On Nov. 7, New Yorkers hit the polls to decide who will fill all 51 seats on the City’s council. While the majority of the races were uncompetitive, with residents seemingly satisfied with their incumbents, a few key races took the spotlight this election cycle.
Of particular note was the race won by Yusef Salaam, one of five men who were wrongly imprisoned as teenagers following the Central Park jogger rape case in 1989.
According to unofficial results from the city’s elections board, the Democratic candidate won his seat unopposed, and will now represent a central district in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood.
Salaam’s bid for city council may have been helped by a 2019 Netflix documentary that portrayed his story of being erroneously convicted of a crime he didn’t commit.
“The good thing about my story is that my story represents the microcosm of the macrocosm of all cases just like mine,” Salaam said in his victory speech. “When people see me, I want them to see themselves. I want them, when they think about the word ‘impossible,’ that they understand that inside the word ‘impossible’ is ‘I’m possible.’”
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This year’s elections were unique. Due to redistricting and changes to the New York City Charter in 2020, council members elected during the 2021 and 2023 council elections will serve only two-year terms, with full four-year terms resuming following the 2025 election cycle.
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Brooklyn and Queens highlights
Following the redrawing of district lines, two councilmembers, Justin Brannan a Democrat and Republican Ari Kagan, found themselves in a new district, 47, representing Bay Ridge and Coney Island.
Brannan won the seat with Kagan conceding just an hour after polls closed.
In a statement following his victory Brannan said the race was “tough” and at times riddled with “toxic tribalism.”
“Make no mistake, this was a tough race and, at times, the toxic tribalism that has really ravaged our politics beyond recognition felt insurmountable,” Brannan said.
Kagan said, “This race did not end the way we wanted. We worked very hard, we brought important issues that are relevant to all New Yorkers.”
In Brooklyn’s District 43, which has been referred to as the “Asian opportunity district” due to its 54-percent Asian majority, Democrat Susan Zhuang won the seat, beating out two opponents, including Republican Ying Yan.
The elections were marred by an extremely low voter turnout. Of the 4.6 million active voters in the city, only about 313,000 decided to vote.
Assembly District Leader, Richard David, said, “Some have lost faith in the system. Some people don’t believe that them voting is actually going to lead to a change in their outcome, and a lot of people are really not connected to their government,” CBS New York reported.
Queens will be seeing a familiar face after Tuesday’s election with incumbent Republican Vickie Paladino beating her opponent Tony Avella, a former councilman and state senator who was considered formidable competition.
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Unsurprisingly, Democrats walked away with the most wins in a city where Joe Biden garnered 53 percent of the vote following the last presidential election.
Prior to the election, the city council consisted of 45 Democrats and six Republicans, a power balance that remained the same following Tuesday’s election. However, Republicans did manage to pull off an election night stunner.
Democrat Marjorie Velázquez lost to Republican Kristy Marmorato by six percentage points, and according to the Bronx Times, became the first Republican to win public office in the borough since 2004. According to RRH Elections, she’s the first city councilor elected from the borough since 1981.
While not winning an actual seat, some Republicans gained some much-needed ground.
Brian Robinson, Republican and member of the Parent Party, managed to secure nearly 26 percent of the vote in his district, but was defeated by Democrat Keith Powers. Helen Qiu, a Republican vying for the 1st District, managed to garner a respectable 31.5 percent of the vote.