Dickens nabs early support in Harlem council race as The New Majority unveils endorsement slate

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Assembly Member Inez Dickens gets endorsement from The New Majority NYC in Harlem council race. Thursday, Feb 16, 2023.
Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

Assembly Member Inez Dickens (D-Manhattan), who’s challenging sitting City Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan for her Harlem seat, was among the first 27 early endorsees for this year’s elections from a group whose mission is to maintain and expand the council’s women-majority.

The New Majority NYC, the group formerly known as 21 in 21, also endorsed Susan Zhuang as its number one choice to represent the open newly reconfigured Council District 43, which was redrawn as an Asian-majority district, and Wai Yee Chan as its second. The organization is ranking its choices for certain council seats in keeping with the city’s ranked choice voting system.

They also endorsed several sitting City Council members including Majorie Velázquez (D-Bronx), kamilah Hanks (D-Staten Island), Rita Joseph (D-Brooklyn) and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (D-Queens).

“This slate of 27 women in 26 districts includes 23 incumbents, four non-incumbents, four women who were the first to represent their districts … three brand new moms, 13 mothers and some of those mothers are also grandmothers,” ​​said Jessica Haller, the group’s executive director, during a news conference in Foley Square Thursday afternoon.

The New Majority Executive Director Jessica Haller announcing the group’s endorsements in Foley Square.Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

The group overshot its goal in 2021, where it set out to elect at least 21 women to the council, by achieving a 31-member majority in the 51-person body. It then rebranded last fall as The New Majority NYC, with a revamped mission of both maintaining its success in the last election cycle and building on it in this year’s council races.

Teresa Gonzalez, the organization’s vice chair, said the group’s hopes of building on the council’s women-majority is what led it to endorse early.

“That historic election proved pivotal in delivering real results for communities across New York City,” Gonzalez said. “That’s why this cycle we are unapologetically leaning into ranked-choice voting and investing early in our endorsements. Because we understand the power of organizing and organizing early for women, and women of color, [seeking] elected office.”

Dickens, who’s one of several candidates challenging Richardson Jordan over the Democratic socialist’s role in opposing the One45 rezoning, spoke to the importance of women candidates supporting one-another’s runs for office. For instance, she said her run as the first Black woman for City Council speaker in 2013 “set the stage” for Speaker Adams to nab the position two years ago.

“We will empower one another, we will stand on each other’s shoulders, we will fight for each other and we will not any longer tear one another down,” Dickens said. “I stand here as the first black woman to run for the New York City Council speakership in 2013, that I didn’t win, but I’ve set the stage, so that last year, we did get a strong woman, are a woman of color, who became the first Black woman to be the speaker of the City Council.”

Richardson Jordan was contacted but didn’t apply, according to Haller.

In the first round of the endorsement process, Haller said, the group sought out candidates to apply for its stamp of approval. While reviewing the applications, the organization looked for candidates who demonstrated their support for its “bottom-line issues,” which includes pay equity and abortion access. 

They also asked candidates to show their path to victory.

“The board then reviews the applications, interviews all the candidates and provides recommendations, not the final decision,” Haller said. “Then the membership votes, has a ranked-choice voting process, closed voting process, and then that’s the endorsement. So it’s really driven by the members.”

The New Majority will open its second round of endorsement applications Friday, where candidates who didn’t apply in the first round will get the chance to throw their hats in the ring, Haller said. In the second round, the group will likely endorse in districts it didn’t get to in the first round and add more ranked candidates across districts.