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The field is nearly set for NYC's first ranked-choice election

David Brand :: Queens Daily Eagle

The field is nearly set for New York City’s first test of ranked-choice voting , with 11 candidates submitting their paperwork to run in the Feb. 2 special election to replace ex-Councilmember Rory Lancman.

Lancman left office Nov. 3 to take a job in the Cuomo administration, giving candidates until Nov. 18 to file their petitions for the nonpartisan race to represent Central Queens’ District 24.

The election will give District 24 voters the chance to rank their top five candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, the last-place finisher is eliminated and voters who picked that candidate will have their second choice tallied. That process will continue until one candidate receives a majority of the vote.

The new dynamic should unite coalitions of candidates looking to win over diverse sections of the district, Common Cause New York executive director Susan Lerner told the Eagle earlier this month.

“In a winner-take-all race, when you talk to a voter and they’ve made up their minds, that’s the end of the conversation,” Lerner said. “In a ranked-choice voting campaign, that’s the beginning of the conversation.”

Successful coalitions could transcend traditional blocs in the multicultural, multi-ethnic District 24. There’s a large Orthodox Jewish population in Kew Gardens Hills, including one of the nation’s largest communities of Bukharian Jews. There are various South Asian communities in Jamaica Hills, including many residents who identify as Hindu and Muslim.

A predominantly white, moderate electorate dominates the vote in Briarwood and pockets of Jamaica Estates and Hillcrest. The Pomonok Houses feature a larger number of Black and Latino New Yorkers. And the Electchester section adds another wrinkle: the complex houses many members of the IBEW labor union, who have tended to vote as a bloc in favor of the union-endorsed candidate.

The candidates’ ideologies run the spectrum from “avowed socialist” to “guy who routinely posts #MAGA on his Facebook page,” but none can claim the Democratic or Republican line. In a special election, candidates must make up their own party names.

That means Democratic Socialists of American-affiliated organizer Moumita Ahmed will run on the Mo For The People line, while Republican Committeeman Philip Grillo — the big-time Trump supporter — is running on the Save Our City line.

But there may be a twist. Two people familiar with Grillo’s candidacy say he is holding the line for another candidate, Republican attorney Leo Jacobs. Neither responded to requests for comment, but Jacobs was recently profiled in the Bukharian Times .

Former Councilmember James Gennaro, a conservative Democrat, is looking to reclaim his old seat by running on the “Queens Strong” line. He remains a popular figure among Orthodox Jewish residents of the district.

Small business owner Deepti Sharma is running on the “A Better Queens” line. Higher education executive Dilip Nath chose the “Your Voice Matters” party. Retired psychologist Howard Nieman represents “Law and Liberty.”

Three candidates initially filed the same party name: Queens Democratic District Leader Neeta Jain, Jamaica attorney Soma Syed and real estate agent Michael Earl Brown each chose the “Community First” party.

But Jain filed first, so she claims that name. Brown abandoned his first petition and submitted a new one designating his party as “United Citizens.” Syed said she will be running on the “Soma for Queens” line.

Mujib Rahman is running on the “Unity” line. And Angelo King went with the aptly named “King for Queens” party.

The ballot still isn’t set, however. Candidates have a few days to challenge each other’s petitions and knock rivals off the ballot.

Whoever wins on February 2 will hop right back on the campaign trail. They must defend their seat in the regularly scheduled party primaries before the November general election for one of 34 open Council seats.

They may face an ever larger field come June.

At least two other candidates, attorney Stanley Arden and e-commerce consultant Josh Maynard, say they are gearing up for the primary. Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal is also weighing a run.

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