FLATBUSH — Three weeks before the general election, a third-party candidate challenging Flatbush’s longtime City Council representative has received a powerful endorsement from the Working Families Party.
Leaders of the WFP voted Tuesday night to endorse Brian Cunningham, who lost the Democratic primary to 40th District councilmember Mathieu Eugene in September but decided to continue the race as the Reform Party candidate in the general election.
The decision by WFP to endorse Cunningham does not mean he will appear on the party’s line on the ballot Nov. 7; the deadline for that is long over, party officials said. But he will appear on the ballot on the Reform Party line, along with Eugene as the Democrat and Conservative Party candidate Brian Kelly.
But Cunningham will have the full backing of the party, which sees him as the best progressive choice following a primary where nearly six in 10 voters voted for someone other than Eugene.
“Brian Cunningham has galvanized activists and concerned residents throughout the 40th District. In this critical moment in our history, we need that kind of inspiring leadership more than ever,” said Bill Lipton, director of the New York Working Families Party.
In a statement, Cunningham said he is “honored” by the WFP endorsement and plans to continue his campaign “more emboldened than ever.”
“Residents of District 40 want change. We stand side by side with the Working Families Party to help bring that change,” he said.
Longtime Prospect-Lefferts Gardens resident Cheryl Sealey is backing Cunningham over Eugene because she feels the district — which covers Flatbush, Kensington, Prospect Park South and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens — “needs to go in a more progressive direction,” particularly on housing and education issues.
“I don’t have anything disparaging things to say about the current councilmember. However, I think we need to move in a different direction in terms of dealing with the problems we have in our community,” Sealey told DNAinfo New York.
Against a 10-year incumbent, Cunningham has an uphill battle to win in November. According to recent filings, Eugene's campaign has nearly double the funds Cunningham's does, despite the fact that Cunningham qualified for six-digit public matching funds.
Eugene has held his City Council seat since 2007, when he became the city’s first Haitian-born councilmember.
But Sealey is hopeful about the race in light of the WFP endorsement, particularly because of what the group did recently for another area politician: Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, who won a special election over two Democrats in nearby Crown Heights as the WFP candidate in 2015.
“This community is traditionally a Democratic community and they were able to cross those lines,” she said.