Yusef Salaam, a member of the “Exonerated Five,” has won the 9th City Council District Democratic Primary, according to preliminary ranked-choice voting (RCV) results released by city election officials Wednesday.
While Salaam had a nearly insurmountable lead on election night, where he was ahead of Assembly Member Inez Dickens (D-Manhattan) by about 25%, his victory was solidified Wednesday by preliminary RCV city Board of Elections (BOE) results that show him widening his lead over Dickens to about 3,000 votes — to 63.8% to 36.2% respectively. Following the release of the RCV tallies, the Associated Press called the race for him — a week after the June 27 primary.
Salaam — who spent seven years in prison after being falsely convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park in 1989, along with four other Black and Latino teenagers — promised in a Wednesday afternoon statement that his win will launch a “New Harlem Renaissance.”
“This is a victory for justice, dignity and decency for the Harlem community we love,” Salaam said. “It’s a victory in support of not turning our backs on those in need, for saying we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and for saying the only way for all of us to thrive is to believe in the promise we all have. We are going to have a New Harlem Renaissance.”
Under ranked-choice, voters can rank up to five candidates and if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the lowest vote-getter is eliminated, and their ballots are reallocated to the candidates their voters ranked second. That process continues until one contender nabs over 50% of the vote.
The ranked-choice results for the 9th District are based on in-person and absentee ballots collected up through Election Day, but those tabulations aren’t yet final, as there are more absentee votes to be counted. The BOE will release another round of updated preliminary ranked-choice counts next Tuesday — July 11 — once more ballots are counted.
The board will then certify the results after all of the ballots have been received and counted.
With 11,437 ballots counted in the 9th District, Salaam came out on top with 1,267 votes that were redistributed to him from eliminated rival candidates including Kristin Richardson Jordan — the area’s current council member who didn’t seek reelection but was on the ballot, Assembly Member Al Taylor (D-Manhattan) and write-in candidates. The write-ins were eliminated first, followed by Richardson Jordan and then Taylor.
With his victory, Salaam has overcome two veteran politicos in Dickens and Taylor. It is particularly notable that Salaam bested Dickens, as she’s a longtime fixture in Harlem politics who has represented the area in Albany and on the City Council.
A spokesperson for Dickens’ campaign declined to comment on the latest results.
Avella poised to win District 19
The new RCV results also showed that former council member and state Senator Tony Avella looks poised to be the Democratic nominee for the 19th District in north eastern Queens, maintaining his lead from Election Night. Avella’s victory is likely to set up a rematch between himself and GOP Council Member Vickie Paladino this fall, after Paladino came out on top by nearly 400 votes in the 2021 general election.
The RCV counting put Avella at 51% of the vote, giving him the slim margin needed to overcome rival Christopher Bae’s 48.9% — with just 123 votes separating the two. But more votes will have to be counted for there to be a clear winner.
Although Bae, a former prosecutor with the Queens district attorney’s office, picked up 56 more votes than Avella in ranked-choice, it wasn’t enough to overtake Avella’s lead.
Another candidate, Paul Graziano, was eliminated after coming in third with 24% of the vote.
Since taking office in 2022, Paladino has proven to be one of the council’s most conservative members, who has come under fire multiple times for making disparaging remarks about the LGBTQ plus community and drag story hour events. She was kicked off the council’s Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction by Council Speaker Adrienne Adams for such statements.
Avella declared victory in an emailed statement Wednesday, where he set his sights squarely on Paladino, labeling her an “embarrassment.” He took aim at her anti-LGBTQ plus comments and refusal to denounce Congress Member George Santos (R-Queens/Nassau County) after he was found to have fabricated much of his personal backstory.
“I am deeply grateful to the voters of District 19 for their show of support and the trust placed in me and my candidacy. Vickie Paladino is an embarrassment to our community and lacks the decency to lead us through these troubling times,” Avella said. “Our campaign to take back this seat has only just begun. We have the momentum and coalition to win, which is what we will do in November.”
Barron to fight another day
Meanwhile in another corner of the city, the RCV tallies appear to confirm that Charles Barron will be the only council incumbent not to retain his seat this cycle, losing to community organizer Chris Banks. The apparent loss comes after 22 years of Barron and his wife — Inez Barron — representing East New York in City Hall and Albany’s lower chamber.
In Wednesday’s results, Banks retained the over 50% of the vote needed to stop the race from going to RCV counting. Barron is currently trailing Banks by nearly five percentage points with 42.6% compared to Banks’ 50.8%.
Yet the longtime East New York lawmaker, who is an avowed socialist and one of the furthest left council members, said he saw the writing on the wall on Election Night. Barron made it clear that he wasn’t happy with the turnout — where just over 6,100 votes have been counted in the district so far — and that the 3,000 votes Banks won by is not “a mandate.”
“I told people the night of, that the race was over, they got it,” Barron told amNewYork Metro. “The 3,000 votes that my opponent got is certainly not a mandate for leading the district.”
But Barron said he has no plans to leave electoral politics and will likely be running for office in 2024 or 2025, although he didn’t indicate exactly which position he would vie for.
“Wait till you see me now, the best is yet to come,” Barron said. “We’re going to leave our options open. We’re going to bring the fire in 25, and our organization will determine who that candidate is, and we might even knock down the door in 24, the Assembly seat, and our organization will determine who that candidate will be.”