Longtime Brooklyn State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery has yet to publicly address widespread rumors that she will retire rather than run for reelection in 2020, but a former aide who is jumping into the race for her District 25 senate seat suggested that the rumors are true — and said his run is predicated on her retirement.
“I respect the senator greatly, I loved working for her, and I would never run against her,” Jason Salmon, a 33-year-old Clinton Hill native and lifelong district resident, told the Brooklyn Eagle at a Crown Heights cafe this week.
Montgomery’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Salmon went on to sketch out priorities that include ending solitary confinement, legalizing the adult recreational use of marijuana, comprehensive African American history in public schools and stemming foreclosures in the district, as well as the seizure of homes through the city’s controversial Third Party Transfer program.
“We need to immediately stop the theft of black generational wealth, especially in neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights,” Salmon said, adding, “I have an intergenerational coalition I’m going to build.”
Salmon left Montgomery’s office in August after three years serving as a community liaison to the senior legislator, who has represented parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Park Slope, Gowanus and Sunset Park since 1985.
He is entering the race alongside Jabari Brisport, a 32-year-old public school teacher, actor and Prospect Heights native who ran an unsuccessful race against Crown Heights Councilmember Laurie Cumbo in 2017, on the Green Party and Socialist lines. Both candidates say that they will not accept private real estate or corporate business PAC donations.
Brisport recently garnered the endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America, which Salmon also sought. The group has established a track record in recent years of representing successful candidates once considered longshots, such as Queens U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Tiffany Cabán, who came within dozens of votes of winning a recent primary for Queens District Attorney.
“I want to fight for equity in every single layer of our society through the legislature. And if that’s what being a socialist is, sign me up,” Salmon said.
Brisport declined to comment on Salmon’s run.
Salmon is formerly a professional violinist and music producer but turned to activism and politics in 2014, when his childhood friend was shot and killed by a police officer. The son of a Jewish mother and Caribbean father, he began volunteering with the organization Jews for Racial and Economic Justice soon after, where he served as a liaison to the Communities United for Police Reform coalition.
“Jason and I worked closely to plan lobby visits to City Council,” said Karume James, a supervising attorney at The Bronx Defenders, praising Salmon in his personal capacity.
Salmon also worked alongside freshman Bushwick State Sen. Julia Salazar, then a staffer at JFREJ, to launch the group’s Jews of Color Caucus. Salazar and Salmon were arrested together during an action for the passage of the Right to Know Act, a 2018 law that requires civilian consent for some police searches and that police distribute business cards in certain circumstances.
Salazar, who like Brisport is a member of the DSA, declined to comment on the District 25 race, instead praising Sen. Montgomery’s record on criminal justice.
“She led on trying to eliminate the use of condoms as evidence if someone is charged with a prostitution-related crime,” Salazar said. “Often Senator Montgomery was … one of a couple [legislators] who would vote against creating a new crime. She’s an extraordinarily principled legislator.”
Emma Whitford is a freelance reporter based in Brooklyn. You can follow her work on Twitter.
Correction (Oct. 11): This story was amended to say that Brisport previously ran a “race” in 2017 rather than a “primary,” as he was a candidate in the general election.