Jim Owles Backs Slate of Pro-Sex Work Decrim Candidates

Kristin Richardson Jordan hopes to be the first out LGBTQ Black woman elected the City Council.
Twitter/@Kristin4Harlem

The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, a citywide LGBTQ political club, rolled out a batch of endorsements for city races slated for later this year — and all of the candidates support comprehensive sex work decriminalization.

The club, which already endorsed more than a dozen candidates in other races, is throwing its support behind several queer candidates making historic runs for office this year — including City Council hopefuls Crystal Hudson and Kristin Richardson Jordan, who are vying to be the first out LGBTQ Black women elected to the City Council.

“The Jim Owles Club is determined to make 2021 a year of barrier-breaking, historic firsts in New York City politics,” club president Allen Roskoff said in a written statement. “We will work hard to help Crystal Hudson and Kristin Richardson Jordan make history as the first openly gay Black women on the City Council.”

Hudson is running in Brooklyn’s 35th District — which includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, and Bedford Stuyvesant — in a race that features another out LGBTQ candidate, Terrance Knox, who is a former co-president of Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn (LID). LID endorsed Hudson last year. An out trans candidate, Alejandra Caraballo, also ran for the seat before exiting the race late last year.

Richardson Jordan is running to represent Harlem’s District 9, where a whopping 13 candidates filed to run for the seat, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

Jim Owles is also backing out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman in his quest to become the next borough president of Manhattan and the first out gay beep. The club unanimously endorsed Hoylman, according to president Allen Roskoff.

“It would be a source of great pride for us to help elect an openly gay man to preside over the borough where gays made history by standing up to oppression at Stonewall,” Roskoff said.

The endorsement coincided with a major victory for Hoylman, who successfully sealed the deal on a years-long legislative effort this month when the State Legislature repealed a discriminatory loitering law known as a ban on “Walking While Trans.”

The club also backed Bronx Councilmember Vanessa Gibson — who voted against same-sex marriage during her time in the State Assembly — for borough president. Jim Owles already backed incumbent Queens Borough President Donovan Richards over out gay Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who dropped out of last year’s race for borough president but jumped back in for this year’s competition.

Other candidates endorsed by the club include Julie Menin for Manhattan’s District 5, where out gay candidate Chris Sosa is also running; Sarah Lind for Manhattan’s District 6; Jessica Haller for the Bronx’s District 11; Althea Stevens for the Bronx’s District 16, which is currently occupied by Gibson; Alexa Aviles, who is running for term-limited out gay Councilmember Carlos Menchaca’s seat in Brooklyn’s 38th District; and Anthony Beckford, who hopes to unseat Councilmember Farah Louis in Brooklyn’s District 45.

Notably, every candidate endorsed by the club in this round simultaneously voiced support for the comprehensive decriminalization of sex work and opposition to the so-called Nordic Model, which is an oft criticized half-measure that only decriminalizes sex work for workers. Advocates have long stressed that a Nordic Model approach is detrimental to the safety of sex workers and does not effectively reduce interactions with police.

Most of the candidates also called for the elimination of the NYPD’s Vice Squad, which has faced heat for corruption and aggressive policing of sex workers. In 2017, a woman named Yang Song died after falling from a window when she was being chased by vice cops.

However, Gibson was the exception on that issue. In response to a question in the club’s questionnaire about whether the Vice Squad should be eliminated, she did not offer a direct answer, writing, “NYPD Vice Squad should be reformed to incorporate specialists such as counselors, clinical mental health workers, and psychologists, who can handle all crises that involve addictions and mental health issues.”

While most endorsements came with little fanfare, the club seemingly settled a controversy over Lind’s endorsement. Term-limited Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who is running for the same seat, challenged the results of that decision, but it remained in place after a motion to reconsider it failed to yield the support of two-thirds of club members.

The club’s most recent endorsements came during meetings on January 19, January 23 and February 4. Nearly two-dozen other candidates received Jim Owles’ endorsement at previous meetings, including out LGBTQ hopefuls Erik Bottcher, who is aiming to replace his former boss, out gay Speaker Corey Johnson, in Manhattan’s District 3; Lynn Schulman of Queens’ District 29, and Elisa Crespo of the Bronx’s District 15, where she is running in a special election slated to take place next month. If elected, Crespo would be the first out trans lawmaker in New York State.

In future meetings, the club will endorse candidates for comptroller, mayor, Manhattan district attorney, and additional City Council seats.

The Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, which is also a citywide LGBTQ political club, will endorse candidates for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, and all 51 Council seats on April 21. The club will endorse candidates for borough president and district attorney on April 28.

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