Three Manhattan Assembly races to watch in the June 25 Democratic primary

Manhattan Assembly Member Eddie Gibbs
Assemblymember Eddie Gibbs is facing a tough challenge in the June 25 Democratic primary.
Photo by Dean Moses

Although a handful of heated Democratic Congressional primaries have taken up most of the oxygen this year, there are still some competitive races around the city for the Assembly and state Senate.

With supermajorities in both the state Senate and Assembly, state legislative Democrats are in a safe position going into November. But in the June 25 primary, some races have emerged in which Democratic incumbents are facing stiff challenges, or a number of hopefuls are seeking to win an open seat.

amNewYork Metro examined some of the more competitive Democratic Assembly primaries in Manhattan coming up on June 25. Early voting begins this Saturday, June 15, at designated early voting polling sites.

Assembly District 68

Incumbent Assemblymember Eddie Gibbs is defending his District 68 seat — which covers East Harlem, part of the Upper East Side and Randall’s Island — against challenges from Manhattan Community Board 11 Chair Xavier Santiago and District Leaders Tamika Mapp and William Smith.

Gibbs has been in office since 2022, when he won a special election to replace the district’s former representative Robert Rodriguez, who vacated the seat after Gov. Kathy Hochul tapped him to serve as secretary of state. The assemblymember, who was in prison for three years, is the first formerly-incarcerated individual to hold public office in the Empire State. During his time in Albany, Gibbs has advocated on behalf of both currently and formerly incarcerated individuals.

Gibbs carries endorsements from several powerful labor unions including District Council 37 (DC37), 32BJ SEIU and the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council.

However, Gibbs is in hot water over a campaign mailer claiming support from elected officials like Gov. Kathy Hochul and US Rep. Jerry Nadler, who never actually endorsed him — a report by the Daily News found.

Santiago — on top of chairing Manhattan Community Board 11 — is a film and television producer and a businessman, according to his website. He charges that Gibbs has not spent enough time focussed on the district, the New York Times reported.

Mapp is both a district leader and a state committee member. She is also the founder and CEO of the East Harlem Insurance Brokerage, according to her LinkedIn profile. Mapp has garnered endorsements from advocacy groups such as Eleanor’s Legacy, Met Council Action and Community Voices Heard.

Smith has served as a delegate to the 2022 and 2023 New York County Judicial Conventions, and has been a district leader since 2021, according to his campaign site.

Assembly District 69

In Assembly District 69, which covers portions of the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights, a cadre of candidates is vying to replace outgoing Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell — who is not running for reelection.

The packed field includes Gov. Kathy Hochul’s former Policy Director Micah Lasher; public defender Eli Northrup; Melissa Rosenberg, a vice president at the real estate lobbying firm Kasirer; former Manhattan Community Board 9 Chair Barry Weinberg; NYCHA Tenant Association President Carmen Quinones. and Dr. Jack Kellner.

O’Donnell has endorsed Northup as his preferred successor. In a statement on Northup’s website, the outgoing Assemblymember described him as “uniquely positioned” to serve the area with a “depth of understanding” and “empathy” that it deserves. 

Northup also appears to be running in the progressive lane of the race, with support from left-leaning organizations like the New York Working Families Party and Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.

Lasher also has strong support among local Democratic elected officials. He boasts endorsements from US Reps. Jerry Nadler and Adriana Espaillat, the area’s current Council Member Gale Brewer and Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. He has also gotten the backing of major labor unions like HTC and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT).

Rosenberg is a registered lobbyist who worked to get the mega-development Innovation QNS over the finish line in 2022, according to a report from City & State. Her campaign is mainly focused on housing, with an eye toward boosting development along with tenant protections.

Weinberg currently serves as first vice chair of Manhattan Community Board 9 and executive director of the Manhattan Democratic Party. He holds progressive stances on issues like housing and criminal justice reform.

Quinones has worked as president of the Frederick Douglass Houses Tenant Association for the past nine years. She is no stranger to Manhattan politics, having worked as chief of staff to two former Democratic Assemblymembers: Angelo Del Toro and Nelson Denis.

Kellner formerly worked for the city’s Health Department as a supervising physician for school health. He is putting his experience as a medical doctor front and center in his campaign, where mental health is one of the main issues he wants to address in Albany.

Assembly District 70

After unsuccessfully running for City Council last year, Assemblymember Inez Dickens announced earlier this year that she is hanging it up.

With Dickens out of the picture, four candidates are angling to replace her as the representative for Assembly District 70, which covers much of central Harlem. The candidates include Jordan Wright, son of Manhattan Democratic boss Keith Wright; former City Council candidate Maria Ordoñez; Shana Harmongoff, a former staffer for former state Sen. Brian Benjamin; and Justice Department staff attorney Craig Schley.

Wright is Dickens’ chosen successor and has the backing of City Council Member Yussef Salaam, whose district council overlaps with Assembly District 70. He also worked as Salaam’s campaign manager in the lawmaker’s successful bid for council last year.

Ordoñez is a progressive activist and organizer around issues like tenants’ rights, protecting the environment and election reforms, according to her website. She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America — and while she has not been endorsed by the group, she has nabbed the backing of other progressive organizations like Tenants PAC.

Harmongoff touts her four years of experience working as district office director and director of community affairs in Benjamin’s state Senate office. In that role, she says she oversaw COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts in the district, which includes Harlem and East Harlem.

Schley’s campaign boasts ideas like giving the City Council the authority to control rent increases and bring a film and television industry to Harlem.

Other Manhattan primary races

  • 10th Congressional District — Freshman incumbent U.S. Congress Member Dan Goldman is facing a challenge from two Brooklynites in the cross-borough district: strategist Bruno Grandsard and progressive political organizer Evan Hutchison.
  • 59th State Senate District — Incumbent state Senator Kristen Gonzalez, in her freshman term repping the triborough district covering parts of Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn, is being challenged by Queens businessman Gus Lambropoulos.
  • 71st Assembly District — Long-time Assembly Member Al Taylor is facing political organizer Julien Segura.
  • 72nd Assembly District — Incumbent Assembly Member Manny De Los Santos is being challenged by perennial candidate Francesca Castellanos.