BY DUNCAN OSBORNE | Appearing before the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City on July 25, Brad Hoylman first rattled off the long list of his friends, political and actual, who were there. Then he saluted Thomas Duane, the openly–gay state senator who has represented parts of Manhattan in the state Senate since 1998.
“I have big shoes to fill,” said the 46-year-old Hoylman, who is running in the September 13 Democratic primary for Duane’s seat. “Any candidate running for this seat has big shoes to fill…Tom Duane was a lion.”
The district includes the white, gay enclaves of Chelsea, Clinton, Hell’s Kitchen, the East and West Villages as well as Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village, and parts of Midtown Manhattan.
In 1991, Duane was the first openly gay candidate elected to the City Council in a district that was drawn to be gay-winnable. That City Council district sits within Duane’s Senate district, and its gay population may have grown over the past 10 years.
At a July 17 meeting of the commission that will redraw the City Council districts, Joseph J. Salvo, the director of the Population Division in the Department of City Planning, said that the council district had seen a 14.3 percent increase in population due to a “young non-family population being fed heavily by in-migration from the rest of the country.” Christine Quinn, an out lesbian and the City Council speaker, currently represents that district.
Hoylman will soon marry filmmaker David Sigal, also 46 and his partner of 20 years. They are raising Silvia, their 18-month-old daughter.
When Duane, 57, announced his retirement he said “Brad is one of my closest friends. We talked last night. I would be proud to be represented by Brad Hoylman.”
Quinn, Congressman Jerry Nadler, who represents Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, an out lesbian who represents the West Village, and other elected officials who share voters with Duane’s district have endorsed Hoylman. It certainly appears that all of the stars have aligned to put him into office.
“I hope so,” he said during an interview at Think Coffee, a Chelsea coffee shop. “I don’t think our community should take anything for granted. Certainly, I’m not.”
His is opposed by Tom Greco, the straight owner of The Ritz Bar and Lounge, a popular gay bar. Greco is an officer in the McManus Midtown Democratic Club and the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, a gay political group. Also running is Tanika Inlaw, a public school teacher.
In their July campaign filings with the state Board of Elections, Hoylman had raised nearly $192,000 and had just over $171,000 in cash on hand. Greco had raised $20,600 with $13,600 in cash. Inlaw did not file any reports.
Duane may have aided Hoylman with an early hint that he would be retiring. They spoke around May 19, when Quinn married Kim Catullo, her longtime partner, Hoylman said.
“He told me he was considering stepping down at the end of the year,” Hoylman said.
Duane announced his retirement on June 4. Hoylman filed his campaign committee with the state on June 5 and collected his first donation on June 7. Ballot petitioning began on June 26. All three candidates have qualified.
This is Hoylman’s second run for public office. In 2001, he finished second in a field of seven candidates in a Democratic primary for a City Council seat representing lower Manhattan. Since then, Hoylman has been involved in civic and political groups. He served three terms as chair of Community Board 2 where he grappled with the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center and the expansion plans of New York University.
“I’m very proud of the fact that I led Community Board 2’s unanimous opposition to NYU’s plan,” he said at the Stonewall meeting.
The Bloomberg administration has championed development, often over the objections of local communities, in a process that is seen as favoring builders.
“It’s often building at the expense of neighborhoods,” Hoylman said. “The community needs to be at the table at the beginning stages of discussions.”
Hoylman is also concerned with increasing funding for city schools, creating more affordable housing, and addressing income inequality. There are a few gay community agenda items that are unfinished in Albany.
“As much as Tom achieved in Albany, he left a few things to fight for,” Hoylman said.
The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which would add gender identity to the state human rights law, has yet to get a vote in the state Senate. A statewide network of agencies that serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community needs more funding as do services for people with HIV and AIDS. Hoylman would also like to see New York’s ban on surrogacy overturned. He and his partner had to travel to California to contract with the surrogate who gave birth to Silvia.
Hoylman, the youngest of six siblings, was raised in a small town in West Virginia. His performance at West Virginia University won him a Rhodes scholarship that took him to Oxford University in England for a year. He spent a year volunteering on Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and then earned a law degree at Harvard.
Hoylman, an intellectual property lawyer, worked at two of the city’s tonier law firms and then spent 12 years at the Partnership for New York City, a major business lobby.
In interviews and in his campaign material, Hoylman emphasizes his pro bono work and his community service. He betrays some sensitivity to the suggestion that he was simply waiting for an office to open so he could run without challenging an incumbent.
“Nobody can accuse me of being an upstart,” he said and added, “All of those endorsements I got in the first 24 hours are, I hope, a testament to the work I’ve been doing in neighborhoods.”