He’s barely old enough to vote, but says he’s ready to be elected.
Seth Breland, an 18-year-old Democrat from Fresh Meadows, hopes to replace City Councilman Barry Grodenchik in Northeastern Queens when he steps down at the end of next year.
If he is able to get on the ballot in November 2021 and win, Breland would be the youngest elected official in the city’s history. Former Bronx Councilman Joel Rivera, elected in 2001 at age 22, currently holds that title.
Breland, a graduate of World Journalism Preparatory High School in Flushing, who is now studying political science at Long Island University Post campus, says his age is a benefit on the campaign trail — if not for the publicity alone.
“I realize the age can be a limitation, but at the same time … it can be an advantage if I play it right,” he said. “My age will give me the sort of attention and enthusiasm to really fight for our district.”
Breland, who turned 18 in May and cast his first legal ballot in November for Joe Biden, said he was inspired to run by another young, progressive Queens politician, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was elected to Congress at age 28.
“AOC is definitely an inspiration in terms of her age. I had been following her campaign for a while at that point, and it was really inspiring to see,” he said.
But he insists he’s no far-left AOC clone.
“I believe in the mission of the NYPD, but at the same time I do believe in more . . bias training . . . more awareness within the department,” he said, distancing himself from her calls to “defund the police.”
He also said he respects the old guard of the Democratic Party.
“I don’t lean super left. I respect the relationships that the party has built in our communities,” he said. “The saying ‘all politics is local’ definitely resonates with me.”
Breland formally declared his candidacy last month and has collected about $3,000 from 20 donors, mostly family members and friends, he said.
Grodenchik, 60, has represented District 23 since 2015. He announced last year he would not seek re-election after admitting to sexual harassment allegations made by an ex-staffer.
Breland said his community ties make up for what he lacks in years. “I’m not a newcomer. I have some knowledge, and I understand what the needs of our district are,” he said.
“I had a grandfather pass away from COVID and a father laid off from work, and that definitely pushed me to say we need new leadership and we need someone to stand up for people who are struggling financially,” he said.
Breland is running on a platform to repair the city’s broken public education system. And since he was just in school, he is well-versed in its failures, he said.
“I know what students in our high schools and elementary schools are going through,” he said. “When it comes to college students and taking out loans and taking the buses and trains, I do it constantly.”
A lifelong Fresh Meadows native, Breland got his start in city politics working in Assemblyman David Weprin’s office during his summer breaks, beginning in 8th grade. In 2019, he worked in Washington D.C. as a page for the Democratic Caucus in the US Senate, a job Sen. Chuck Schumer appointed him to.
He lives at home with his mother, father and sister. Breland’s father James emigrated from Greece and works as a manager at a printing company, he said. His mother Elizabeth, who is of Puerto Rican lineage, is an administrator at a special-needs high school in Queens. Breland met his girlfriend in high school.
He has two older brothers, ages 21 and 25. One graduated from Queens College, the same school their mother attended, and the other is currently enrolled there. His younger sister attends the same elementary school he went to, PS 178 in Holliswood.
Breland said he wants to preserve the Specialized High School Admissions Test, something Mayor de Blasio has fought to abolish as part of a push to admit more black and Latino students in the city’s top eight high schools.
Echoing a talking point of de Blasio’s opponents in the SHSAT debate, Breland said the answer is better preparation for the merit-based tests, rather than eliminating them.
He also believes the top-tier education offered by the city’s eight specialized high schools should be more accessible at the city’s other 400-some high schools.
“I think we need to do a lot to elevate local high schools and make test prep more accessible,” he said.
Breland said he has been into politics since the fifth grade, when he became enraptured by the 2012 presidential election. Racial unrest in the wake of incidents of police brutality and the destruction caused by the pandemic this year compelled him to run, he said.
He is among at least nine competitors who have registered campaigns with the city Campaign Finance Board. They include Grodenchik’s former campaign manager, Steve Behar; progressive political organizer Jaslin Kaur, who has been endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America; Community Board 2 District Manager Debra Markell; Linda Lee, president and CEO of the nonprofit Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York; Sanjeev Jindal, public relations chair at the India Association of Long Island; former Queens County Libertarian Party Chairman Christopher Fuentes-Padilla; residential construction company owner Mandeep Sahi; and realtor Harpreet Toor.
Credit: NYPOST Newzandar News