2023 elections

Most interesting 2023 New York City Council primary races to watch

From a rare open seat in Harlem to a new Asian-majority seat in Brooklyn, election night on June 27 will have some fireworks.

Assembly Member Inez Dickens is in a competitive race for the New York City Council District 9 seat in Harlem.

Assembly Member Inez Dickens is in a competitive race for the New York City Council District 9 seat in Harlem. Kevin Richards

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When New York City voters head to the polls for local primary elections this month, there will be new districts, ranked choice voting is back after its debut two years ago and several incumbents could face difficult reelection campaigns. Early voting starts on June 17 ahead of Election Day on June 27 for 24 New York City Council primaries in 21 districts, a couple interesting district attorney races and some races for judge, and lower-level positions like county committee. However, that means many incumbents will skate through primary season without a major challenge – so City & State is placing a spotlight on the open seats and competitive primaries likely to be the most interesting to watch on election night.

District 9

Central Harlem

Candidates: Kristin Richardson Jordan (Democratic), Al Taylor (D), Inez Dickens (D), Yusef Salaam (D)

Demographics: 49.2% Black, 26% Hispanic, 15.3% white, 4.2% Asian

2021 Democratic primary election results (first round): Bill Perkins: 21.1%, Kristin Richardson Jordan: 19%, Athena Moore: 10.9%, Cordell Cleare: 9.9%, Mario Rosser: 8.5%, William A. Allen: 6.4%, Keith Taylor: 5.6%, Joshua Albert Clennon: 5.4%, All other candidates combined: 13.2%

2021 mayoral general election results: Eric Adams (Democratic): 89.5%, Curtis Sliwa (Republican): 5.7%, All other candidates combined: 4.8%


Dickens: $49,933 + $162,435in matching funds (Total: $212,368)

Taylor: $38,079 + $174,032 in matching funds (Total: $212,111)

Richardson Jordan: $22,213 + $78,128 in matching funds (Total: $100,341)

Salaam: $75,887 + $116,607 in matching funds (Total: $192,494)

Notable Endorsements

Dickens: The Greater Harlem Coalition, the United Federation of Teachers, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, Rep. Adriano Espaillat and former Rep. Charlie Rangel

Salaam: Manhattan Democratic Party boss Keith Wright, former Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Open New York, Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, 2021 council candidate William Allen, Muslim Democratic Club of New York, public intellectual and People’s Party presidential candidate Cornel West

There’s an open seat in Harlem, and that doesn’t happen too often. New York City Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan’s name will still be on the ballot, but the choice to end her reelection campaign because she “couldn’t handle” negative media coverage means the race is between criminal justice activist Yusef Salaam and Assembly Members Inez Dickens and Al Taylor. And insiders said Taylor doesn’t look like a contender. So it’s Dickens, who has held elected office since 2006, and whose father and uncle served before her, versus the upstart Salaam, who gained fame as a member of the Central Park Five, wrongly imprisoned for a violent crime before getting exonerated. They’re not too far apart on issues, but Salaam is presenting more progressive, hoping to pick up would-be KRJ voters, while Dickens is highlighting her legacy as a proven winner.

District 43

Southern Brooklyn, including the neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Bensonhurst and Gravesend

Candidates: Wai Yee Chan (D), Susan Zhuang (D), Stanley Ng (D), Vito LaBella (R), Ying Tan (R)

Demographics: 54% Asian, 27% white, 15% Hispanic, 1% Black

2021 mayoral general election results: Curtis Sliwa (Republican): 60.1%; Eric Adams (Democratic): 35.2%; All other candidates combined: 4.6%


Zhuang (D): $38,014 + $174,800 in matching funds (Total: $212,814)

Chan (D): $59,004 + $174,800 in matching funds (Total: $233,804)

Ng (D): $39,855 + $174,591 in matching funds (Total: $214,446)

Tan (R): $38,778 + $128,007 in matching funds (Total: $166,785)

LaBella (R): $8,047 + $0 in matching funds (Total: $8,047)

Notable Endorsements 

Chan (D): United Federation of Teachers, state Sens. Iwen Chu, John Liu and Andrew Gounardes, New York City Council Member Justin Brannan

Zhuang (D): Assembly Member William Colton, The New Majority NYC

Tan (R): LaGuardia Republican Organization

LaBella (R): Brooklyn Republican Party, Kings County Conservative Party, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, former Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa

New York City’s redistricting process created a new majority-Asian American district – the first in Brooklyn – making it the rare seat with no incumbent this year. A boost to the city’s Asian American population reflected in the 2020 census prompted a groundswell of advocacy for this new district, which stretches through southern Brooklyn in a narrow staircase shape – up from Gravesend and Bensonhurst and ending in Sunset Park. And while the seat is likely to see a competitive general election in November, there are two contested primaries to get through first.

Running in the Democratic primary are three Chinese American candidates with ties to politics in the district, including Wai Yee Chan, executive director of social services nonprofit Homecrest Community Services; Susan Zhuang, chief of staff to Assembly Member William Colton; and education advocate and retired computer programmer Stanley Ng. Chan and Zhuang are running with the support of some local electeds, while Ng has cast himself favorably as a political outsider. Nevertheless, he has been active in some education advocacy issues, including suing the city in 2007, alleging discrimination against Asian Americans in a specialized high school test prep program. The candidates share generally moderate views, including on positions against defunding the New York City Police Department, and supportive of the city’s Gifted and Talented program and Specialized High School Admissions Test.

Those moderate views could be important in a district that’s likely to see a competitive general election race as well. Two Republicans are running in the primary, including community activist Ying Tan, who is Chinese, and Vito LaBella, who is white. LaBella ran for state Senate in southern Brooklyn in 2022, narrowly losing to Democrat Iwen Chu. Republican Curtis Sliwa won the district in the 2021 mayoral race, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin outperformed Gov. Kathy Hochul last year in some of these neighborhoods. But Democratic voter enrollment in the district still outpaces Republican and independent voter enrollment, with roughly 52% registered Democrats, according to data compiled by the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center.

District 41

Central Brooklyn, including the neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville and Crown Heights

Candidates: Darlene Mealy (D), Joyce Shearin (D), Isis McIntosh Green (D), Reginald Bowman (D)

Demographics: 70.8% Black, 15.9% Hispanic, 5.5% white, 1.5% Asian

2021 Democratic primary election results (first round): Darlene Mealy: 57.3%, Alicka Ampry-Samuel: 42.1%

2021 mayoral general election results: Eric Adams (Democratic): 92.2%; Curtis Sliwa (Republican): 5.1%; All other candidates combined: 2.7%


Mealy (D): $18,010 + $43,462 in matching funds (Total: $61,472)

McIntosh Green (D): $59,293 + $0 in matching funds (Total: $59,293)

Bowman (D): $3,687 + $0 in matching funds (Total: $3,687)

Shearin (D): $0 + $0 in matching funds (Total: $0)

Notable Endorsements

McIntosh Green: District Council 37, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, New York City District Council of Carpenters, Working Families Party, The New Majority NYC

Mealy: United Federation of Teachers

Don’t count out New York City Council Member Darlene Mealy, who has won this council district four times before, and many more times as Democratic district leader. But critics like Isis McIntosh Green have said Mealy doesn’t have much to show for those years in office, and she often doesn’t even show up for council meetings. McIntosh Green is allied with Assembly Member Latrice Walker and former Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, so this primary is just the latest battle in a longer power struggle. Also running are public housing advocate Reginald Bowman and author Joyce Shearin, but McIntosh Green – and not Mealy – is the only one who seems to be running an organized campaign.

District 47

Southern Brooklyn, including the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Coney Island and Sea Gate

Candidates: Justin Brannan (D), Ari Kagan (R), Anna Belfiore-Delfaus (R), Avery Pereira (R)

Demographics: 49% white, 20% Asian, 19% Hispanic, 9% Black

2021 Democratic primary election results (first round): Ari Kagan: 43.5%, Steven Patzer: 33.3%, Joseph Packer: 13.3%, Alec Brook-Krasny: 9.4%

2021 mayoral general election results: Curtis Sliwa (Republican): 47.8%; Eric Adams (Democrat): 47.3%; All other candidates combined: 5% 


Brannan (D): $123,029 + $170,264 in matching funds (Total: $293,293)

Kagan (R): $33,096 + $153,011 in matching funds (Total: $186,107)

Belfiore-Delfaus (R): $12,585 + $0 in matching funds (Total: $12,585)

Pereira (R): $8,435 + $0 in matching funds (Total: $8,435)

Notable Endorsements

Brannan (D): Transport Workers Union Local 100, New York City Central Labor Council, District Council 37

Kagan (R): Detectives’ Endowment Association, Sergeants Benevolent Association, Lieutenants Benevolent Association, Captains Endowment Association

Belfiore-Delfaus (R): New York City Council Member Inna Vernikov

Pereira (R): Former Brooklyn Republican Party Chair Craig Eaton

A newly carved up District 47 has caused quite a dustup in the City Council. Redistricting has forced Democratic Council Member Justin Brannan and (newly) Republican Council Member Ari Kagan to compete for this seat as incumbents, with Brannan representing the Bay Ridge section and Kagan representing the Bath Beach and Coney Island section under the current district lines. But with the neighborhoods combined into one district, only one of these incumbents will remain in the council after this year.

Kagan defected to the Republican Party after the new district lines were finalized. His justification? The Democratic Party was moving too far to the left. But before he has a shot at the seat in November, Kagan has to fend off a couple other Republican primary contenders, including Anna Belfiore-Delfaus, whose residency and recent work as a teacher has been questioned as well as special education teacher Avery Pereira.

District 13

East Bronx, including the neighborhoods of Throggs Neck, Pelham Bay and Morris Park

Candidates: Marjorie Velázquez (D), Irene Estrada (D), Bernadette Ferrara (D), John Perez (D), Kristy Marmorato (R), George Havranek (R), Hasime Samantha Zherka (R)

Demographics: 44.9% Hispanic, 31% white, 12.1% Black, 8.3% Asian

2021 Democratic primary election results (first round): Marjorie Velázquez: 56.3%, Monique Johnson: 25.9%, Irene Estrada: 6%, Marilyn Soto: 5.9%, John Perez: 5.5%

2021 mayoral general election results: Curtis Sliwa (Republican): 48.5%; Eric Adams (Democrat): 47.4%; All other candidates combined: 4%


Velázquez (D): $60,350 + $97,477 in matching funds (Total: $157,827)

Estrada (D): $280 + $0 in matching funds (Total: $280)

Ferrara (D): $12,313 + $68,248 in matching funds (Total: $80,561)

Perez (D): $0 + $0 matching funds (Total: $0)

Marmorato (R): $31,795 + $112,974 in matching funds (Total: $144,769)

Havranek (R): $43,599 + $174,800 in matching funds (Total: $218,399)

Zherka (R): $19,853 + $38,023 in matching funds (Total: $57,876)

Notable Endorsements

Velázquez (D): 32BJ SEIU, District Council 37, Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, New York State Nurses Association, 1199SEIU, The New Majority NYC

Estrada (D): Former Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa

Marmorato (R): Bronx Republican Party, New York City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli

Havranek (R): Former Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa

The City Council’s 13th District in the East Bronx has the highest share of Republican voters of any district in the (still solidly blue) borough. GOP mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa narrowly outperformed Eric Adams in 2021, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin won 47% of the vote in November. So it’s no surprise to see a competitive Republican primary in the Bronx district, where Democratic incumbent Marjorie Velázquez is fighting for reelection.

Republican primary candidates include Bronx GOP-backed Kristy Marmorato, former Bronx Community Board 10 member and Sliwa-aligned George Havranek, and business owner Hasime Samantha Zherka. While the three candidates, who are all also running in a Conservative Party primary, are hoping to capitalize on Republican enthusiasm in recent elections in the district this November, their own primary contests have fostered heated competition too. Marmorato’s opponents have accused the Bronx Republican Party of favoritism; the Bronx GOP chair is Marmorato’s brother, and her husband is a commissioner on the city Board of Elections. Meanwhile, Zherka has her own eyebrow-raising connections – her campaign manager Philip Grillo was charged with storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The dual primaries on the Republican and Conservative Party lines open up the possibility that two of these three candidates could make it to the November general election.

Velázquez, who in her first term received backlash over her opposition to (and then support of) a rezoning project in the district, is facing her own challengers in a Democratic primary. Former Democratic district leader and primary candidate Irene Estrada has criticized Velázquez for ultimately supporting the rezoning. Bronx Community Board 11 Chair and conservative Democrat Bernadette Ferrara is also running, as is Army veteran and former state Senate candidate John Perez.

District 19

Northeast Queens, including the neighborhoods of College Point, Whitestone and Bayside

Candidates: Vickie Paladino (R), Tony Avella (D), Christopher Bae (D), Paul Graziano (D)

Demographics: 39.2% white, 37.9% Asian, 19% Hispanic, 1.6% Black

2021 Democratic primary election results (first round): Tony Avella: 38.1%, Richard Lee: 29.2%, Austin Shafran: 19.8%, Adriana Aviles: 8%, Francis Spangenberg: 2.9%, Nabaraj KC: 1.4%

2021 City Council general election results: Paladino (Republican, Independent): 47.2%, Avella (Democratic): 45.7%, John-Alexander Sakelos (Conservative, Save Our City): 6.8%

2021 mayoral general election results: Curtis Sliwa (R): 59.4%, Eric Adams (D): 37.4, All other candidates combined: 3.2%


Paladino (R): $53,735 + $137,514 in matching funds (Total: $191,249)

Avella (D): $30,382 + $163,605 in matching funds (Total: $193,987)

Bae (D): $49,569 + $174,800 in matching funds (Total: $224,369)

Graziano (D): $21,975 + $147,440 in matching funds (Total: $169,415)

Notable Endorsements

Paladino (R): New York City Organization of Public Service Retirees, Corrections Officers’ Benevolent Association

Avella (D): Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Asian American Advisory Council of USA, United Federation of Teachers, New York League of Conservation Voters, League of Humane Voters of New York, Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal, Jefferson Democratic Club and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Democratic Association

Bae (D): United Federation of Teachers, state Sens. Jessica Ramos and John Liu, Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City

Graziano (D): Queens District Attorney candidate George Grasso

Tony Avella served in the City Council for eight years, the state Senate for eight years, ran for mayor twice and apparently just can’t quit politics. So the 71-year-old is hoping to unseat the 68-year-old Vickie Paladino after falling just short in 2021. But first, he has to get past Christopher Bae, a first-time candidate and former assistant district attorney in Queens who has received support from folks who haven’t forgiven Avella for joining the Independent Democratic Conference, like state Sens. John Liu and Jessica Ramos. Bae, who’s Korean American, is hoping to appeal to the district’s growing Asian population. Also running is Paul Graziano, who is running on a pro-downzoning NIMBY platform – even more so than Avella, whom he used to work for.

Avella is already focused on the general election though. He’s calling out Paladino for standing by lying Rep. George Santos, and somebody placed a story about the council member failing to disclose her unpaid debts.

Paladino has the power of incumbency, and the district has been trending rightward, but Democrats still have a huge voter enrollment advantage, and it’s harder to predict races this year. So District 19 is one of the top races to watch in both June and November.

District 42

East New York

Candidates: Charles Barron (D), Chris Banks (D), Jamilah Rose (D)

Demographics: 64.2% Black, 22.6% Hispanic, 3.8% Asian, 3.1% white

2021 Democratic primary election results (first round): Barron: 47.5%, Nikki Lucas: 36.6%, Wilfredo Florentino: 10.1%, Gena Watson: 5%

2021 mayoral general election results: Eric Adams (D): 91.3%, Curtis Sliwa (R): 7.1%, All other candidates combined: 1.6%


Barron: $24,597 + $90,467 in matching funds (Total: $115,064)

Banks: $22,135 + $133,304 in matching funds (Total: $155,439)

Rose: $7,955 + $0 in matching funds (Total: $7,955)

Notable Endorsements

Barron: Professional Staff Congress CUNY, NYC Kids PAC

Banks: District Council 37, United Federation of Teachers, New York City District Council of Carpenters

Socialist New York City Council Member Charles Barron is facing two Democratic challengers in this heavily blue district, with no Republicans in the race. Barron brings more than a decade of experience in the council – and a dynastic-like control of the seat for even longer – but perennial Barron challenger Chris Banks has picked up several major labor endorsements and, as of late May, had spent nearly three times as much money on the race as Barron. Banks is an antipoverty advocate who is running on a message of change – an unsurprising tactic for a challenge to Barron, who has represented the area in either the council or the Assembly for more than 20 years. Democrat Jamilah Rose, described on her Facebook page as a social justice advocate and a grant writer, is also running in the primary.