Five City Council Races to Watch in New York’s Primaries
All 51 Council seats are open in 2023 in redrawn districts. In the current primary elections, here’s where the most competitive contests are happening.
Just a few more voting days are left before New Yorkers finish casting their ballots for a slate of new City Council members in the June party primary elections.
Early voting runs through Sunday, June 25. Polls are then closed on Monday, reopening for Election Day on Tuesday, June 27. As we head into the final stretch, THE CITY newsroom is keeping watch over a few key contests.
Keep in mind that several districts have no primary election because the party nominee is uncontested. Check your address in our Know Your District tool to see who’s on your ballot, or check your sample ballot with the city Board of Elections lookup tool. Also, don’t forget: Council primaries use ranked choice voting.
On Nov. 7, every one of the city’s 51 Council seats will be up for election because last year’s redistricting rearranged the political map to take population changes into account from the 2020 Census.
Some districts were reshaped significantly, which in some cases has shaken up the political identity of the area — and may spell trouble for incumbents trying to hold on for another term.
Here are the races likely to be the most competitive in this month’s primaries, with key information about how those districts have changed:
A Brawl in The Bronx’s Northeast Corner
This Council district covering a wide swath of The Bronx from Throggs Neck to City Island has the most candidates running in any primary in the city: Four Democrats and three Republicans.
One of those Dems is the incumbent, Marjorie Velázquez, who has faced fierce criticism in the area for switching her position to support a rezoning proposal on Bruckner Boulevard. As THE CITY reported, she is getting a major boost in support from large local unions who are backing her in part because of her stance on the Bruckner proposal.
But that union power may not be able to save her in the primary where she faces three challengers, including one, Community Board 11 Chair Bernadette Ferrara, who raised a sizable campaign fund through private donations and public matching money.
If Velázquez survives the primary, she’ll have a tough race in November, too, up against a Republican nominee chosen from a well-funded GOP field.
As THE CITY’s Know Your District tool shows, District 13 is definitely in play for Republican candidates, even though just 14% of the district’s voters are registered with the GOP. In the 2021 mayoral race, Republican Curtis Sliwa eked out a win over now-Mayor Eric Adams in the general election, winning 48% of the vote to Adams’ 46%. In the 2022 gubernatorial race, former U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin won 46% of the vote to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s 53%.
Southern Brooklyn’s New Majority-Asian Seat
Redistricting carved this new area from parts of Sunset Park, Borough Park and Bensonhurst to create a new district where 53% of residents identify as Asian, compared to 14% citywide.
It’s a chance for a new leader from that community to serve. With no incumbent to beat in the radically redrawn district, the field has been flooded with five candidates.
On the Democratic side, voters’ choices are nonprofit executive Wai-Yee Chan, retired programmer and education activist Stanley Ng and veteran state political aide Susan Zhuang. On the Republican side are Ying Tan, a community activist, and Vito LaBella, a retired lieutenant with the NYPD who previously ran for the state Senate.
Politically, the district looks blue, but votes red. As THE CITY’s Know Your District tool shows, 51% of registered voters in the district are Democrats. But 1 out of 3 of them are unaffiliated with a party, and the district voted overwhelmingly for Zeldin in last year’s governor’s race. He won 61% of the vote to Hochul’s 38%.
Central Harlem’s Wide-Open Council Seat
Manhattan’s District 9 didn’t change very much in redistricting, but it’s had a big political shake-up anyway and will definitely have a new leader this time next year. That’s because the two-year incumbent, Democrat Kristin Richardson Jordan, abruptly dropped out of the race in mid-May, leaving three other Democrats to duke it out for the job. (No Republicans are running in the heavily blue district.)
The candidates are: Assemblymember and former City Council member Inez Dickens; activist and one of the exonerated Central Park Five, Yusef Salaam; and Assemblymember Al Taylor. (Because Richardson Jordan dropped out after ballots were certified, her name will still appear on the June primary ballot.)
As THE CITY reported, Salaam and Taylor have cross-endorsed each other, encouraging voters to rank them first or second, using ranked choice voting in an effort to knock Dickens out of the race. She is the candidate with the longest record of service — representing Harlem in the City Council or the state legislature since 2006 — and the likely favorite to win. Salaam has tried to position himself as the race’s progressive choice, and a fresh start for the area.
It remains to be seen which direction Democratic voters will go. More than 8 of 10 registered voters there are Democrats, THE CITY’s Know Your District tool shows, but their vote was split in the 2021 mayoral primary. Eric Adams won 39% of the vote, Maya Wiley won 29% and Kathryn Garcia garnered 12%.
A Rematch in Western Queens
In the district covering Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside, Democratic incumbent Julie Won is facing a serious challenge from Hailie Kim, a community organizer who is neck-and-neck with Won on spending, according to the latest campaign funding records.
It is not the first time they’ve run against each other; both women ran for the district in 2021. This time, Won is contending with the fallout of the controversial Innovation QNS development project near Northern Boulevard. As THE CITY reported, the incumbent lost a major union endorsement over the proposal. In a low-turnout, off-year race, the lack of support from labor could make the difference.
In the very blue district, Kim, a socialist, has positioned herself to the left of Won, hoping to pull off an upset in a newly redrawn district. According to THE CITY’s Know Your District tool, District 26 now covers less of Astoria, and extends into the Maspeth area. It lost about 13,500 voting-age adults, per data analyzed by the Center for Urban Research at CUNY’s Graduate Center.
First-Timer in Brooklyn Tries to Unseat ‘Absentee’ Incumbent
In Brownsville, incumbent Darlene Mealy faces three Democratic challengers on the ballot this month. Two of them who spoke to THE CITY say Mealy is not present in the district, is hard to reach and barely legislates.
Reginald Bowman, a longtime NYCHA tenant association leader, said Mealy has “a serious absentee attendance record problem.” Isis McIntosh Green, former chief of staff for Assemblymember Latrice Walker, said locals complain that her office is never open. THE CITY couldn’t reach Mealy; calls, emails and texts to her Council office and her personal phone number over a week’s time were not returned. A visit to her office yielded no response.
McIntosh Green has outspent Mealy’s campaign by more than double, and the first-time candidate has the endorsement of the Working Families Party. But in a low-turnout race, name recognition may overtake that effort. If she wins, Mealy would be headed into her fifth term in the district.
Eye on November
Looking past Tuesday’s primary, there are several politically mixed districts where Republicans have a shot to win in November. Here are the races THE CITY is watching in the general election:
District 19 in Queens: Republican incumbent Vickie Paladino is running for reelection against a to-be-determined Democrat to be chosen from a competitive primary. The primary field includes Tony Avella, who has represented the area in the Council and state Senate, former Queens prosecutor Christopher Bae and urban planner Paul Graziano.
District 44 in Brooklyn: Democratic incumbent Kalman Yeger is uncontested in June’s primary, but will face the well-funded and controversial radio personality Heshy Tischler, a Republican, in the fall.
District 47 in Brooklyn: After redistricting removed Bay Ridge out of the old District 43, its Council member Justin Brannan, a Democrat, found himself drawn out of a job. Now, he will likely run against Council member Ari Kagan, a Republican, in the redrawn District 47, which includes Bay Ridge, Coney Island and parts of Bath Beach.
District 48 in Brooklyn: Republican incumbent and first-time Council member Inna Vernikov is likely to face Democrat Amber Adler, a nonprofit executive who previously ran for the seat in 2021.