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Comptroller candidate Corey Johnson gets emotional casting Democratic primary ballot at birthplace of ACT UP

Photo: Alejandra O'Connell-Domenech

Term-limited City Council Speaker and candidate for New York City Comptroller Corey Johnson cast his ballot in the Democratic primary for mayor, comptroller and a slew of other races at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center in The Village early Tuesday morning. 

The site located in the former City Council member’s district had a slow but steady turnout of voters with the longest line consisting of only five people right before doors opened at 6:00 a.m. After casting his rank-choice ballot, marking himself down as first-choice for comptroller, Johnson told reporters and a small crowd of his supporters gathered outside the center it was “emotional” to potentially be the first LGBT citywide candidate to vote in the birthplace of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, otherwise known as ACT UP. 

The international organization was founded in the late 1980s by playwright Larry Kramer and worked to call attention to the HIV/AIDS crisis and eventually eased access to HIV treatment. 

Johnson, who is HIV-positive, said he wouldn’t be alive today if it was not for the work of the ACT UP.

“I cast my vote in the room ACT UP was founded in, as the only openly HIV-positive elected official in the state of New York …I’m mean, I’m alive because of organizing that happened in that room,” Johnson said. “I felt sort of the apparition of Larry Kramer in that room.” 

Brooklyn City Councilmember Brad Lander and Johnson both the presumed front runners in the comptroller’s race despite the speaker’s late entrance. 

The speaker did not officially decide to jump in at the beginning of March, nearly six months after dropping out of the New York City mayoral race. Johnson was considered a likely front runner in the bid for mayor but dropped out citing issues with depression. 

Outside of The Center, Johnson promised he was the best candidate for the city’s top financial officer given his experience negotiating the city’s budget during his time in the City Council. Apart from reviewing city contracts, auditing city agencies and watching over the city’s five pension funds, the comptroller also reviews the New York City budget. 

“I know the budget inside and out,” Johnson told reporters. ” This position is going to be incredibly important for our city’s recovery.We need someone who is thoughtful, strategic and prudent about how we handle the city’s finances.”

Like many fellow candidates, Johnson kept his rankings close to his heart and wouldn’t say Tuesday who he marked down as his second choice of New York City comptroller. After voting, Johnson traveled to the Upper West Side to talk to voters kicking off a four borough tour for the remainder of primary day. 

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