by Rafaela Prifti/
Changes that have occurred point towards potential shifts in the landscape with major implications for elected offices in the city government in 2021 ….
In late February Council member Mark Gjonaj announced that he will not seek re-election this year. The first-term Councilman was elected in 2018 for his seat representing the 13th Council District in the Bronx. In a two-page statement, Mr. Gjonaj cited centrist ideology and political climate as reasons for his decision not to seek re-election. “I sought public service to give back to a country, state and city that gave me and my family so much…The current political climate is not favorable to a centrist ideology that my constituency, community and I embrace,” Mr. Gjonaj wrote in a letter mailed to his constituents. Prior to his 2018 election in the New York City Council, Mark Gjonaj, served in the state Assembly. Since then, there have been reports of investigations on Gjonaj involving financial issues and campaign contributions. In his letter to constituents, the Albanian-American politician claimed that he was the victim of “ethnic smears” stating that public service should never be about identity politics which divides [sic] us.
In the meantime, the field of contenders in the mayoral race is brimming with candidates ranging from career elected officials to newcomers. Some 40 candidates have registered to run for the city’s top job to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio. A primary winner will be decided on June 22nd. The Democrat primary winner is generally considered the favorite in the general election.
There is an avalanche of information via virtual layouts and platforms forums that allows you to get to know each candidate vying to be the next mayor. The Albanian community is keen to be informed about the issues that matter to them going forward. To help, here is a compiled short list of the current leading candidates in no particular order that focuses on experience, name recognition, active campaigning and fundraising.
The Brooklyn Borough President is considered one of the front runners. He has offered up his blue-collar background as one of his strengths: a native New Yorker who grew up in poverty and became a victim of police brutality, he joined the NYPD and worked his way up to becoming a captain. He has held up his life story as testament to why he is uniquely qualified to tackle rising crime rates and systemic racism in the police force. Addressing government inefficiencies has been another theme of his campaign. According to campaign filings, Adams is one of the top fundraisers with $8.6 million. He has been criticized for his willingness to take money from real estate developers. Stringer also initially welcomed money from real estate developers but has since reversed course. He lives in Bed-Stuy. After being diagnosed with diabetes in 2016, Adams switched to a plant-based diet and fitness regime that led him to manage his health condition without medication.
Served as city’s housing commissioner under Michael Bloomberg before being tapped to serve as President Obama’s Housing Secretary and budget director. A former architect, Donavan has tried to set himself apart by being among the first to issue concrete policy proposals. He has proposed building a city of “15 minute neighborhoods,” in which residents live within a short walk of all their essential needs, such as a school, grocery, subway and park. He has released an economic recovery plan that includes a promise to bring back half a million jobs by the end of his four years. Donovan has raised $1.6 million, but did not qualify for matching funds. Donovan lives in Boerum Hill. He and his wife have two sons.
The city’s sanitation commissioner under Mayor de Blasio, Garcia has billed herself as a “go-to crisis manager” who has impacted the lives of every New Yorker—through trash pickups and the snow plowing of streets. She rolled out a platform that emphasizes battling climate change as well as quality of life issues. Garcia does not favor defunding NYPD but she wants to reform the culture of the agency. On the racial justice issue, she has brought up her diverse family: she was adopted and two of her siblings, who were also adopted, are both Black. As part of her recovery plan, she has also proposed building universal broadband and giving free childcare for families making under $70,000 a year. She lives in Park Slope. She was married to Jerry Garcia but they have since divorced. They have two children.
The current City Comptroller has frequently used his platform to criticize Mayor de Blasio. Since entering the race in September, Stringer has racked up more than $8 million in fundraising. Although an establishment candidate, Stringer has also positioned himself as a progressive. He began his campaign flanked by three state Senators who are young progressive Democrats that he supported in their run. He has called de Blasio’s policy strategy a “disaster” and said he would hold the NYPD to a higher standard of accountability in addition to cutting its budget by $1.1 billion over four years. As comptroller, Stringer has issued a slew of reports on issues ranging from homelessness, affordable housing and the pandemic.
Mr. Stringer holds the distinction of being a dedicated supporter of the Albanian community. In 2009, he joined organizing efforts with leaders of Sons and Daughter of Albania in America, The Bronx Borough President Diaz and community representatives to honor Mother Teresa in naming a block of Lydig Avenue between Holland Avenue and Wallace Avenue as “Mother Teresa Way”. Over the years and other events, he has celebrated Albanian history and culture while honoring the humanitarian legacy of this Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The most prominent Black executive on Wall Street, who has served as a vice-chairman at Citibank. A favorite of the business community, he has made the economic recovery the core of his campaign. Specifically, he has said that he wants to create “the biggest job program in New York City history” with a goal of half a million new jobs. But he has also stressed his commitment to social and racial justice, often referencing his upbringing by a single mother and his encounters with racism throughout his education and career. His fundraising prowess makes him a highly competitive contender. In 2018, McGuire was said to be on a short list of candidates to head the New York Federal Reserve. He is considered one of Wall Street’s top deal makers, and has advised major corporate mergers, including the Time Warner Inc. sale to AT&T Inc. for more than $80 billion.
The former tech entrepreneur joined the race following a longer-than-expected presidential run. Having amassed nearly 2 million Twitter followers known as the “Yang Gang,” he enjoys high name recognition and has presented himself as a forward-thinking “numbers guy” who can raise New York City out of the crisis with new ideas. His major policy platform has been proposing a cash payment to half a million of the poorest New Yorkers, a scaled-down version of his so-called “universal basic income” plan that he pitched on the national level. Yang’s campaign has promised to roll out detailed plans to address criticism that he has not presented much in terms of policies. He is expected to be a front runner who had 21,000 donors from New York City during his presidential run. Yang has been open about raising a son with autism. In addition, his wife last came forward as a survivor of sexual assault. Yang’s most successful entrepreneurial venture was a test-prep company for people taking the entrance exams for business school and law school.
Menchaca is a Brooklyn city Council member who most recently garnered attention for his role in doing away with the Industry City rezoning in Sunset Park. The developers promised tens of thousands of jobs, but Menchaca argued that the deal was going to displace residents and hasten gentrification. He is among the most left-leaning candidates running for mayor. One of his signature policy proposals is a guaranteed cash program for New Yorkers which he is planning to introduce into the City Council. He has also embraced investments that would usher in a municipal green new deal. He is the first Mexican-American elected to public office in New York City. Like Sutton, he would be the city’s first open gay mayor. Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, he moved to New York in 2004 after graduating college and interned for then-Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. He is an avid cyclist who routinely bikes from his home to City Hall. If elected Menchaca will be the city’s first “bike mayor”
A former nonprofit executive who has called for defunding the police and using the savings toward youth programs, parks and transportation, Morales is a proponent for permanently eliminating screenings as a first step toward desegregating the city’s school system. Ms. Morales has also proposed a guaranteed minimum income for poor New Yorkers financed through a tax on the wealthy without sacrificing other social benefits. She is seeking to become the city’s first Afro-Latina mayor. She lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where she was born and raised. Morales has graduate degrees from Harvard University and Columbia University. She frequently talks about being a single-mother to two children who are now over 18.
Former Head of New York City’s Department of Veterans’ Services under Mayor Bill de Blasio has a 35 year career in military and public service. A retired brigadier general, she earned a bronze star during the first gulf war. She is a moderate, who registered as Democrat in 2019 after having been a lifelong independent. Citing a lifelong experience in the armed forces, she has pitched herself as a non-polarizing leader who can bring together the private, philanthropic, and public sectors. She has argued that police need to build better relationships with the community, proposing to appoint a “public safety czar” to carry out the task. Sutton was the Army’s highest-ranking psychiatrist. She has made addressing the city’s mental health crisis one of her main campaign platforms. Sutton lives with her wife Laurie Leitch, a psychotherapist and consultant.
Former legal analyst for MSNBC and a former de Blasio administration official. She has been a vocal critic of her former boss, on his decision to run for president as skirting of his duties, his management of the NYPD during the Black Lives Matter protests, and the management of the pandemic. A former civil rights attorney, Wiley has vowed to reform policing in New York City by increasing accountability. Her first two detailed policy plans have been on reducing gun violence and evictions. One of her proposals calls for using federal funding toward establishing a citywide rent and tax relief program. Born in Syracuse and raised in Washington D.C., Wiley is vying to become the first female mayor of New York City. She would also be the first Black mayor since Mayor David Dinkins, who served one term from 1990 through 1993.
The compiled list may grow or shrink as campaigns progress yet the changes that have occurred point towards potential shifts in the landscape with major implications for elected offices in the city government in 2021.