Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday that he will be canceling the special election for Queens borough president scheduled for March 24 as a part of his effort to combat the spread of coronavirus.
At the press conference where he announced that New York City public schools will close until April, he acknowledged that in a democracy, canceling the election was not something he took lightly. The mayor had previously expressed resistance to postponing the election, saying that “it’s a very dangerous thing to do in a democracy.”
Polling places opened Saturday for an early voting period leading up to the special election to replace former Borough President Melinda Katz.
While Donovan Richards was the only candidate to call for the postponement of the election prior to early voting, Costa Constantinides and Elizabeth Crowley both called to institute a borough-wide absentee ballot program, which Gov. Cuomo then signed into law through an executive order on Friday.
Three of the candidates immediately sent out statements approving the mayor’s decision to stop the spread of the virus.
“Today’s decision to close New York City schools to protect our children was a smart decision, and so was the cancellation of the March 24 special election,” Councilman Donovan Richards said. “Elections are an integral part of our democracy. There is no easy way to put one on hold, however we cannot risk the health and safety of voters and our poll workers in this moment.”
Councilman Costa Constantinides said, “The health, safety and stability of Queens is most important. While we’re grateful to everyone who came out to vote early this weekend, we respect the mayor’s decision to suspend the special election.”
Candidate Jim Quinn said he agreed with de Blasio’s decision to suspend the election.
“I understand the mayor’s decision to postpone the election and believe that it is the most prudent course of action at this time,” he said.
Elizabeth Crowley also agreed, saying “the health and safety of our city and citizens is paramount.”
“We must now come together protect ourselves and our great city. Our politics will see another day,” she said.
Fellow candidates Anthony Miranda and Dao Yin have yet to put out statements regarding the cancellation.
Acting Borough President Sharon Lee said that she is prepared to extend her tenure of the office as a result of the suspension, and will continue to support the borough through the response to the pandemic.
“I made a commitment to represent and serve the people and families of Queens to the best of my ability and for as long as necessary, and this commitment still stands. Government must not and will not shut down. Aggressively slowing the tide of the spread of COVID-19 is paramount, and we as public servants must remain calm while moving swiftly but safely with the urgency that this situation requires,” said Lee.