Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Meet Your New Members — Jimmy Van Bramer by Chris Bragg - City Hall News

Read original...

Diehard Mets Fan and Union Child Heads to Council

On the evening of Nov. 2, Jimmy Van Bramer made one last trip to an apartment building in Sunnyside that he had canvassed frequently during his Council campaign.

In a matter of hours, polls would open in Van Bramer’s general election face-off against an unknown 24-year-old Republican in a heavily Democratic district.

But taking nothing for granted, Van Bramer went for one last round of door-knocking—and upon seeing Van Bramer, a supporter broke into laughter.

She said, ‘Dude you are hardcore! 8:30 at night, running against a Republican?’” Van Bramer recalled.

A relentless work ethic helped Van Bramer, 40, win a spirited primary over Queens County-backed Deirdre Feerick. He then coasted to a general election victory.

Van Bramer, head of outreach for the Queens Public Library, credits this work ethic to growing up in a large Irish Catholic family in Astoria: the examples set by his mother, who worked at the check-out counter of two different grocery stores, his father, a press operator for the New York Times, and his step-father, a public school custodian.

Van Bramer’s parents were also both active union members, which has given the Working Families Party-backed Van Bramer a strong appreciation for the role unions can play in working peoples’ lives.

We didn’t grow up with lots of money, but I was aware that the opportunities to pay the rent, or to have health care, were there because we were a union family,” he said.

Those who know Van Bramer say his working class sensibilities also shaped the campaign he ran.

He didn’t have big-money friends or a lot of personal resources to draw on,” said Brad Usher, a close friend who serves as chief of staff for State Sen. Liz Krueger. “He built his own success through hard work.”

Van Bramer and Danny Dromm broke new ground this year by becoming the first two openly gay Council candidates to win election in Queens. They are part of a circle of gay activists that began taking shape in 1991, when Tom Duane became the first openly gay Council member, in a campaign run by a young Christine Quinn.

In 2001, Van Bramer ran an unsuccessful Council bid against Helen Sears in the neighboring Jackson Heights district. He later moved into the district represented by Eric Gioia, whom he was elected to succeed.

This year, Dromm defeated Sears. But though they blazed a new trail together, Van Bramer and Dromm also have a longstanding political rivalry and a somewhat frosty relationship.

Since they both won election, however, the two have met up several times and have begun to iron out their differences, Van Bramer said.

What’s important is that we both made it,” Van Bramer said. “We both got to where we wanted and that’s an enormous victory.”

Now that the campaign is over, Van Bramer, a die-hard Mets fan, is also hoping to catch a few games next year after missing all of this season because he was too busy canvassing. At the least, Van Bramer says, this spared him from having to witness to the team’s dreadful season.

During an hour long interview, the normally forthright Van Bramer dodged only a single question: whom he rooted for in a World Series that featured the Yankees and Phillies, the Mets’ two biggest rivals.

I’m going to take the fifth,” Van Bramer said. “I have some supporters who are Yankees fans.”