UPDATE: Ariola concedes after Richards takes early lead in Queens borough president race

Photo by Max Parrott/QNS

While the borough may not know definitively who the next Queens borough president is for days or weeks, City Councilman Donovan Richards held an early lead in the race Wednesday morning, Nov. 4.

Richards, a Democrat from southeast Queens, received more than 67 percent of the vote, or about 380,449 votes as of Wednesday morning, Nov. 4, with around 96 percent of scanners reported. His Republican opponent, Joann Ariola, had 173,056 votes and third party candidate Dao Yin held 11,696 votes.

The final count likely won’t be known for at least a week, as absentee ballots won’t be tallied until the following week.

The city councilman, who would become the first Black man to represent Queens as borough president if elected, declared victory during his election party at Pa-Nash Eurosoul, a restaurant in Rosedale.

“This election was all about who we are as a borough,” Richards said. “While there were those who sought to divide us, those who said lets build walls in Queens, here in Queens County, we let them know that we build bridges.”

In light of Richards’ strong lead, Ariola reached out to Richards to concede Wednesday morning.

“I am deeply grateful to all who have supported our campaign to save Queens in this turbulent and challenging year. Your help allowed me to give a voice to common sense voters in our borough, including our men and women in law enforcement, middle-class families squeezed by high taxes, small business owners, and victims of our city’s rising crime,” Ariola said in a statement. “Though we did not prevail in this race, that voice was heard far beyond party registration and will only continue to grow louder as we head into 2021. I will always proudly stand with you, as we continue the fight for sane government, public safety and to make life better for everyone in Queens.”

At his election party, Richards spoke about the challenges the borough currently faces and will likely face in the future, many of which were caused by COVID-19.

“As unemployment soars, support for food pantries and small businesses will be essential to ensuring no one in the borough goes hungry,” Richards said. “We have a lot of work to do and I look forward to getting to work.”

Richards, a popular politician in a safely Democrat borough, was largely expected to perform well in the Queens borough president’s race. The city councilman beat out four challengers during June’s Democratic primary for the seat, receiving a little more than 65,000 votes, or about 33 percent of the vote. Former City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley finished second in the race with approximately 52,000 votes.

Ariola, who serves as the chairwoman of the Queens County Republican Party, centered her campaign around an anti-crime sentiment. She announced her bid for the seat in April, after the Republican primary for the seat had been cancelled due to COVID-19.

The Queens borough president race has seen a fair share of twists and turns after the seat was vacated when former Borough President Melinda Katz was elected to Queens district attorney in 2019. A non-partisan special election to replace Katz was scheduled to take place on March 24, but was cancelled as the COVID-19 crisis began to take hold of the city.

Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee has been serving since Katz vacated the office in January.

Queens will head to the polls and vote again for borough president in 2021, when Katz’s term was originally set to end.

This story was updated at 1:10 p.m., on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.