The special election for Queens borough president has been canceled, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week. The election, which was originally scheduled for March 24, was postponed until June 23 before being canceled outright by the state’s executive order in an effort to fight the spread of COVID-19.
While the special election may be canceled, voters will still have the opportunity to vote for a Queens borough president come June 23, when they’ll vote in the primary leading up to November’s general election.
It remains unclear which candidates who ran in the canceled special election will appear on the primary ballot in June. Those who do appear on the ballot will be able to use contributions and public funds they received during the special election campaign towards the June primary and the November general election, according to a Board of Elections email sent to the candidates and obtained by QNS.
QNS reached out to Cuomo’s office, the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Board of Elections for clarification about the decision to cancel the election but did not receive a response.
The six candidates running in the special election for Queens borough president have mixed reactions to the executive order, with some expressing their support and others offering harsh criticism.
For Councilman Donovan Richards, who’s backed by the Queens Democratic Party, the decision to cancel the special election clears up some of the confusion voters might have around the election.
“The health of voters and poll workers has always been our primary concern for this election. We also recognized the need to educate voters on the process and the method to vote in the safest possible manner,” Richards said. “This decision should help to clarify that process and limit confusion on Election Day. Elections are a crucial component of our democracy, and I hope to see the Board of Elections continue to take steps to ensure safety when we head to the polls.”
Others recognized the importance of keeping people safe while heading to the polls, but acknowledged the importance of looking forward for next steps.
“Though we are disappointed more than 2,600 Queens residents lost their voice after casting a ballot during early voting, it is all the more reason we must safely make ourselves heard on June 23rd,” a spokesperson for Councilman Costa Constantinides told QNS. “This crisis has illustrated the dire need to reform and strengthen our democracy, so it remains intact when the next challenge arises. We are committed to fighting for those solutions moving forward.”
Constantinides previously said Cuomo’s absentee ballot order — which allows voters to apply for an absentee ballot for free — falls drastically short of what’s needed during this crisis. He added the state should consider mail-in ballots to make it easier for voters.
Elizabeth Crowley, the former Ridgewood councilwoman, was concerned about the added confusion, but believed Cuomo’s move for the special election is “prudent.”
“The disruption to our elections in New York from COVID-19 has been deeply challenging. The last thing we need is added confusion.” Crowley told QNS. “Having one election instead of two in June for Queens borough president is prudent. I have been working hard throughout the crisis to provide services and relief for residents in need. Asking voters for their support is a solemn responsibility. This is as true today as it ever was, especially in the epicenter of the pandemic.”
Crowley, whose platform is for a fairer Queens, agrees with absentee ballots.
But several candidates in the special election see the cancellation of the race as an illegal move by the governor to retain control of the Democratic Party and to stifle the will of the voters.
Anthony Miranda, who positioned himself as a political outsider during his campaign, sees this move as further evidence of the Queens Democratic Party exerting their control on power.
“What they’re doing is, they’re empowering the Democratic Party or the people that are empowered, as opposed to empowering voters,” Miranda said. “This process almost eliminates the ability to have a fair and equitable playing field to be able to get the message out to voters in an even handed manner.”
Then there’s former Assistant District Attorney Jim Quinn, who will no longer appear on the ballot as he only filed for the special election. He’s considering challenging the governor’s order in court.
“The voters of Queens have been subjected to confusing, vague and legally questionable edicts surrounding this election since the pandemic began,” Quinn said in a statement. “This outcome particularly disenfranchises Republicans, Conservatives and independents, who have now been prohibited from voting to elect their borough president on June 23.”
Quinn, who ran on a platform of law and order, said that while the borough president was designed to be a non-partisan election to fill the position, Cuomo’s action is “clearly” designed to give an advantage to the Queens Democratic Machine.
Dao Yin, a Queens businessman running with a conservative platform, was shocked about Cuomo’s decision.
“Queens is struggling and has been the hardest-hit borough in the city, with nearly 50,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus. This is not the time for Cuomo’s political games,” Yin said. “Cuomo is denying the voters of Queens their right to representation during these tragic times. How can he disenfranchise the entire borough, when he was born and raised right here in Queens?”
Yin’s campaign manager, Aaron Foldenauer, also questioned the legality of the order, comparing it to a previous case of Congressman Michael Grimm in which a court ordered Cuomo to set a special election after Grimm vacated the seat.
“There are nearly 1.2 million registered voters in Queens but only approximately 750,000 of them are registered Democrats,” Foldenauer said. “Thus, approximately 450,000 voters now have no voice as to the next leader of Queens during these difficult times.”
De Blasio danced around a question about the Queens borough president special election when asked about Cuomo’s order during a press conference on Monday, April 27.
Instead, de Blasio said the governor’s absentee ballot approach was a step in the right direction, and the cancellation of the presidential primary was understandable.
“In this crisis, to me, the first question is health and safety. I care deeply about the sanctity of our elections, but the first question is health and safety,” de Blasio said. “I respect the decisions that the state has made. What I’m looking forward to is getting through this recovery the right way and getting our whole society back to normal, and having elections again as an indicator of our Renaissance, of our resurgence. But I think that’s something that obviously is going to happen in the fall, not now.”
With additional reporting by Bill Parry and Jacob Kaye.