Saturday, August 14, 2010

Justin Lee Brannan: The Future of Brooklyn Politics?

He's young, smart and outspoken. 

At 31, Justin Lee Brannan has already traveled as a professional musician to well over fifty countries, across five continents.

Justin Lee Brannan has given traffic reports from a helicopter high above the Verrazano Bridge and toiled on Wall Street, where he worked his way up the ladder from a temp job as a subterranean clerk at Bear Stearns.

Justin Lee Brannan has raised money for innovative "green energy" start-ups based out of Silicon Valley and secured millions as a fundraising consultant for apolitical non-profits.

He lobbies for stronger humane legislation to fight animal cruelty and volunteers for groups which improve the lives of veterans and their families.

As a member of AIPAC, Justin has lobbied on Capitol Hill, reaching across both sides of the aisle in order to enact public policy that strengthens the vital and enduring U.S. / Israel relationship—from securing vital foreign aid for Israel to passing legislation aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear program.

Justin Lee Brannan has played sold-out shows at the legendary punk rock club CBGB's and won RIAA awards for his work as a voice actor.

Today, Justin Lee Brannan is a local, small business owner—a fine arts school for children in Bay Ridge that he owns & operates with his fiancĂ©e, Leigh—all while maintaining his day job as Greater New York Campaign Director for the Bnai Zion Foundation; a 102-year old humanitarian non-profit organization.

Brannan sarcastically refers to himself as a "homme de renaissance" with a humble and charming smirk—and now this self-acclaimed Renaissance Man has taken an interest in politics—Brooklyn politics, or more precisely, politics in the 46th District of Bay Ridge; where Brannan was born, raised and still lives. 

This year, Brannan is running for a seat within the 46th Assembly District's 8th Electoral District.  Justin is gunning for a spot as a one of many Democratic County Committeemen in Kings County. 

So what is the "County Committee" you ask? The County Committee of the Brooklyn Democratic Party is made up of approximately 5,000 volunteer positions that each represent an Election District— usually just a couple of blocks where anywhere from 500 – 1,000 registered voters live.

As the lowest rung of party leadership, County Committee members have few formal responsibilities, however, they play a crucial role in organizing their community, advocacy, fundraising, selecting candidates for special elections and adopting the Party platform.

"The County Committee is a great opportunity for ordinary people who are concerned with the dysfunction and corruption in local politics - its a great opportunity to make a difference", says Brannan.

"Its important to do things the right way", says Brannan seriously.  "You need to pay your dues and I think the County Committee is a great place to start."

"Like the great Tip O'Neill once said: All Politics is Local.  You need to start in your community and build from there.  When I was doing a band, we did a demo first, then a 7'', then an album... You have to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run..."

Justin Lee Brannan is running on a reform platform of honest and accessible representation with demands for transparency and accountability —the hallmarks of an emerging political trendsetter and a fresh take on a tired scene.

Frank Lowry caught up with Justin after a Gen44 fundraiser in Manhattan and here's what he had to say.