Kristen González Declares Victory in Queens Senate Primary, While Incumbents Hold On
Democratic Socialists of America-endorsed González defeats Elizabeth Crowley, despite torrent of real estate industry attack ads.
Kristen González, a political newcomer backed by the Democratic Socialists of America and prominent lawmakers on the left including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, declared victory against Elizabeth Crowley in a state Senate race to represent a swath of western Queens and Brooklyn and a chunk of Manhattan’s East Side.
Her projected victory came even as she was outraised by hundreds of thousands of dollars by Crowley, a more moderate Democrat who is a cousin of the ex-head of the county’s Democratic party, former U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley — infamously defeated in 2018 by then-unknown Ocasio-Cortez.
At a packed Peruvian restaurant in Long Island City, González walked into a storm of applause from supporters, many clad in yellow campaign shirts.
@Gonzalez4NY, who just won the pivotal Democratic primary for NY State Senate District 59, walks into her victory party to tremendous applause. “Today we really proved that socialism wins,” she said. pic.twitter.com/fOriBXSZHy— George Joseph (@georgejoseph94) August 24, 2022
“Today we really proved that socialism wins, we are not going anywhere, and we will not stop until we see a socialist slate across this city,” said González, a former intern for U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, as several left-wing elected officials, including State Sen. Julia Salazar and City Councilmember Tiffany Cabán, cheered her on.
The Elmhurst native trounced Crowley 59% to 32%, according to preliminary city Board of Elections results.
González’s wide margin came as a surprise to some volunteers, who thought that the flood of pro-Crowley independent expenditure committee spending in the final weeks of the race — much of it from the real estate industry — would make the contest close.
“It’s not something that I personally was expecting because I learned to temper my expectations, especially given the amount of money people have spent to ensure we lose,” said Miranda Kalish, a 27-year-old campaign volunteer. “But this is a huge win for the left in New York, and I couldn’t be prouder of everyone who was a part of this.”
The left-wing candidate is in favor of the “good cause” bill that would make it much harder for landlords to evict tenants, and opposed to the revival of a tax break developers say they need to build apartments in New York City.
Crowley conceded at a small gathering at LIC Bar, telling supporters that “forces” were at work against them.
González “ran a really good campaign. She motivated a lot of people,” Crowley told THE CITY. “And I know she’ll do great.” Crowley plans to enjoy the rest of the summer catching up with family and friends, she said.
Elsewhere in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Democratic state Senate incumbents prevailed over well-connected challengers, putting an end to a messy, bifurcated state primary that had Democratic voters come to the polls for the second time this summer. Assembly primaries, along with primaries for governor and lieutenant governor, took place in June.
Sens. Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan), Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) and Jabari Brisport (D-Brooklyn) were all re-elected despite challenges by insurgents.
And in The Bronx, state Sen. Gustavo Rivera holds the lead over party-backed challenger and attorney Miguelina Camilo. Camilo — who was also backed by several of the city’s largest labor unions and influential Bronx lawmakers, including Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz and U.S. Reps. Ritchie Torres and Adriano Espaillat — attracted a host of support from outside spending groups tied to the real estate industry and charter school movement.
Before declaring victory at a campaign watch party at Bronx Alehouse in Kingsbridge, Rivera walked in quoting the HBO drama The Wire, saying, “You come for the king, you best not miss.”
Defiant and emotional, Rivera triumphantly basked in his victory with a throng of supporters.
“I am not going to forget who I work for,” he said, also citing the deluge of funds poured into the race to unseat the incumbent. “In this race, over a million dollars of dark money … these are developers, landlords, financiers, national Republicans, charter school backers, all these folks. A million dollars and they couldn’t get us.”
Rivera told THE CITY the Bronx Democratic Party should have backed him based on his senatorial record alone.
“This was an unnecessary primary. We did not need to go down this road,” he said. “You should have just said that work is worth supporting.”
In fact, Rivera, 46, wasn’t expecting a competitive primary in the newly-drawn 33rd State Senate District spanning Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Fordham. As of May, Camilo, an attorney and former city Board of Elections commissioner, was vying for the 34th Senate District spanning parts of The Bronx and Westchester after incumbent Sen. Alessandra Biaggi decided to run for Congress. Then a court-ordered special master drew her home into Rivera’s 33rd District.
Money and Mail
Groups tied to charter school expansion and the real estate industry — interests that Rivera has railed against during his decade in the Senate — have poured more than $377,000 into advertising attacking Rivera, a progressive, and supporting Camilo, who has benefitted from a torrent of promotional materials, phone calls, text messages and canvassers.
The groups include New Yorkers For a Balanced Albany, a committee funded mostly by pro-charter school business leaders including Paul Singer, a hedge-fund manager, and Jim Walton, an heir to the Wal-Mart family fortune. The group has spent more than $234,000 to support Camilo.
And Common Sense New Yorkers Inc., a real estate-backed group, has funded $53,000 in attack mailers and opposition canvassers against Rivera.
Some voters were not pleased with the deluge.
Outside of P.S. 85 in Fordham Heights, 28-year-old Diana Rankins pointed to a photo of Camilo posted on a nearby tree.
“Look at this lady. Who’s that? We don’t know who she is,” she said. “She’s a Democrat but we don’t know who she is. Nobody talked about her.”
Meanwhile Juan Tavarez, 46, a seven-year resident of the neighborhood, cast his ballot for Camilo because her team wasn’t pestering him as much as other campaigns.
“She was the one who didn’t call to bother me,” said Tavarez in Spanish, sporting a black baseball cap and carrying a string of “I voted” stickers in his hand shortly after 11 a.m. “They were calling every day, up to three times a day.”
Across the Harlem River in Washington Heights, a trio of Sen. Robert Jackson voters outside P.S. 152 on Nagle Avenue, who declined to share their names, said a deluge of negative text messages and mailers gave them renewed urgency to go to the polls. Jackson ultimately prevailed against challenger Ángel Vásquez, an Espaillat-backed attorney.
“I think Robert Jackson is a beloved senator in our district and he’s helped so many of our neighbors and he’s helped us, and we were disturbed to see the dirty politics going around trying to take his seat, as the incumbent,” said the woman, referencing a text message that compared Jackson to former president Donald Trump.
Brooklyn Incumbents on Top
In Brooklyn, incumbent Democrats easily dispatched their challengers.
State Sen. Kevin Parker — a close ally of Brooklyn Democratic Party boss, Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn — bested David Alexis, a former Uber driver and candidate backed by the Democratic Socialists of America, and Kaegan Mays-Williams, a former prosecutor who campaigned on gun safety.
The longtime Flatbush politico benefited from New York’s chaotic redistricting process this spring, which lopped off Park Slope and Windsor Terrace — wealthy, white progressive strongholds — from his district and added a swath of Flatlands and Marine Park, neighborhoods with middle-class Black and white homeowners who tend to go for centrists.
In north Brooklyn, state Sen. Jabari Brisport, an incumbent Democratic Socialist and former middle school math teacher, had little trouble against Conrad Tillard, a reverend and former Nation of Islam member who caught flak on the campaign trail for decades-old anti-Semitic and anti-abortion comments.
Since taking office in 2020, Brisport has pushed for expanding tenants’ rights and held the line under pressure to roll back bail reform, making him a target of Mayor Eric Adams, who endorsed his opponent.
But despite redistricting changes on the eastern and western ends of the Senate map, Brisport’s district retained its core constituency in Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant, areas that have gentrified to the benefit of progressive candidates, and where Brisport has gained ground thanks to his emphasis on constituent services.