If you’re new to special elections, here’s few quick facts to get you up to speed:
• Special elections are nonpartisan, which means candidates can’t run on established party lines.
• Because the Democratic and Republican parties can’t run their own hand-picked candidates, everybody who has ever had any inkling of political ambition comes out of the woodwork to run.
• Because they take place on random dates outside the normal election cycle, almost no one turns up to vote.
• Thanks to the city’s generous matching funds program and the cost of staffing polling places, special elections are really expensive, wo why not have another one!
This time, voters in the 45th City Council District get to go to the polls on May 14 to elect a replacement for Jumaane Williams, who was recently elected public advocate in a different special election earlier this year.
And, of course, it’s a crowded field.
Eleven people are vying for the post, which means it will be a paked stage at a forum for the candidates on Thursday night.
Farah Lewis is seen by many as the frontrunner. She served as Williams’ deputy chief of staff, and she has the support of several Democratic clubs in the district, the groups who are most likely to get their members out to the polls.
Lewis also has the support of Kings County Democratic Party chair Frank Seddio, although he can’t endorse any candidate in his professional capacity because special elections are nonpartisan. Curiously, according to published reports, he previously endorsed attorney Jovia Radix, but switched to support Lewis.
Also running is Monique Chandler-Waterman, founder of the nonprofit East Flatbush Village. She also has close ties to Williams.
Anthony Beckford has been an outspoken critic of the new public advocate on several issues, and ran against Williams in the past. He also ran for the Assembly in 2018 on the Green Party line.
Some of the more atypical candidates include Adina Sash, Xamayla Rose and Hercules Reid
Sash is a comedian and activist with a robust social media presence; she has over 45,000 follower on Instagram. She says if elected she will donate half of her $148,500 annual salary to local nonprofits.
If elected, Reid would be the youngest member of the City Council at the age of 26. Meanwhile, Rose was inspired to get involved in community organizing after her brother was killed over an iPod.
Ten of the eleven candidates are participating in the city’s matching funds program, which means taxpayers will pony up $8 for every $1 that candidates raise. (Jean Similiean chose not to participate in the program.)
The top three in donations after the first filing period were all female candidates, with Chandler-Waterman raising $24,106. That means with matching funds, she has just over $190,000 to spend.
Following her were Louis ($23,129) and Radix ($17,185). At the bottom of the list were Victor Jordan, who raised $395, and Beckford, whose filing showed that he raised $1,847.
Not that we’ve got you all caught up on the special election, you’ll be pleased to know that whoever wins on May 14 will get about one month to get comfortable in the office before they might have to run in the June primary should a challenger from their actual registered party emerge to run against them.
Which means, if someone comes in a close second or third place, they will probably want to try their luck again in a traditional election with a less-crowded field.
That’s exactly what happened to Ari Espinal, who last April won a special election in Queens to replace Francisco Moya in the Assembly after he left to join the City Council. In the September primary, she lost to Catalina Cruz, ended her brief stint in Albany.
And whoever emerges victorious from the primary will have to run in the general election in November if a challenger from another party throws their hat in the ring.
All of which means the next council member from the 45th District won’t have much time to work, as they will be perpetually running to keep their seat.
Good old New York City politics!