When Erik Dilan declared his candidacy for Congress several months ago, few took notice. After all, he was taking on a popular and firmly entrenched incumbent, Nydia Velazquez, who has represented parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan for nearly 20 years. Now, with less than a week to go until the June 26th primary, Dilan has political insiders from throughout the borough predicting a much tighter race than expected.
Dilan, a three-term City Councilmember, is running on a platform focused on creating jobs and reducing debt. He believes his time in the Council has him well prepared to serve in the House of Representatives. “We have to build coalitions and bipartisan support in Congress,” he said. “That’s something I’ve done in the Council…bring people together to deliver for my constituents.”
Dilan had lagged in the endorsement category, but received a big vote of support, last week, from the Jewish Press (the new 7th Congressional district includes a large Hasidic population) and on Friday, June 15th, a coalition of elected officials announced their endorsement of Dilan. State Senator Martin Dilan (Erik’s dad), Assemblymembers Lopez, Lentol, Espinal and Crespo and Councilmembers Levin, Recchia and Greenfield were among Dilan supporters who attended a City Hall rally to announce their endorsements. Others, such as Senate Majority Leader John Sampson issued statements of support for the Dilan candidacy. “Erik has stressed the importance of getting the economy back to work by supporting small businesses, incentivizing new hiring and restructuring the tax system in a way that eases the burden on New York’s working families,” wrote Sampson. “These are the solutions most all of us have been looking to, to give our communities the tools to help themselves. I am pleased to know we’ll have that support in Washington when Erik is elected.”
Councilmember Steve Levin has known Dilan for eight years and worked in the Council with him for more than two. “I know him and I know his family,” said Levin. “He’s an excellent representative, a hard worker, a consensus builder and an all-around decent guy.”
Assemblyman Vito Lopez, Brooklyn’s Democratic Leader wasn’t surprised by how much Dilan has narrowed the gap. “This election may surprise a large number of people,” said Lopez, noting that just a few months ago some people thought Dilan could lose by a three or four to one margin. “It’s his hard work and his commitment to the community that will hopefully result in victory Tuesday night.”
Dilan credits two things for recent gains to his campaign: hard work and the lack of a race in the district for many years. “I’ve always wanted to serve in D.C.,” said Dilan, “and the opportunity is there. After 20 years, I feel they are resting on their laurels.” He also said that canvassing the district gave him the confidence to make his run. “Three months ago, a lot of people didn’t know my name in the district. That’s all changed now.”
Grand Street Campus Athletic Director Tommy Torres has become a vocal Dilan supporter. “He’s been out there every day working in the community,” Torres said. “As chair of the Brooklyn delegation [in the City Council], he’s worked with many North Brooklyn elected officials to deliver to the schools in the district. He’s helped bring much-needed funding for athletics in all the schools in the district.”
“It’s going to be close,” said Dilan. “I feel good about my chances.”
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