Beginning in 2006, Clinton Hill resident Olanike Alabi has served as the State Committeewoman (female Democratic District Leader) of the 57th A.D., represented by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.
In January 2012, after Assemblyman Jeffries announced he would step down to run for Congress, almost immediately, Olanike Alabi announced her plans to step in.
The 36-year-old Alabi is running in the Sept. 13 primary elections for the state assembly seat in the 57th District, which includes the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and parts of Prospect Heights and Bed-Stuy. She has two opponents—male Democratic District Leader Walter Mosely (57th A.D.) and former state Department of Education official Martine Guerrier.
“I have always been one who believed that politics is a vehicle to make a difference in the lives of people,” she told Patch in January. “That’s why I’m running.”
The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Alabi grew up in Clinton Hill and attended P.S. 20 on Adelphi Street and Midwood High School. She received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and African-American Studies from Temple University and a master’s degree in history from the University of London.
If elected, Alabi is promising to focus her energies on healthcare, education, seniors, employment and housing.
Alabi’s road to Albany has not been easy nor one that has been paved overnight. For the past 10 years, she has waged battles as an underdog in both her personal career as well in the political arena.
She sued her first job as district manager of Community Board 2 in 2001 after the board fired her for alleged incompetence. It took four years, but an appellate court granted her a win in 2005, finding that the community board failed to follow proper procedures when dismissing her.
Alabi went on to work as an executive secretary for George Gresham, president of 1199 S.E.I.U., the powerful union that represents hospital workers. And in 2006, she ran for female Democratic district leader with solid labor backing. She went on to win handily a second term as district leader in 2008.
However, the temperature was dialed up during Alabi's 2010 re-election bid -- her third—for district leader, with the arrival of a new opponent, Renee Collymore, a lifelong Fort Greene resident and business owner.
During the campaign, Collymore accused Alabi of acting as a liaison between the unions and Kings County Democratic Leader Vito Lopez. Collymore then reported to police that Alabi was harassing her and blackmailing her by threatening to release a sex tape.
Alabi denied the allegations.
Later in the campaign she reportedly approached neighborhood stores to ask that merchants remove Collymore’s campaign posters from their windows. She charged it was illegal to hang them since her opponent was not yet on the ballot and that as a result, they could be penalized, two merchants told the Daily News.
But Collymore’s flyers turned out to be a non-starter. Alabi won another term.
During her tenure as district leader, Alabi has received a Community Service Award & Congressional Record of Honor from Rep. Ed Towns, a Great Force Partner Award from former Rep. Major Owens, Valiant Woman of the Year Award from Church Women United in Brooklyn, Woman of the Year Award from state Sen. John Sampson and a Healthcare Visionary Award from state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery.
Alabi’s campaign stronghold continues with the unions: She has received endorsements from the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA), UFCW Local 1500, District Council 37 – AFSCME, AFL-CIO, DC 1707, AFSCME, AFL-CIO and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
Also, she is backed by Montgomery.
Most recently, in August, Alabi went head-to-head against her Assembly opponent Walter Mosely during a spirited debate on NY1.
To read more about Alabi, visit her website.