Turnout for the primary elections this past Tuesday was paltry, as it is not the year for electing the president, governor, or mayor. For political activists and community leaders, however, the primary offered the opportunity to determine the future of the Democratic Party. Would it be represented by centrists or leftists? The election also demonstrated which communities were more politically active in shaping the membership of the City Council, among other local seats.

Queens District Attorney

With nearly two-thirds of the vote counted at our printing deadline, Melinda Katz secured her reelection for a second term with 70 percent of the vote. Her opponent, former cop George Grasso, ran on a conservative platform, arguing that she was not tough enough on crime. To her left, the third name on the ballot was Devian Daniels, a defense attorney. They each received less than 15 percent of the vote. She will be facing Republican Michael Mossa in the November general election. At this time, the Howard Beach resident does not have a campaign website or social media but is the endorsed candidate for both the county Republican and Conservative parties.

Council District 20

The Council District covering northeast Queens is represented by Republican Vickie Paladino and is a historic stronghold for her party. Seeking to flip the seat, the Democrats competed in their party’s primary, with former Councilman Tony Avella leading over former prosecutor Christopher Bae and neighborhood planning activist Paul Graziano. Having served in the Council and State Senate, Avella has name recognition. He tried to get his old seat back in 2021, losing to Paladino by less than 400 votes.

Council District 23

Incumbent Linda Lee, who has the support of Queens Jewish community leaders, was challenged by progressive Steven Behar, who was a staffer for her predecessor Barry Grodenchik and ran for this seat in earlier races. In this primary, Lee secured nearly two-thirds of the vote.

Council District 29

Incumbent Lynn Schulman was elected two years ago as the favored candidate of the party organization with the support of her predecessor Karen Koslowitz. She has the unique role connecting with progressives on LGBTQ issues and at the same time responsive to the needs of the Jewish community in combating anti-Semitism and supporting nonprofit organizations that serve the youth and the elderly.

Her opponent, labor attorney Ethan Felder, ran last year in a primary against Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi. This time, he secured a third of the vote against Schulman and will likely remain active on the local political scene.

Council District 22

The district covering Astoria and Long Island City is the hotspot for progressive politics in the borough, on the city, state, and federal levels. But unlike in actual socialist elections, voters here had a choice between incumbent Tiffany Cabán and former cop Charles Castro. Having a motivated base of activist voters and a list of accomplishments since her last election two years ago, Cabán had a landslide win with over 86 percent of the vote among her party voters.

Council District 42

Here was a rare upset where the progressive incumbent with name recognition lost to a first-time candidate. Charles Barron is the former Black Panther and outspoken supporter for BDS who has represented East New York in the Council, then State Assembly, and again the Council for 21 years. With two-thirds of the vote counted, our readers can rejoice in Barron’s defeat.

The upstart who defeated him is Chris Banks, a member of the local community board and Chair of the Board of Directors for the Boulevard Houses Nursery Day Care in East New York.

Republican Primaries

In four Brooklyn Council Districts, Republican voters had the opportunity to choose between local party activists and elected incumbents who joined the party in protest of progressive policies such as bail reform and the proposed closing of the Rikers Island jail.

In District 47, Democrat-turned-Republican Ari Kagan has a comfortable future in his new party, securing three-fourths of the vote for the district that stretches from Coney Island to Bay Ridge. In the general election, he will be facing off against his Democratic colleague Justin Brannan as they were placed in the same district following the last redistricting.

In District 44, Democrat Kalman Yeger, who ran on both party lines two years ago, will be doing it again this year, narrowly defeating anti-pandemic lockdown activist Heshy Tischler for the Republican ticket. This district covers Borough Park and Ocean Parkway.

Hyper-Local in West Hempstead

For our suburban readers, this past Tuesday was an uneventful day, as all local incumbents ran unopposed, unless you consider the Democratic County Committee within the Town of Hempstead as a race worth watching. For his unpaid hyperlocal party position, incumbent Owen Rumelt won his reelection with 23 votes or 43 percent, against progressive activist Skylar Bader, who received eight votes, according to unofficial results published by the Nassau County Board of elections. Rumelt is an attorney and past president of the Young Israel of West Hempstead.

Being a resident of this district, I counted four election workers at 6:30 a.m. at my poll site for an election that had fewer than 30 ballots cast on that day. They congratulated me on casting the first ballot. Having recently participated in a contentious revote on public school taxes last week, there’s got to be a more cost-effective way to conduct a primary for an office that most voters have never known about.

 By Sergey Kadinsky