A New Yorker’s Guide to Key Races in Today’s Primary

Voters are headed to the polls today to voice their picks for mayor, public advocate and City Council positions.

People exit the building after voting at Public School 321 on April 19, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

As voters head to the polls all day Tuesday, here’s a look at some of the key races taking place today, including the mayor, the public advocate and a number of open City Council seats.

This year, six state legislators looking to leave Albany, including Bronx State Senator Rubén Díaz, Sr., a conservative Democrat and Bronx Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, who has spent more than $700,000 on his campaign. There are also open seats due to term limits, including that of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and due to Council members not seeking reelection: Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield and Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.


Mayor Bill de Blasio will be facing former Brooklyn City Councilman Sal Albanese, police reform activist Robert Gangi, millennial tech entrepreneur Michael Tolkin and attorney Richard Bashner. On the Republican side, Staten Island Assemblywoman, the presumptive GOP nominee, is running unopposed.

Public Advocate Letitia James, who was first elected to the position in 2014 and is the first African-American woman to hold a citywide post, is facing a primary challenge from history professor David Eisenbach, who teaches courses on the American presidency, LGBT history and the Western civilization at Columbia University.


The race for the Bay Ridge seat held by term-limited Councilman Vincent Gentile, who is running for Brooklyn district attorney, includes Democrats Justin Brannan, who worked for Gentile and the city’s Department of Education — and has been backed by James, the United Federation of Teachers and the Transport Workers Union — and Rev. Khader El-Yateem, the pastor of Salam Arabic Lutheran Church who would be the first Arab American elected to the City Council. The Democratic Socialists of America and the New York State Immigrant Action Fund endorsed him.

Nancy Tong, Democratic district leader in the 47th Assembly district; Kevin Peter Carroll, a staffer for Brooklyn Councilman Stephen Levin; and Vincent Chirico, who served as chief of staff for Assemblyman Peter Abbate, are also in the running.

The Republican candidates are civic leader Bob Capano, who has served as an aide to former Borough Presidents Marty Markowitz and Howard Golden and former Congressman (now Queens GOP chairman) Bob Turner; Liam McCabe, a former aide to Staten Island Congressman Dan Donovan; Lucretia Regina-Potter, the Republican district leader for the 46th Assembly district; and John Quaglione, communications director for State Senator Marty Golden.

There is also a tense race for the seat held by the late Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez — who has worked in the Brooklyn DA’s office for about 20 years — is facing off against Anne Swern, a Democratic district leader; Awa Dimoh, special counsel to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams; Gentile; Marc Fliedner, who served under former Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes and his predecessor Elizabeth Holtzman; and Patricia Gatling, an assistant district attorney under Hynes between 1990 and 2002.

Gonzalez has been backed by the Brooklyn congressional delegation, women’s rights groups and James. Fliedner was endorsed by Our Revolution, an organization that supports the principles of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2016 presidential nominee.


In the race for the seat held by Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who is not running for reelection, Queens Assemblyman Francisco Moya is running against former Queens Councilman and State Senator Hiram Monserrate, who was expelled from the Senate in 2010 after he was convicted of slashing his girlfriend at the time. In 2012, he also pleaded guilty to misusing City Council discretionary funds to fund his campaign for the Senate.

De Blasio, James, a slate of women’s rights groups and incumbent Ferreras-Copeland have all backed Moya. But Monserrate has the advantage of name recognition and deep relationships in the community, along with a strong Latino and black voter base. He has also been endorsed by the Black Institute’s Bertha Lewis.

And the race for the seat formerly held by disgraced Councilman Ruben Wills includes Democrats Adrienne Adams, the Community Board 12 chairwoman who unsuccessfully challenged Queens State Sen. James Sanders last year and has been backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Queens Democratic Committee. She is facing off against attorney Hettie Powell, who unsuccessfully challenged Wills in 2013, and Richard David, a member of Community Board 9 and founder of the ICA, a youth-focused organization in southeast Queens.

Powell has been endorsed by Sanders, the Working Families Party, 1199 SEIU, the Teamsters Joint Council 16 and TenantsPAC. David was backed by Communications Workers of America District 1, Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich, a Republican; the New York State Immigrant Action Fund; the Black Lives Caucus; the Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC; and the Muslim Democratic Club of New York.


Bronx State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. is looking to return to his old Council seat that he briefly held in 2002 that is currently held by term-limited Councilwoman Annabel Palma. He is facing Amanda Farias, who served as director of special projects for Queens Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley; Elvin Garcia, who worked as Bronx borough director for de Blasio; community advocate Michael Beltzer; and William Moore, who worked for the Department of Youth Services (now the Department of Youth and Community Development) and for former Mayor David Dinkins, the city’s first and only black mayor, in the 1990s.

In the race for term-limited Councilman James Vacca, Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, is facing off against community leader Marjorie Velázquez, whom Vacca has endorsed, and community activist John Doyle, who worked as an aide to Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Caucus, a group of breakaway Democrats in a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans.

Gjonaj has been endorsed by Cuomo, Klein and the Bronx Democratic Party. Velázquez has also received backing from Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres and Mark-Viverito. Businessman Egidio Sementilli, who ran for the seat in 2005, and Victor Ortiz are also running as Democrats.


The race for term-limited Councilwoman Rosie Mendez’s seat in Lower Manhattan has Carlina Rivera, who served as Mendez’s legislative director, is considered the frontrunner for the race. Mendez, James and Brooklyn Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez have all put their weight behind her.

Other Democrats running include Ronnie Cho, who worked for former President Barack Obama and was endorsed by former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod. Jasmin Sanchez, who served as community liaison for former State Senator Daniel Squadron, and lawyers Erin Hussein, Mary Silver and Jorge Vazquez, are also running.

Mark-Viverito has endorsed Diana Ayala, her deputy chief of staff, to replace her. She has also been backed by de Blasio, Upper Manhattan Congressman Adriano Espaillat, the Working Families Party and Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr.

She is facing Bronx Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, whom the Bronx Democratic Party has endorsed, as well as East Harlem activist and business owner Tamika Mapp, who challenged Mark-Viverito in 2013 and challenged Rodriguez in 2014 and former Assemblyman Israel Martinez, who served from 1988 to 1991.


Over on Staten Island, Councilwoman Debi Rose, who was first elected to her North Shore seat in 2009 and seeking a third and final term, is facing a challenge from civic activist Kamillah Hanks. Rose has been endorsed by Cuomo and de Blasio — whom she also endorsed — while Hanks has been backed by the Patrolmen Benevolent’s Association, the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

A New Yorker’s Guide to Key Races in Today’s Primary