|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from New York's 22nd district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2023
|Preceded by||John Katko|
|Born||May 22, 1967|
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
|Residence||Sennett, New York|
|Education||Pepperdine University (BA)|
University of Pennsylvania (MBA)
|Branch/service||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1991–1996|
Brandon McDonald Williams (born May 22, 1967) is an American politician and businessman serving as the U.S. representative for New York's 22nd congressional district since 2023. He is a member of the Republican Party.
Williams was born in Dallas, Texas, to James McDonald "Don" Williams and Judy Williams. He was the second of five children. Don, a corporate lawyer, would serve as chairman of the Trammell Crow Company from 1994 to 2002. George Seay was a childhood friend, whom he met in fifth grade at St. Mark's School of Texas. The two both attended Highland Park High School and played on the football team.
Williams enrolled at Baylor University after graduation but transferred to Pepperdine University after a year. At Pepperdine he was elected president of student government in his second year. In the summer before his senior year he volunteered with World Vision International in Africa, where he contracted a severe case of malaria. After taking a semester off to recover, he studied Asian studies at Harvard for a year as a visiting student. In 1990, he graduated from Pepperdine with a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts.
Williams joined the United States Navy in 1991, where he served as an officer on the submarine the USS Georgia. After leaving the Navy as a lieutenant in 1996, he studied at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, earning an MBA in 1998. He worked as an investment banker and business executive, and co-founded the startup funding company IgniteIP, which received $20 million in initial funding from investors. He later founded and served as CEO of the industrial process software company CPLANE. Joel Peterson, former chairman of JetBlue and a friend of Don Williams, gave Williams $2 million to invest in CPLANE. CPLANE received a $10,000 loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program in March 2021.[relevant?]
In 2008, Williams and his wife purchased a 67 acres (27 ha) farm in Sennett, New York. The farm is focused on bees, lavender, and truffles. Despite the difficulty of growing truffles and the fact that the Williamses are the first to attempt to grow truffles so far north in New York State, they began producing truffles in 2019, and the farm has been visited by mycologists.
On January 14, 2022, incumbent U.S. Representative John Katko announced that he would not seek reelection in 2022, creating a vacancy. In early 2022, Katko's district, along with multiple other districts in the state, was subject to redistricting. This combined much of Katko's district with portions of the previous district 22, then represented by Claudia Tenney, whose district was divided into several new districts. Tenney successfully ran in the new 24th district.
Williams had begun thinking about running for office during the COVID-19 pandemic, and began his campaign after Katko announced his retirement. In the primary he campaigned as a supporter of Trump and his America First agenda, a marked change from Katko, who had voted in favor of the second impeachment of Donald Trump. Williams was critical of Katko's bipartisanship, calling it "politics as usual" and Katko a RINO. Katko, while supporting other local Republicans, remained neutral in the primary. Katko supporters nominated Steven Wells, a local party official who had lost to Tenney in the 2016 primary, and who was seen as the party's favorite. Wells was endorsed by House Republican Conference chair Elise Stefanik, while Williams was endorsed by the Conservative Party of New York. Campaign ads by the Republican Congressional Leadership Fund during the primary criticized Williams for living on a truffle farm, using the expensive high-end ingredient to portray him as an out-of-touch elitist. Wells avoided debates and local media interviews, which may have contributed to his defeat. Williams' victory over Wells was described as an upset by some news sources.
Williams faced Democratic nominee Francis Conole, also a Navy veteran, in the general election. The race gained national attention. Politico and The New York Times both noted the race as particularly competitive. National PACs ran ads, including more ads drawing attention to truffles, from the Democratic House Majority PAC this time. Republican minority whip Steve Scalise visited Syracuse to fundraise for Williams, and Stefanik gave Williams her endorsement, while Katko continued to not endorse Williams. Debates between Williams and Conole were contentious, with both accusing the other of misrepresenting themselves and their opponent. Conole said that Williams did not know Central New York and that his self-descriptions as a "political outsider" were bogus. Williams said that Conole's 20-year military career left him ill-equipped to handle issues of the economy and private business. In the general election, Williams defeated Conole by a margin of 1.5%.
The New York Times characterized Williams as sharply conservative. At a candidate forum, he named "socialist ideology" the number one threat to the United States. Williams, who homeschooled his children, is an advocate for school vouchers. Williams opposes any law to restrict or remove access to firearms, including red flag laws and bans of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. He has said he would support stronger background checks for gun purchases.
Williams voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections. He believes the 2020 presidential election raised questions about state election laws, although he also stated that Joe Biden was elected legitimately. He compared the January 6th hearings to the Moscow trials.
Williams is opposed to abortion, although the details of his stance have been inconsistent. A Syracuse affiliate of National Right to Life claims that in a questionnaire that Williams filled out at their request he indicated total support for their platform, which includes a federal ban. Williams declared himself the "pro-life candidate" on several occasions during the primary, in contrast to Wells who said the issue should be left to the states. Later, he began to express support for exceptions for rape, incest, and the mother's life, and that abortion laws should be decided by the states instead of the federal government. Text on his campaign website was also rewritten to express a softer stance.
He was one of four Republican representatives from New York who called for George Santos to resign in light of false biographical statements that Santos had made.
Williams met his wife, Stephanie, at a bible study group in Orlando, Florida, while in the Navy. They married in 1992 and have two children. They began homeschooling their children after a conflict with a teacher while their daughter was in the second grade. He has said that his Christian faith is deeply personal and he does not believe in forcing it on others.
In addition to places mentioned earlier, Williams has lived in Seattle, New York City, and Silicon Valley. The Williams family built a home on their farm in 2010, two miles outside the district he now represents. They settled there permanently in 2019. Although Williams said during his campaign that he would move into another home within the district if elected, as of May 2023[update] he and Stephanie still live at the farm.
Williams's father Don is politically active in Dallas, particularly in social equality and racial justice. In 1995 he founded the Foundation for Community Empowerment, which focuses on urban revitalization in South Dallas. After the George Floyd protests of 2020, Don Williams and other members of the Dallas business elite developed an eight-point action plan that included raising the minimum wage, banning police use of chokeholds, and expanding Medicaid in Texas. Williams has said that he disagrees with his father's views but appreciates what he has done for Dallas's poor.