Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


Special City Council Elections

Some special elections have lots of drama. Last week, voters on Long Island were treated – or subjected -- to one of the most expensive state legislative races in New York history, campaign visits by luminaries such as Hillary Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani and inflammatory campaign flyers about gay marriage and the terrorist threat facing New York (and Israel). In the end Democrat Craig Johnson beat Maureen O’Connell for the State Senate seat – at a cost of at least $5 million – or $100 a vote.

Who Votes and How

The special elections for two City Council seats on February 20 is open only two registered voters – of all parties – living in the two districts: the 40th in central Brooklyn and the 51st on the South Shore of Staten Island. (To determine if you live in either one, go to Gotham Gazette’s Find Your District.)

Polls will be open to 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. To find out where to vote, go to the Board of Election’s poll site locator.

In New York City things seem more polite. There is not much money or vicious campaign literature in the campaigns for two City Council seats – one in Central Brooklyn to replace Yvette Clarke, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November and the other to fill the seat left vacant when Andrew Lanza moved on to the State Assembly.

The Brooklyn race in the 40th district features ten candidates, many of them immigrants or children of immigrants, vying to represent a district with a large Caribbean population. Candidates cite an array of issues as important, including affordable housing, jobs, education and health care. While their solutions to these problems vary, much of the campaign has centered on whose experience would best serve the interests of the district – and on ethnic politics. Eight of the candidates have ties to the Caribbean or Central America, with a number of nationalities represented. The race could give the City Council its first Haitian member or its first Pakistani.

The Staten Island race is more sharply focused. Only two candidates, one Democrat and one Republican, will appear on the ballot and one issue – overdevelopment of the island’s South Shore – overrides all others.

However these midwinter races turn out, more elections are on the way. Even though most City Council members will not be up for re-election in November, the two members elected on February will be. Governor Eliot Spitzer is expected to call special elections to replace Assemblymembers John Lavelle of Staten Island, who died earlier this month, and Pete Grannis of Manhattan, who is leaving the Assembly to become state environment commissioner. And if Ignizio wins his election on Tuesday, voters on Staten Island’s South Shore will probably be going to the polls once again – to choose someone to fill his seat in the State Assembly.

For more on the Brooklyn race, click here.

For more on the Staten Island race, click here.


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