What are the competitive City Council races in the general election this fall?

City Hall, home of the City Council
A view of the City Hall of New York
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With the calendar turned to August and the June City Council primaries long in the rear-view mirror, political observers are turning their attention to a handful of competitive general election races taking place across the city this November.

All 51 council members are up for reelection this year, just two years after they last ran for office, due to redistricting in 2022.

Roughly two-thirds of council incumbents sailed through the June primaries without a challenger. But there were still a few competitive primaries — though two of them were for open seats.

Each of the upcoming races are in purple districts currently represented by either a Democrat or Republican. One contest is occurring in a newly drawn open seat. 

amNewYork Metro put together a rundown of the potentially most nail-biting races this fall.

District 47, Brooklyn

The battle for the 47th District, a southern Brooklyn seat that spans from Bay Ridge to Coney Island, is perhaps the most anticipated this fall. 

The general election will see the district’s current Republican council member, Ari Kagan, pitted against Democratic Council Member Justin Brannan, who represents what is presently the neighboring District 43 and chair’s the council’s powerful Finance Committee.

The two incumbents have found themselves squaring off because their seats were drawn together in redistricting. 

Kagan, who was elected in 2021 as a Democrat, switched to the Republican Party last December following his district being combined with Brannan’s. However, he claimed his decision to switch parties was prompted by widening gaps between where he and many of the council’s Democrats stand on key issues like public safety.

City Council Member Ari Kagan
City Council Member Ari Kagan speaking at City Hall press conference where he announced he’s switching from the Democratic Party to the GOP. Monday, Dec. 5, 2022.Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

Kagan trounced his two GOP rivals in the June primary with over 75% of the vote on Election Night, easily nabbing the party’s nomination. And Brannan coasted through the Democratic primary with no declared challengers.

Since Kagan switched parties and launched his bid against Brannan, the two have publicly sparred, often taking shots at each other in statements and on Twitter.

One recent instance involved Brannan blasting Kagan as the only council Republican to vote against the Fiscal Year 2024 city budget, which Brannan had a big hand in shaping. Kagan said his vote was motivated by the plan not including enough funds for the NYPD to increase its headcount, even though the department actually received an additional $320 million in the budget.

Brannan, in a statement to amNewYork Metro, slammed Kagan for claiming to be a “law-and-order” candidate despite voting against an increase in police funding.

“I know Ari is still new to this Republican thing but if he wants to recast himself as Mr. Law & Order, he probably shouldn’t have voted against giving our cops a raise,” Brannan said.

Council Member Justin Brannan.Photo Credit: Gerardo Romo / NYC Council Media Unit.

Kagan, in an interview, bristled at that characterization and pointed to Brannan voting in favor of a budget in 2020 that cut $1 billion from the NYPD.

“That’s nonsense, absurd and [a] joke,” Kagan said. “This is a person who voted to cut $1 billion from the NYPD budget in the midst of the pandemic.”

Brannan has said he’s confident about his chances of taking the district, which is comprised of 55% registered Democrats and 17.3% registered Republicans. However, Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa just slightly won the district in 2021 by 0.5%.

District 43, Brooklyn

Another fierce showdown is shaping up in the newly-drawn council district that covers southern Brooklyn neighborhoods including Sunset Park, Bensonhurst, Graves End and Bath Beach.

The district was crafted to be the city’s first Asian-majority seat and will see two Asian candidates facing off in November: Democrat Susan Zhuang and Republican Ying Tan.

Zhuang, who served as chief of staff to Assembly Member William Colton (D-Brooklyn), won the Democratic nomination last month with a commanding 58% of the vote. On the other hand, Tan — a neighborhood activist — narrowly won her contest by just 33 votes over her competitor Vito Labella after ranked-choice counting.

Susan Zhuang, Democratic nominee for the 43rd City Council district.Photo courtesy of Friends of Susan Zhuang

But rather than drop out of the race, Labella announced last month he’d run in the general on the Conservative Party line. There’s concern among area Republicans, according to a published report, that Labella running as a third party candidate could split the vote and hand the race to Zhuang.

Local Republican strategist Lucretia Regina-Potter, who now serves as Assembly Member Alec Brook-Krasny’s chief of staff, told amNewYork Metro she believes Tan will be a strong candidate.

“She’s a hard working woman. She’s a mother, she’s a wife. She’s invested in the community,” Regina-Potter said. “And I think we need someone like that. She’s not what we call a hack, a political hack. She really wants to do positive things in the community.”

While the district is made up of roughly 52% registered Democrats, compared to 14% Republicans, it went for Sliwa in 2021 by 60%, compared to the 35% who voted for Adams.

District 19, Queens

In the northeastern corner of Queens, former City Council member and state Senator Tony Avella is taking on incumbent Republican Council Member Vickie Paladino — one of the most conservative lawmakers in City Hall. The district covers areas including Whitestone, Bayside and Little Neck.

Avella won the Democratic primary with 51% of the vote, overcoming rival Christopher Bae by just 123 votes after ranked-choice voting. With no primary opponent, Paladino automatically got the nomination.

Avella is trying to win the seat back in a rematch with Paladino, after she defeated him in 2021 by around 400 votes.

Council Member Vickie Paladino.Photo Credit: Gerardo Romo / NYC Council Media Unit.

Since Paladino took office, she has gotten into hot water on several occasions for making anti-LGBTQ plus comments and, more recently, her refusal to denounce serial lying Congress Member George Santos (R-Queens/Nassau County). Avella has hit her on both counts, recently slamming the pro-police GOPer for having her son’s Aston Martin adorned with expired Arizona temporary license plates in her Whitestone driveway.

“Vickie Paladino is a hypocrite,” Avella told the New York Post. “I’m not surprised. She talks about ‘law and order’ and then does whatever she wants.”

The district is 50% Democratic, compared to 20% Republican, but voted for Sliwa by a healthy 59% margin in 2021.

District 13, Bronx

Democratic first-term incumbent Majorie Velázquez will be defending her eastern Bronx seat — which includes neighborhoods like Throggs Neck, Morris Park, Pelham Bay and City Island — from Republican rival Kristy Marmorato this November.

Although there was a perception among politicos that Velázquez was vulnerable in the Democratic primary, due to her sudden change of heart on the Bruckner rezoning last year, she ended up defying expectations and nabbing a resounding victory with 67% of the vote on Election Night. Marmorato, meanwhile, won the Republican contest with 56 percentage points after ranked-choice counting.

Council Member Marjorie Velázquez.Photo credit: Gerardo Romo / NYC Council Media Unit

After winning her primary, Marmorato told the Bronx Times she believes she can win over enough Democrats in the district to overcome Velázquez in the fall, which would make her the first Republican to hold elected office in the Bronx since 2004.

The general election may be an uphill battle for Velázquez, because even though the district is 61% Democratic, Sliwa won it by one percentage point in 2021.