Mayor de Blasio discourages all Queens borough president candidates from in-person canvassing

Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

A day after Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed his commitment to keeping the Queens Borough President election on March 24, hizzoner asked all the candidates for the fast-approaching election to suspend all door-knocking efforts at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

“Door-to-door canvassing should be stopped immediately,” de Blasio said. “Campaigns have many, many ways to be effective without door-to-door canvassing.”

The mayor’s announcement was preceded by two of candidates suspending all in-person canvassing efforts without being asked.

Councilman Costa Constantinides was the first to say that he would suspend all in-person efforts from and focus on calls, texts and digital outreach on Thursday due to the increased risk of coronavirus.

“Public safety is my top priority. In order to protect the well-being of our team, our volunteers, and all Queens residents, effective immediately, our campaign has suspended all in-person canvassing,” said Constantinides.

De Blasio suggested that the campaigns pivot to phone banking and TV and radio ads in order to get out the vote over the next two weeks. 

Of the six candidates in the race, three so far have suspended their door-knocking efforts. Shortly after Constantinides’ announcement, former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley made the same call. Anthony Miranda and a spokesman for Councilman Donovan Richards confirmed that his campaign will suspend in-person canvassing soon after the mayor’s press conference ended.

Dao Yin did not respond for comment.

For prosecutor Jim Quinn’s campaign announced that they were continuing to campaign “in a safe, cautious manner and keeping a close eye on all developments and updates from authorities,” before the mayor’s announcement, but afterward his spokesperson said that they would pause door-knocking.

The borough president candidates were not alone in their caution over the risks of continuing to door-knock as COVID-19 spreads across the city. A growing movement of candidates in the process of petitioning for the summer primary election also signed a letter citing their fears of how the pandemic could affect the process.

The letter asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo to change the signature requirements or the length of time of the signature-gathering period for the upcoming primary election. 

After four of the six borough president candidates reportedly said that they were planning to run again in the summer primary regardless of the outcome of the March special election, any changes to the petition process would affect them as well. Miranda went so far as to criticize de Blasio for just addressing the borough president race without pushing Cuomo to act on the petition process for the summer election.

“Let’s have a holistic approach to the problem,” Miranda said. 

Only the Legislature and the governor, with the new emergency powers that he was endowed with last week, has the ability to change the rules governing the process. Cuomo’s office did not respond about whether he plans to institute these changes.