Albany Agenda

Zinerman says DSA-backed challenger lives outside district

Assembly Member Stefani Zinerman’s allies have sought to portray DSA-endorsed challenger Eon Huntley as an outsider and recently hosted an anti-DSA town hall.

Eon Huntley is challenging Assembly Member Stefani Zinerman.

Eon Huntley is challenging Assembly Member Stefani Zinerman. Eon Huntley Campaign

An existential fight for the political soul of Bed-Stuy Brooklyn is brewing between Assembly Member Stefani Zinerman and political newcomer Eon Huntley. The New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America has endorsed Huntley as part of a plan to consolidate its power in Brooklyn and Queens. But Huntley’s DSA-backed primary challenge to Zinerman has some in the 56th Assembly District concerned about the motives of the campaign –  specifically whether he and the DSA are more interested in serving the community or serving themselves.

Huntley ruffled feathers recently when he hosted an event at his district office in Bed-Stuy titled, “Know Your Enemy.” The April event left some in the community wondering who that “enemy” was. Huntley later clarified on X that by “enemy,” he meant the real estate and charter school lobbies and the America Israel Public Affairs Committee. 

In response to Huntley’s event, Marlon Rice, a former Zinerman staffer and the founder of creative agency Good People NYC, organized an anti-DSA town hall outside the Vanguard Independent Democratic Association, a local political organization, emphasizing the importance of being a “good neighbor.” 

“Do we have enemies? Do you have enemies here?” he asked the crowd. They responded “No.” “So when new neighbors talk about us and use the terminology of enemies it bothers me because an enemy is someone who’s completely opposed to your way of life,” Rice said.

DSA-endorsed State Sen. Jabari Brisport, whose district overlaps with Zinerman’s Assembly district, attended the event. Rice filed with the Board of Elections and launched a campaign website last year for a primary challenge against Brisport, but never ended up running. He later told City & State that he respected Brisport's willingness to engage with the community and hear what they had to say. He contrasted that with Huntley, whom he said he has had trouble getting a hold of. 

“By the time Jabari won against Tremaine Walker in 2020 everyone in the community knew who he was because he was someone who was working to be a candidate for seven years before he got on,” Rice said. “Do you see the difference?” 

He said Huntley relies on a DSA electoral machine that moves in secret and is independent of the community.

Zinerman’s campaign and its allies have sought to portray Huntley as an outsider to the community, pointing to the fact that he does not technically live in the 56th Assembly District. (Due to recent redistricting, Huntley is not required to reside in the district that he is running to represent this year.)

“It’s unclear if Stefani’s opponent has ever stepped foot in Bed-Stuy prior to opening his campaign office last month,” Zinerman campaign spokesperson Lupe Todd-Medina said in a statement. “And that’s not just me talking. That’s local residents, local businesses and the Working Families Party that apparently rejected his nomination due to questions about his residency. So, by these standards, he doesn’t represent our neighbors, our businesses or our working families. Stefani’s opponent is district shopping for the interlopers and gentrifiers who know nothing about the history and culture of the vibrant 56th district.”

Huntley’s campaign confirmed to City & State that his residence is located one block outside of the district’s current boundaries but said that he has been involved in the community for years. The Working Families Party said that it has not endorsed either candidate in the race.

Huntley and his campaign view criticism of his DSA affiliation and the exact location of his residence as a distraction. 

“The voters want someone who will fight back against the outside forces trying to extract wealth from our community, not elected officials who take thousands from the real estate, charter school, and Israel lobby,” Huntley said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that people get uncomfortable when we name the structural forces of oppression – including the real estate, private healthcare, and charter school industry – rather than joining together to fight them alongside our neighbors.”

Brisport said the criticism of Huntley is related to concerns that the DSA is increasing its power in Brooklyn, and New York City more generally, at the expense of more established moderate candidates. “Numbers don’t lie,” he said, pointing to his and other DSA-endorsed candidates’ overwhelming victories in past races. 

Brisport said that the DSA’s electoral strategy is to run candidates like Huntley, who are committed to fighting for policies that will build socialism and help the working class. “We are building power in the shape of that,” he said. 

That’s exactly what worries some in the district, like those at Monday’s rally. “The DSA can be a very dangerous organization if we don't check them,” Rice said.