By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]
In District 26, incumbent City Councilmember Julie Won secured a second term in office following a Democratic primary election victory on June 27.
“I am incredibly humbled by my neighbors’ overwhelming support for my re-election to the City Council!” said Won in a press statement. “From the beginning, my campaign has always centered the needs of the working class, immigrants, and families across the district.”
Won secured 61 percent of the vote, with 99 percent currently reporting, according to unofficial results from the city’s Board of Elections. Her second time challenger to the left, Hallie Kim, received 38 percent of votes in the district that represents much of western Queens, including Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria and Maspeth.
“While we did not get the result we wanted tonight, I am deeply grateful for the time everyone took to make their voices heard,” wrote Kim on Twitter the night of the election. “We made it clear that politicians who make promises on the campaign trail and break them in office will have to answer to their community and fight to maintain power.”
In her first term, Won spearheaded negotiations for Innovation QNS, a controversial $2 billion mixed-use development project that is expected to create 3,200 apartments – 45% of which will be designated affordable. She also worked to deliver free WiFi for NYCHA residents in her district and passed two language access bills to address disparities in access to public safety information for immigrant communities.
Won received significant criticism from her challenger for voting to pass last year’s city budget, which allocated more funding to the NYPD and while defunding schools by $370 million, according to Chalkbeat. Only six council members voted against the budget – a choice that Won said would have hurt her district.
Despite criticism from her challenger and some community members, Won stood by her vote and insisted that issues from the budget can not be “cherry picked” and a vote against it would ultimately result in lost funding to her district. She would also point out that the budget is not set in stone, and has room for flexibility following its passage.
In the two weekends leading up to election day, protests against Won and her “broken campaign pledges” were held in Sunnyside. Community members showed up to Lou Lodati Park on June 24 with signs that read “Julie Won Defunded My School” and “Julie Won Breaks Her Progressive Promises.”
“Our landslide victory demonstrated that a campaign rooted in positivity, real accomplishments, and genuine grassroots support will always triumph over one built on lies, personal attacks, and dirty tactics,” said the newly re-elected council member with reference to her challenger.
Kim, an educator and housing advocate, ran a progressive campaign that staunchly criticized Mayor Adam’s “austerity budget” and called restoring cuts to public education a “number one priority” on her website.
In a much more crowded District 26 race in the 2021 election, Kim came out in eighth place amid fifteen total candidates and no incumbent. In this race, she was Won’s only challenger.
The election occurred just two years into the term due to redistricting which responds to decennial census data. City law requires an off-cycle election every other redistricting cycle to address significant changes to boundaries. The newly drawn lines removed a section of Astoria, while adding a chunk of Maspeth.
“The fight for justice is a marathon, not a sprint. I am excited that we broadened the coalition in support of economic and racial justice while opposing austerity together,” wrote Kim who moved on to criticizing this year’s budget, which passed shortly after the election.
This time around, twelve city council members voted no for a budget that included significant cuts to education and housing, while increasing funding for policing. Councilmember Tiffany Caban, who represents Astoria, Steinway-Ditmars and Jackson Heights, was the sole Queens elected to vote against it.
“It has been the honor of my life to serve the people and places I love,” said Won. “Now, it’s time to get back to work!”
The citywide turnout, which has always been chronically low, was just 6.5 percent this election cycle. A total of 174,544 New Yorkers live in District 26, and only 5,850 votes were cast.
In November, Won will be up against Republican Marvin Jeffcoat who unsuccessfully vied for the seat in 2017 and 2021.