There will be a mass exodus from the New York City Council in 2021. After serving two consecutive four-year terms, 34council members out of 51 districts are term-limited and will have to leave office at the end of 2021. Some of them already had exit plans – City Council Member Rafael Espinal Jr. resigned earlier this year to take a job leading the Freelancers Union and Council Members Ritchie Torres and Donovan Richards are expected to resign later this year after they win their races for Congress and Queens borough president, respectively. Most of the others will serve out their terms, but that doesn’t mean they’re not planning for the next step in their careers. Some city lawmakers have already filed with the New York City Campaign Finance Board and announced their ambition to seek higher office. For example, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is running for mayor in 2021, and every move he makes – or doesn’t make – is viewed through that prism.
Most of the more than dozen council members who are not term-limited in 2021 are expected to run for reelection, and historical precedent tells us that the incumbents will be favored. But another term isn’t guaranteed, as evidenced by City Council Member Robert Holden unseating Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Crowley in 2017. At least two members that aren’t term-limited are on their way out anyway, with Council Member Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx announcing that he won’t run for reelection and Council Member Bill Perkins of Harlem expected to retire as well.
Recent former council members have ended up everywhere from the halls of Congress to a prison cell. Here is where each term-limited New York City Council member may be headed after their career in the City Council ends in 2021.
According to a spokesperson in her office, “While Council Member Chin doesn’t have concrete plans to share at this time, she has no doubt she will continue to stay engaged on the issues important to Lower Manhattan communities.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is running for mayor in 2021. He’s aiming to appeal to progressives, talking up safe streets while capping donations at $250 and pledging not to accept contributions from real estate firms, lobbying groups or corporate political action committees. Other top contenders include City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Last fall, the city lawmaker launched his run forManhattan borough president. The council member has dozens of labor union endorsements and the support of fellow Upper East Sider Rep.Carolyn Maloney. But Kallos, who has nearly $105,000 in his campaign account as of July, is expected to face a crowded field, including his colleague Council Member Mark Levine.
The Upper West Side council member was fundraising for a run for comptroller, but announced in July – a year before the June 2021 Democratic primary – that she would be dropping out of the race. She told Gotham Gazette that, while she wants to stay in public service, she doesn’t plan to run for another office in 2021.
Council Member Mark Levine isrunning for Manhattan borough president in 2021 and is currently leading the other candidates in fundraising, including Kallos, with more than $180,000 in the bank as of July. The Manhattan Democrat has also received endorsements from Assembly Member Al Taylor and Council Member Margaret Chin, who was once rumored to be eyeing the office herself.
Ydanis Rodriguez failed in his 2020 bid to succeed Rep. José E. Serrano in representing the 15th Congressional District in the South Bronx – which may have had something to do with the fact he lives in Manhattan. His colleague, Council Member Ritchie Torres, is expected to take the seat in November. With the federal bid behind him, Rodriguez is now rumored to be eyeing a run for Manhattan borough president.
According to his office, the council member will not make definitive decisions about his future before the presidential election. “Elect[ing] a Democratic president remains a top priority,” his spokesperson said. “However, he is exploring a run for Bronx borough president and looking favorably at the position as an opportunity to contribute to revitalization and progress in the borough.” Andrew Cohen, a lawyer, was previously considering becoming a judge in the state Supreme Court.
The Bronx Democrat is facing his third set of ethics charges in just two years. The Council Standards and Ethics Committee’s allegations against the council member include disorderly conduct and conflicts of interest, according to The New York Times. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in February that King should be removed from office if found guilty of the charges. Allegations against King come after a one month suspension from the council this past fall. Regarding his future plans, King declined to comment.
Fernando Cabrera dropped his bid to challenge Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the 2020 Democratic primary after former news anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera entered the race. That was probably a good idea, since AOC soundly defeated her. Cabrera said he now plans to run for Bronx borough president in 2021, where he’ll likely face other current colleagues, including Council Member Vanessa Gibson.
Ritchie Torres is all but guaranteed to become the first new member of Congress in the South Bronx in nearly three decades, after topping a crowded field in the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. José E. Serrano. Torres will likely resign from the council at the end of 2020, setting up a special election early in 2021 to fill his Bronx seat.
Vanessa Gibson is campaigning to be the Bronx’s top executive, running to succeed the term-limited Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. She’s expected to face other council colleagues including Fernando Cabrera. She hasn’t started fundraising, as of July, and her campaign account was more than $9,000 in debt.
The northeastern Queens council member decided against running for the open Queens borough president seat in 2020. While he hasn’t publicly announced future plans, the council member would seem to have options, such as becoming a judge like his brother, former City Council Member Peter Vallone Jr., or joining Constantinople & Vallone Consulting LLC, his father’s lobbying firm.
The Queens Democrat was elected to the City Council in 2009 and continues to own and run a local chain of pharmacies. According to his spokesperson, “His future plans are to be determined, but all options are open.”
The council memberannounced his bid for Queens borough president in September, but appears destined for a third place finish in the June Democratic primary behind the likely winner, City Council Member Donovan Richards, and Elizabeth Crowley, a former City Council member. The Astoria council member’s future plans aren’t yet known.
The council memberran for Queens district attorney in 2019 but suspended his campaign just four days before the primary election and endorsed the eventual winner, Melinda Katz. Rory Lancman’s spokesperson declined to comment on his future plans, but as an attorney and the husband of a judge, Lancman has been rumored to be eyeing a seat on the bench himself.
The Queens Democrat told City & State that he does not have any specific plans yet, but wants to go into education administration or policy. A former public school teacher, the council member used to chair the council’s Education Committee. “Education is my passion,” Dromm said. “That’s why I ran for the position in the first place.”
Jimmy Van Bramer
The Western Queens council member planned to run for Queens borough president in 2020, but suspended his campaign before the primary, reportedly due to concerns about his mother’s health. A source with knowledge of Jimmy Van Bramer’s thinking told City & State that he is considering his options in regard to a run for Queens borough president in 2021 and a run for Assembly in 2022.
- Daneek Miller
City Council Member I. Daneek Miller has served on the council since 2013. According to his spokesperson, the Queens Democrat is not ready to announce his future plans right now.
City Council Member Karen Koslowitz was first elected to the City Council in 1991 and reelected in 2009. “After she leaves the council, she would like to work part time, in either the private sector or the government sector,” her spokesperson told City & State. “She will continue to be active in the affairs of her neighborhood, continuing to promote the interests of her community.”
While votes continue to be counted in the race for Queens borough president, Donovan Richards seems all but guaranteed to win the Democratic primary, which would make him a virtual lock to win in November and take office before the end of the year. A special election would then be held for Richards’ Southeast Queens council seat in early 2021. Richards would be expected to run for his first full term as borough president later in 2021.
Last year, the Queens Republican lost the special election for New York City public advocate to fellow Council Member Jumaane Williams. Now, Eric Ulrich has expressed interest in becoming the executive director of the New York City Board of Elections, for which he needs the vote of six commissioners on the board. While Ulrich toyed with running for mayor in 2017 before ultimately declining; he isn’t expected to vie for the party’s nomination in 2021.
At this time, the Brooklyn Democrat could not give a comment to City & State. As the chair of the council’s General Welfare Committee, Stephen Levin could likely get a job running a social services nonprofit.
The Brooklyn Democrat is running to replace Eric Adams as Brooklyn borough president. He’s raised nearly $105,000 and still has more than $81,000 in his campaign account, as of July.
The City Council majority leader was rumored to be considering a run for Brooklyn borough president, but hasn’t made any moves yet and hasn’t formed a campaign committee.
Robert Cornegy Jr.
Like his colleague Antonio Reynoso, the tallest politician in New York is running for Brooklyn borough president. Robert Cornegy Jr. has raised more than $192,000 for the race, but as of July, has just $32,000 left in his campaign account.
City & State has not received a comment from the Brooklyn Democrat. As the chair of the council’s Immigration Committee, Carlos Menchaca could likely get a job in immigration advocacy.
The Brooklyn Democrat hopes to succeed New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer in 2021. And with Helen Rosenthal dropping out of the race, he may be the only council member running – though he’s facing a handful of state legislators. Brad Lander has racked up endorsements from progressives like state Sens. Alessandra Biaggi and Julia Salazar, and he had more than $351,000 in his campaign account as of July.
The “Haitian sensation,” who is currently the longest-serving member of the City Council, tells City & State he’s eyeing a run for Brooklyn borough president. But unlike his colleagues, he has yet to officially declare for the seat and hasn’t started fundraising.
As of right now, the Brooklyn Democrat has not decided to share her plans with City & State, but observers think she may attempt to swap seats once again with her husband, Assembly Member Charles Barron, who held this council seat before her.
City Councilman Alan Maisel was elected to the council in 2013. According to his office, the Brooklyn Democrat has not made plans for his future yet.
The Education Committee chair is rumored to be considering a bid for Brooklyn borough president, but he has not yet filed a 2021 campaign committee.
The southern Brooklyn council member failed in his bid to unseat Rep. Yvette Clarke in the 2020 Democratic congressional primary. Now Chaim Deutsch is rumored to be considering a run for Brooklyn borough president, after raising his boroughwide profile by running for Congress. But he hasn’t yet filed a 2021 campaign account.
The North Shore council member was rumored to be considering a run for Staten Island borough president, but no longer appears to be aiming for the seat. She hasn’t filed a committee for the 2021 elections yet, but as chair of the Committee on Youth Services, Deborah Rose would be well positioned for a nonprofit position after leaving office.
The City Council minority leader is the only official candidate running to succeed the term-limited Jimmy Oddo as Staten Island borough president. And with more than $156,000 in his campaign account, the Republican may scare off any opposition, at least from his own party.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Robert Cornegy Jr. as the world's tallest politician. He was unseated in October by Jon Godfread, North Dakota's insurance commissioner.
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