On September 13th, more than 12,000 North Brooklyn voters cast their ballots to determine the 50th Assembly District Leader for the next two years. 33 days later, on October 16th, they learned that Chris Olechowski had bested incumbent Lincoln Restler by the narrowest of margins – 19 votes.
The dramatic battle for this fairly unknown, non-paying position remained close through count and recount with the lead shifting back and forth, but strong backing from Williamsburg’s Hasidic community ultimately gave the win to Olechowski. After a day of considering whether to challenge the results in court, Restler conceded, bringing to a close what had to be the highest voter turnout District Leader race in history.
”It was a crazy rollercoaster over this last month,” Restler said. “There were times we thought it was lost, and others when we thought we had pulled it out.”
In Greenpoint, the incumbent pulled more than 80% of the vote. Despite the wide margin between Restler and himself, Olechowski also gives the neighborhood some of the credit for his win. Specifically, he pointed to his campaigns get out the vote effort among Polish-Americans, which he said brought in around 150 new voters. In a race so close, he said, some of those voters must have played a role in the final result.
“It was a family effort and a community effort,” said Olechowski, whose wife and daughters worked on his campaign and contributed $4,000 to help it succeed. “I had some great volunteers that helped get the vote out and then with the recounts.”
With the race behind them, both contestants are looking to the future. Restler, who is still examining his options, vowed to continue advocating for the community. “I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past two years, to ensure that every local elected official who is fighting for our community had their efforts advanced.”
Olechowski, meanwhile, is ready to make good on a campaign promise. “Now I can begin to represent the community and start building the coalition I talked about during the campaign,” he said.