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Brooklynites consider schools, community and the Supreme Court in primary elections

candidates outside polling place on primary election day
Ana Maria Archila, candidate for Lieutenant Governor, chatted with voters and local elected officials at a Park Slope poll site on the morning of June 28, the day of the primary election.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

It’s Primary Day! Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 28, for the first part of the Democratic primary, where New Yorkers will cast their first votes for the state Assembly, governor, lieutenant governor, judges, and local political party positions. 

New York’s ongoing redistricting process has sliced the primary in half — voters will head back to the polls in August for the congressional and state Senate primary — and there’s plenty of electoral fun to be had. Brooklyn is chock full of competitive Assembly races, and there are dozens of people in the running for judgeships, District Leader and County Committee positions.

Gubernatorial candidate and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and runningmate Ana Maria Archila spent the morning handing out literature and making last-minute connections with voters near P.S. 51 in Park Slope. They were joined there by local politicos Comptroller Brad Lander and Councilmember Shahana Hanif, who have endorsed the pair.

jumaane williams and ana marie archila primary election
Gubernatorial candidate Jumaane Williams spoke with voters and handed out literature in Park Slope on the morning of the June 28 primary election. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“I’m so excited to join the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers voting today so that our state government will put the needs of working families before the wants of billionaires,” tweeted Archila, who headed to P.S. 261 in Boerum Hill to cast her own ballot with Lander, Hanif, and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez by her side. 

The split primary did bring a new sight to polling places — petitioners, gathering signatures for congressional and state Senate candidates who are hoping to get on the ballot for their August primary. 

At P.S. 92 in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, 75-year-old Joann Williams didn’t want to share who she’d voted for — but said local issues were at the front of her mind.

“I wanted to vote for someone who’s going to help the community,” said Williams, who has lived in the neighborhood for 57 years. “We need more schools in this community. We have a couple, they’re overcrowded. We’re getting more high rises, more people moving into the community, so we need more schools.”

Kellan Calder, a candidate for District Leader in Brooklyn’s 43rd Assembly District, worried about poll site confusion — her apartment building was assigned to a new polling place, confusing seniors who headed to their former site out of habit.

candidates in primary election
Ana Maria Archila, who is running for lieutenant governor, cast her vote in Park Slope on Tuesday morning. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“They’re walking, and they’re older,” Calder said. “They’ve already made it [to the poll site,] and to be told, ‘You can’t vote, this is the wrong poll site,’ it’s not good.”

New York City’s district leaders are unpaid members of county political parties with big responsibilities — if elected, Calder would officially be able to tackle issues at the polls, since district leaders help to staff and supervise polling places.

In Red Hook, some voters reported being turned away since their sites did not have enough staff to open.

At P.S. 92, 75-year-old Marcia Donaldson said she hadn’t made up her mind on who she’d be voting for as she prepared to enter the booth.

“Half of these people I don’t really know,” Donaldson told Brooklyn Paper. “It’s gonna be a guessing game, some of them I know, for governor. Most of them I don’t know.”

The most important issue for Donaldson, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 50 years, is how the state will handle the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on gun control, which effectively overturned New York’s strict regulations on carrying guns in public. Governor Kathy Hochul, who is also appearing on the ballot on Tuesday, immediately said she would call state legislators back to Albany for a special session to discuss new legislation and possible regulations.

candidates on primary day
Incumbent assemblymember Brian Cunningham and district leader candidate Kellan Calder got in some last-minute campaigning in Prospect Lefferts Gardens on Tuesday morning. Photo by Ben Brachfeld

Brian Cunningham, the incumbent assemblymember in Brooklyn’s 43rd district, greeted voters and handed out campaign literature just feet away from Kellan — keeping things friendly despite rifts in the Brooklyn Democratic party. Kellan is backed by Brooklyn Can’t Wait, who are working to reform the party, while Cunningham is supported by the old guard. The drama between the existing county party and the reformers has been a distraction from the issues that matter, Cunningham said.

“The most important thing is getting more voter turnout,” Cunningham said. “I think especially given the recent decisions of the Supreme Court, as it pertains to concealed carry or a woman’s right to choose, we are seeing that the federal government is returning power to the state government, and I think it’s really important in this moment that we take our state elections and local elections seriously. Because the power is returning.”

But not all those out there campaigning felt the love.

Incumbent Emily Gallagher — who is facing a primary challenger in political newcomer and firefighter Paddy O’Sullivan — tweeted Tuesday afternoon that a local ladder drove by her on the street and booed her. “Doesn’t seem legal? Nor professional,” she said. (A Fire Department spokesperson said the agency is investigating the matter.)

At P.S. 269 on Nostrand Avenue, 74-year-old Lincoln Harding said he was casting his vote for Hochul.

“I just really want to choose the right person that can lead us into the promised land,” he told Brooklyn Paper.

At the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway, turnout appeared much lower Tuesday morning as it has in primaries past.

Voters were in and out of the Brooklyn Museum Tuesday morning.Photo by Ximena Del Cerro

Despite the number of competitive primary races, poll sites across the city are barren, with few — if any — seeing lines, and that same level of turnout was reflected in the city’s early voting tallies.

Of the 3.8 million active New York City Democrats and Republicans who could have taken part in early voting ahead of Tuesday’s gubernatorial and Assembly primaries, just over 2% of them bothered to do so, according to figures from the city’s Board of Elections.

Through the nine-day voting period that concluded on Sunday, June 26, BOE reported a total of 86,890 voter check-ins at its 140 early voting sites — or roughly 2.2% of the 3,878,189 active New York City voters who could participate in the primary.

However, Brooklyn did see among the biggest bulk of early voters, according to the board. Kings County saw 25,644 ballots cast over the course of early voting, topped only by Manhattan which saw 29,205. Queens checked in third with 17,157, followed by the Bronx with 10,045, and Staten Island bringing up the rear with 4,839.

At NYCHA’s Carey Gardens complex on Surf Avenue, though, there was a steady stream of voters looking to participate in one of the borough’s most competitive races.

The Coney Island polling site is where many will cast their vote for the 46th Assembly District. Tuesday afternoon, 73-year-old Emily Benitez cast her vote for progressive incumbent Mathylde Frontus, defending her seat from centrist Dionne Brown-Jordan.

The two candidates have sparred over each other’s presence — or alleged lack there of — in the district, which stretches from the boardwalks of Brighton Beach and Coney Island to the foot of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in Bay Ridge.

Benitez produced a flyer from her pocket promoting Frontus, and district leader candidates Angela Kravtchenko and Chris McCreight. “They say they’ll help anyone that needs help,” she said. “You’re running the state? Be honest about who you are and what you want to do.”

For 31-year-old Mac Gostow, who cast his ballot at Brooklyn Museum, voting is about “breaking the pattern.”

“There was a period of time where I never used to come out to vote, but that doesn’t have to be perpetuated,” Gostow told Brooklyn Paper. “Any election is an opportunity to break a pattern and voice our needs.”

“The candidate I voted for is solid and I think we will need the representation we need,” he said, adding that the governor’s race was most pressing to him. “I think that in the way everything happened with [former Governor Andrew] Cuomo and [Hochul] coming in and taking his seat, I just think we need to cleanse that and bring new blood.”
 
Sonia Sky agreed — the 33-year-old Prospect Heights resident voted for Williams for governor, impressed by his progressive reputation and the endorsements he’s received from community groups she trusts. It’s important, she said, that politicians address real issues — and don’t just default to putting more police on the streets.
 
“Progressive candidates say they want to help with the housing situation and I am encouraged by that, but at the same time, I know it is very hard because the real estate market is crazy,” Sky said. “What just happened on a city level, the recent passing of a 3% increase on rent stabilization in a time when rents are already so high, was very upsetting for me and it is hard to trust our political systems when that happens.”

This story will be updated throughout the day, check back for more! Find your polling place and view a sample ballot at vote.nyc.

Additional reporting by Robert Pozarycki

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