2020 Preview: What you need to know about the special election for Queens borough president

Photo: Max Parrott/QNS

While it is still yet to be determined when the special election for Queens borough president will be held, one thing that is becoming clear is that the race to replace Queens District Attorney-elect Melinda Katz is shaping up to be another battle between “the establishment” and the “left-wing progressives” of the Democratic party.

From the moment Councilman Donovan Richards announced his candidacy for Katz’s seat last fall, with former Borough President Claire Shulman by his side, Richards appeared to be the establishment’s choice.

That became clear Monday when Congressman Gregory Meeks, the chairman of the Queens County Democratic Committee, announced that Richards was receiving their endorsement. In accepting, Richards said, “We want to send an olive branch to people but they have to want to work with us.”

Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman was the only other candidate for borough president in the room, and she promptly announced she would step out of the race and “stand with the Party” and support the endorsed county candidate. Hyndman’s decision means that the vote would not be split in southeast Queens.

The Richards endorsement came a week after Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer received endorsements from progressive stars Zephyr Teachout and Cynthia Nixon.

“From defeating Amazon, to defying the party bosses, to organizing to get money out of politics, Jimmy is the true progressive choice for Queens borough president,” Teachout said.

Van Bramer had campaigned for the public defender from Astoria, Tiffany Cabán, who ran on a radical decarceral platform and nearly upset Katz, who was seen as the “establishment candidate.” In the previous election cycle, Van Bramer supported Alexandria Ocasio-Costez who upset former Queens County chairman Joseph Crowley in the Democratic primary for Congress. AOC’s victory put progressive organizations such as the Working Families Party and the Democrat Socialists of America as leaders in the far-left movement in western Queens.

Van Bramer was among the opposition to Amazon’s plan to build its HQ2 campus in Long Island City, grilling their executives at City Council hearing.

Richards has made it clear that running Amazon out of Queens, and taking their promise of 25,000 good-paying jobs, was not in the borough’s best interests.

If Amazon becomes a flashpoint between Richards and Van Bramer, Councilman Costa Constantinides, the author of the city’s Green New Deal, could ride the progressive wave to Borough Hall. Constantinides became chair of the council’s environmental protection committee and has a long history of environmental activism.

He declared his candidacy in September with the promise of a stronger, more equitable and more resilient Queens in the face of climate change.

“Queens residents deserve leadership that ensures they aren’t displaced by rising tides or rising rents,” Constantinides said. “Sadly, seven years after Sandy killed 11 of our neighbors, destroyed our coastal communities and eroded our shores, we are still unprepared for the next storm.”

Also in the race is former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and retired President of the Latino Officers Association Anthony Miranda. Crowley has been pushing to have passenger service return on the Lower Montauk Branch of the Long Island Rail Road.

“I don’t think the borough president was bold enough in her vision in terms of building our transportation infrastructure,” Crowley said at a Forest Hills candidate forum in November.

Miranda agreed that transportation had not improved and that Katz “didn’t do the things that were necessary to alleviate overcrowding of our schools.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio must announce a date for the Queens borough president special election within 80 days after Katz leaves Borough Hall. Insiders expect that date to fall on Tuesday, March 24, but that is up to City Hall.