With an open seat race, a crowd of 12 candidates are seeking to succeed Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz. In the past, the support of Queens party leaders for a primary candidate usually ensured that person winning the race, but in recent years, the “County” endorsement has not been as effective, as leftist candidates successfully ran with grassroots campaigns that used social media for funding, volunteers, and votes.
Next year’s primary for City Council also features an innovation passed last year by the City Council: ranked choice voting. In this voting method, the public can choose a favorite candidate, then a second favorite. If a candidate wins the majority of first-choice votes, that person wins outright. If no one has a majority of first-choice votes, the person with the lowest number of first-choice votes is eliminated. That candidate’s votes are redistributed to the second-choice candidate on the ballots. The process is repeated until only two candidates remain, and then the winner.
In this race, the presence of multiple Jewish candidates – Avi Cyperstein, David Aronov, Sharon Levy, Lynn Schulman, and Douglas Shapiro – does not mean a divided Jewish vote as it would have in past races. Jewish voters can rank Cyperstein as their favorite, or second favorite, and if Cyperstein receives the most first and second choice votes, he can still emerge as the Democratic Primary winner. Candidates can encourage their voters to vote for them as their first choice, and then someone else as their second choice.
Ranked choice voting is also known as an “instant runoff,” as the results automatically narrow down the field if nobody receives an outright majority. The Independent Budget Office estimated that that could save $20 million for each election cycle that would have required holding a runoff election.
The race for this central Queens district also includes a leftist, Aleda Gagarin, whose husband Mel ran this past summer in a primary against Rep. Grace Meng and received 20 percent of the vote. He ran as a Democratic Socialist, a movement that seeks to promote the boycott of Israel and other positions detrimental to the Jewish community.
With ranked choice voting, Jewish voters can vote for multiple candidates, picking their top choices and second choices, whose percentages can outnumber the votes received by the leftists. The expansion of voting by mail and early voting in person has already demonstrated a higher than usual turnout, as lines of voters stretched around Borough Hall and Queens College.