Queens residents will be deciding between Democratic incumbent Donovan Richards and former Oath Keepers member Thomas Zmich for Queens borough president in the Nov. 2 general election.
Richards was the first Black man elected to be Queens borough president last year after his predecessor, Melinda Katz, took office as the district attorney. He also formerly served as a City Council member for District 31, representing southeast Queens.
After a tight Democratic primary this past June, Richards beat former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley with razor-thin margin of about 0.6%, garnering 92,222 votes to Crowley’s 91,153 votes. When results came in, Richards claimed Crowley, the cousin of former Congressman Joe Crowley — who was defeated by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — was racist.
Richards tweeted about his opponent, saying, “@ElizCrowleyNYC told me she would win, because BLM would die? What’s good now?”
“We beat your racist ass,” Richards tweeted.
In the general election, Richards is up against Republican candidate Zmich, who was recently reported to be a former member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right, anti-government organization. Zmich admitted he belonged to the militia group before the New York chapter dissolved.
However, when asked to comment on his involvement, he pointed a finger at Richards for a trip he took to Ukraine this month.
“It is already known that I do not belong to that [organization] anymore over [three years] ago,” Zmich wrote in an email to QNS. “You should be investigating how and who paid for the complimentary Ukraine trip that Richards took this month. What city business was he doing over there to justify the approval for this free trip.”
Richards traveled to Ukraine this month to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Babi Yar Massacre when Nazis killed nearly 100,000 people during World War II. The trip was paid for by the nonprofit Assembly of Nationalities of Ukraine.
In addition to running on the Republican party line, Zmich is also running on the Conservative party and Save Our City party lines. He previously ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and lost to Congresswoman Grace Meng.
Though Zmich said he is no longer a member of the far-right militia group, he apparently had not completely cut ties with the organization since the Oath Keepers were listed on the affiliations page of his 2020 campaign website. According to his former congressional campaign site, Zmich prioritizes national security by “stopping illegal immigrants from crossing our borders,” the economy, education and veterans.
Comparatively, Richards prioritizes issues in line with what Queens residents face every day, like jobs, transportation and healthcare access.