a handful of competitors, including Council colleagues Costa Constantinides and Donovan Richards, former city lawmaker Elizabeth Crowley, and National Latino Officers Association chair Anthony Miranda, a retired NYPD sergeant.
It is not yet clear whether Van Bramer will get the support of the Working Families Party or out queer former Queens district attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán, who now works for Working Families but was close allies with Van Bramer during her campaign. The Queens lawmaker said he met with Cabán last month to discuss the race and hopes to have her endorsement as well as the support of the WFP.
The party has yet to decide on whether to endorse a candidate for borough president and its New York State director, Sochie Nnaemeka, didn’t directly respond when asked about the party or Cabán’s intentions in the race.
“The Working Families Party plans to support progressive champions up and down the ballot and across the state who share our values, record, and vision for a New York that works for the many,” Nnaemeka said.
The election is slated for March 24. Katz was elected Queens district attorney last year.