With early voting already underway in New York City, LGBTQ political candidates are hitting the pavement and locking down as many votes as possible ahead of the June 22 primary.
Dozens of queer candidates are running for office across different levels of government during a crucial election year when the City Council’s entire LGBTQ caucus will soon depart due to term limits — and one out city lawmaker, Ritchie Torres, has already left following his election to Congress.
There is not only pressure to replace the five-member LGBT Caucus, but to grow it — and the election cycle presents new opportunities to bring diversity to an LGBT Caucus that consists entirely of men. All of that is a big question mark, however, and the future of LGBTQ representation in city government is hanging in the balance.
One of the most competitive Council races in the city is in Brooklyn’s 35th District, where Crystal Hudson is facing top rival Michael D. Hollingsworth and a handful of others. Hudson has been posting pictures on the campaign trail alongside high-profile politicians like Brooklyn Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries and, most recently, mayoral candidate Maya Wiley, after Wiley and Hudson cross-endorsed each other.
If elected, Hudson would be the first out LGBTQ Black woman in the City Council — and she did not shy away from that in a recent campaign ad.
“I’ve never been represented by somebody who holds all of my identities,” Hudson said in the campaign video. “It is the fact that I am a gay Black woman that I am a better representative of everybody.”
In Manhattan, Kristin Richardson Jordan, a Black lesbian woman running in Central and East Harlem, Morningside Heights, and the Upper West Side, has outspent every other candidate in an exceptionally crowded race. She is spending the final week of the race canvassing at polling sites, knocking on doors, and phone/text banking.
“My campaign and I are currently working on informing residents of Central Harlem and our supporters on when, where, and how they can vote,” she told Gay City News. “The majority of our current focus is direct in-person outreach.”
In Queens’ District 29, Lynn Schulman, who is running for City Council for the third time, is following up with voters she has identified, knocking on doors, and making last-minute calls.
“We are also covering early voting sites with volunteers and have a robust ‘get out the vote’ plan to get my voters out for primary day,” said Schulman, who hopes to become the first out LGBTQ woman elected to the City Council from Queens.
Marti Allen-Cummings, aiming to make history as the first non-binary city lawmaker, has been posting photos and videos from the campaign trail in their Upper Manhattan district, where they hope to succeed term-limited Councilmember Mark Levine. In the mayoral race, non-binary candidate Paperboy Prince is on the ballot, but is not viewed as a serious contender.
The abundance of queer candidates has also translated into multiple City Council races with more than one LGBTQ competitor. In a race for Speaker Corey Johnson’s seat in Manhattan’s District 3, Erik Bottcher — Johnson’s former chief of staff — is up against Phelan Dante Fitzpatrick. In District 5 on Manhattan’s east side, out gay candidate Chris Sosa and out bisexual candidate Billy Freeland are competing in the same race.
“Many New Yorkers are excited about the opportunity to vote for even one candidate from the LGBTQ+ community. In District 5, voters have the rare opportunity to rank two,” Sosa told Gay City News. “I’m grateful to my community and opponents for making this race among the highest caliber in the entire city… Team Sosa is on the streets every day talking and, most importantly, listening to voters.”
Johnson, one of the five out city lawmakers who will soon be forced out by term limits, is blitzing the five boroughs in his quest to become the city’s next comptroller and the first out LGBTQ person elected to citywide office. His pit stops in recent days have included the East Village, Riverdale, Coney Island, Bushwick, and Flushing. Johnson is a leading candidate, but faces competition from one of his Council colleagues — Brad Lander of Brooklyn — as well as from Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, among others. Johnson picked up the support of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, but Lander secured the backing of two other queer clubs — the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn and Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City.
LGBTQ candidates are also running in different borough-wide races. In Manhattan, State Senator Brad Hoylman is hauling around massive campaign signs during the final days of an open race for borough president, while Queens Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer is zigzagging his own borough in a bid to unseat incumbent Borough President Donovan Richards. The city has never elected an out LGBTQ borough president.
Holyman said he is crisscrossing the borough with assistance from 14 political clubs, former borough presidents Ruth Messinger and C. Virginia Fields, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, and labor organizations like the United Federation of Teachers and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
“In the final week of this campaign, we’re running an aggressive boroughwide grassroots effort to engage and turn out voters,” Hoylman told Gay City News. “I am running to make history as Manhattan’s first gay borough president, and I’m running on my record of progressive reform, including passing the Gender Recognition Act, repealing the so-called ‘walking while trans’ ban, and enacting historic rent reforms and tenant protections.”
Van Bramer, who is in the final year of a decade-long stint on the City Council, said he and his husband went to their polling site on Saturday to “cast our votes to elect the first out queer Queens borough president — me!”
“I have been and will be talking to voters across the borough — from Astoria to Ozone Park — about my plans for community board diversity, real affordable housing, more accessible senior care, and my progressive vision for small business recovery, workers’ rights, and immigrant justice,” Van Bramer told Gay City News.
Many campaigns are getting a boost from LGBTQ political clubs during the home stretch. The Stonewall Democratic Club and Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club tweeted about a joint canvassing effort on June 14, while Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn president Jared Arader told Gay City News his club is making inroads with voters for several endorsed candidates.
“The biggest thing, as we’ve been pushing all along, is that the entire queer caucus is term-limited and it’s up to us as a queer club to get the word out about [LGBTQ candidates] and to help them in the districts where they are,” said Arader, who explained that the club has been volunteering for candidates such as Hudson as well as Jacqui Painter, an LGBTQ candidate running in Brooklyn’s District 38, which is currently occupied by the Councilmember Carlos Menchaca — the borough’s first out city lawmaker.
In addition to the large slate of queer Council hopefuls, there are opportunities to boost LGBTQ representation in the courts. Michael Goldman, running to be the first out gay judge elected in Queens, is competing in a primary race for a civil court seat in the borough. Goldman said in recent social posts that it “brings me great pride” to run as an out gay candidate and said he pledges “to treat each member of Queens with compassion and true equality.”