The bitter Democratic battle for Queens borough president finally ended Friday, nearly a month after Primary Day.
Though the city Board of Elections has yet to certify election results, candidate Elizabeth Crowley conceded the race to current Queens Borough Donovan Richards, who is seeking a full term after winning both a primary and a general election last year.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Crowley said that the opening of the final ballots made it clear that the “numbers are just not there for us to win the Democratic nomination.”
“Voters knew what was at stake and voted in record numbers with almost 200,000 Queens residents casting a ballot in this race, more than we have seen in generations, and I am proud that we received 49.7% of their votes in the final round,” she added.
On election night, Richards held a slim two percentage point lead over Crowley in in-person, first-place votes. Though the margin narrowed as absentee ballots were tallied, via the ranked choice voting system, Richards managed to stay ahead.
After three rounds of ranked choice tabulations, Richards secured 50.3% of the vote — a margin just 0.1% percent shy of triggering a manual recount of all the ballots cast in the race.
A Long Fight
Crowley and Richards have been battling for over a year to succeed previous Borough President Melinda Katz, who is now Queens’ district attorney. In June 2020, Richards beat Crowley by seven percentage points to secure the primary nomination to finish Katz’s term through December 2021, and then easily defeated Republican candidate Joann Ariola in the November general election.
Crowley sought a second chance with this year’s primary. She repeatedly highlighted her opposition to calls to “defund the NYPD” following a year of increased police protests and a spike in shootings. She issued mailers with phrases like “reckless politicians want to erase public safety resources” and sent others that resembled eviction notices.
Two weeks after the election, Richards celebrated the release of another round of ranking tabulations while accusing Crowley of racism. He alleged on Twitter that his opponent had stated that she’d win “because BLM [the Black Lives Matter movement] would die.”
@ElizCrowleyNYC told me she would win, because BLM would die? What’s good now?— Donovan Richards (@DRichardsQNS) July 7, 2021
In a statement issued the next day, Richards elaborated on his claims, stating that as a Black man, he would not “be silent when racist tactics are clearly at play.”
He said since his victory in last year’s primary, Crowley had “repeatedly insinuated” that she would have won if not for George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“She later attempted to bully me into giving her a job within our administration with veiled threats of a divisive and dirty campaign if I did not,” Richards said, adding that Crowley weaponized “politics of fear” throughout the race with her mailers which he called “racist dog whistles.”
In her concession statement, Crowley alluded to the negative tenor of the campaign’s final days.
“Politics is a tough business, and it can bring out the worst in some, but running in this race showed me once again how much we all have in common,” she said, adding that she felt “optimistic about the future of Queens.”
Since being inaugurated last December, Richards has opened an immigrant welcome center and has implemented sweeping changes to community boards. In an interview with Gotham Gazette published Thursday, he talked about other action items for his next term, including revisioning the Sunnyside Yard Development.
Richards, who did not immediately return requests for comment on Crowley’s concession, will face Republican candidate Thomas Zmich in the November general election.