After successes in state legislative races, DSA sets sights on City Council

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(L-R) Michael Hollingsworth, Brandon West, and Alexa Aviles.
Pheral Lam, Brandon West for City Council, Alexa Aviles for City Council

After a slew of upset victories in the June primaries, the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America is setting their sights on the 2021 City Council races, where they’ve so far endorsed six upstart candidates — including three would-be Brooklyn legislators. 

The DSA last week announced their support for Brandon West in Park Slope’s 39th District, Michael Hollingsworth in the Crown Heights-anchored 35th District, and Alexa Aviles in Sunset Park’s 38th District. 

The organization also endorsed Tiffany Cabán and Jaslin Kaur in Queens and Adolfo Abreau in the Bronx and Manhattan.

With 36 of 51 Council members barred by term limits from seeking reelection, the 2021 city elections will substantially change the makeup of the city’s legislature — and the DSA hopes to capitalize on the shift to enact priorities like defunding the Police Department and investing more in the social safety net. 

“The six members of the NYC-DSA City Council slate are the leaders this city needs as we continue to face the devastating fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chi Anunwa, co-chair of New York City DSA. “They all have deep ties to their communities and an absolute commitment to fighting alongside working New Yorkers for a democratic socialist agenda, including defunding the NYPD and funding the social infrastructure we actually need — education, healthcare, and housing.”

On the heels of triumphs like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cotez’s 2016 win in the Bronx and state Sen. Julia Salazar’s 2018 victory in Bushwick, DSA-endorsed candidates toppled three incumbents in the state Assembly this past summer, and won a number of other open seats over party-backed politicos. 

An endorsement from the DSA has become a heavily sought after boost from candidates in progressive districts, with multiple hopefuls identifying as democratic socialists and seeking the DSA nod in each race.

West, who had previously led the reform-minded organization New Kings Democrats, received DSA’s backing in his election against eight others to replace Councilman Brad Lander in District 39. 

Local community board member Aviles garnered the organization’s support in District 38, which is currently represented by Councilman Carlos Menchaca, over five other candidates vying for the post. 

Nine candidates are looking to replace Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo in District 35, where DSA threw their weight behind Hollingsworth, a tenant activist who has been vocally opposed to development rezonings. 

Adding even more weight to the endorsements, DSA’s preferred candidates performed well in the 2020 state legislative districts that overlap the three Council districts where they’ve announced endorsements. 

Jabari Brisport handily won state Senate District 25, which includes large swaths of City Council District 39. Marcela Mitaynes dethroned Felix Ortiz in Sunset Park’s 51st Assembly District. Phara Souffrant Forrest, likewise defeated Walter Mosley in Crown Heights 57th Assembly District. 

“Last week, we elected a slate of socialist legislatures to represent working people up in Albany,” said New York City DSA co-chair Sumathy Kumar. “Now we’re doing the same right here in New York City.”