22 THE QUEENS COURIER • 2020 YEAR IN REVIEW • DECEMBER 24, 2020 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
2020 year in review
New faces highlight shift of political landscape in Queens
BY JACOB KAYE
Like nearly everything else this year,
COVID-19 altered politics in Queens in
Despite changes to the election schedule,
campaigns and voters’ priorities,
Queens saw the election of a handful of
new faces, the re-election of some old
ones and the election of the borough’s fi rst
Black man as borough president.
Let’s take a look back at the highlights of
politics in Queens this year.
Campaigning in a pandemic
In a presidential election year, the borough
saw candidates upend proven campaign
practices and shift their messages
online. As the pandemic forced people
into their homes and away from others,
connecting with voters became more
diffi cult, but more important than ever, as
local action to slow the spread of the virus
and counter its eff ects became dire.
Rather than handing out leafl ets, some
candidates running for offi ce in Queens
began handing out food.
“Th e fi rst thing that changed is that we
focused on getting emergency supplies
to individuals,” said Anthony Miranda,
who ran for Queens borough president
According to several people who ran for
offi ce this year, the pandemic only reinforced
their passion for the issues they
were campaigning on prior to the virus.
“My platform is for universal healthcare,”
said Jessica González-Rojas, who
will take offi ce in the New York State
Assembly for the fi rst time in January
aft er winning her election in District 34.
“Th ey say the virus doesn’t discriminate
but it does. Health inequalities are multiplied
for people of color and low-income
communities. Th at’s something I’ve been
fi ghting my entire life.”
Despite making changes to the election
schedule in an eff ort to slow the
spread of the virus, primaries in the borough
were still held in June. Th e elections
saw a solidifi cation of some of the trends
Queens had been experiencing prior to
Like Congresswoman Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez before them, a handful of
fi rst-time progressive candidates, including
González-Rojas, knocked off longtime
incumbents in the June primary.
In northwest Queens, Democratic
Socialist of America member Zohran
Mamdani narrowly beat out incumbent
Aravella Simotas. He’ll represent Astoria
in the Assembly beginning next year.
González-Rojas bested Michael DenDekker,
who served in the offi ce since 2009.
Th ough not a fi rst-time candidate,
Jenifer Rajkumar defeated incumbent
Mike Miller in the race to represent
Glendale, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill,
Ridgewood and Woodhaven.
Not only did campaigning look diff erent
this year, but election night did as well.
Similar to the presidential election, voters
across the borough had to wait, sometimes
for weeks, to hear the results of both
the summer primaries and the fall general
election. Increased use of absentee ballots
and early voting — both utilized to
slow the spread of COVID-19 — meant
that the city’s Board of Elections offi cials
had to count ballots in the weeks following
Th ough the elongated count created
some anxiety amongst candidates and
voters alike, a clear winner for each seat
was eventually determined.
Queens picks a new borough president
On Jan. 6, 2020, Melinda Katz was
sworn in as Queens district attorney, leaving
the Queens borough president seat
open. Th ough Sharon Lee took offi ce as
acting borough president, the race to fi ll
the seat was on.
Initially, voters were to head to the polls
in March to pick a new borough president
in a special election. However, a few
days aft er early voting for the race began
and as COVID-19 began to infect more
and more New Yorkers, the election was
Instead, residents would vote for borough
president in June primary and elect
a borough president in November, who
would serve until January 2022, when
Katz’s term was set to end.
In the June primary, former Councilman
Donovan Richards bested four other candidates,
including former Councilwoman
Elizabeth Crowley, retired NYPD
Sergeant Anthony Miranda, Councilman
Costa Constantinides and businessman
Facing off against Republican challenger
Joann Ariola, Richards won the
November election handily and was
sworn in as borough president — the fi rst
Black man to ever do so — on Dec. 2.
Looking forward to 2021
While COVID-19 may have made 2020
a hectic year in politics, 2021 isn’t looking
to be any less chaotic.
Currently, there are more than 100 people
running for City Council in Queens.
Th e borough will also see two special elections
in February – on Feb. 2, voters will
replace Rory Lancman in District 24 and
on Feb. 23, voters will replace Donovan
Richards in District 31.
Next year will also see the implementation
of ranked-choice voting, in which
voters select their top fi ve choices –
ranked one through fi ve – instead of only
picking their top candidate.
Th e use of ranked-choice voting in the
Feb. 2 special election, which will be the
fi rst time it is used in New York City, was
recently challenged in court.
Th e complainants, which included
Council members I. Daneek Miller and
Adrienne Adams, alleged that the city has
not educated voters on the new system.
Th eir lawsuit failed in court last week.
Despite having just voted for a new borough
president, voters will again vote for
the borough’s executive this year.
Because Katz’s term was set to end in
January 2022, residents will vote for borough
president in the June primary and
again in the November general election
in 2021. Th e winner will take offi ce when
Katz’s term was to end.
Photo by By Angélica Acevedo
Jessica González-Rojas was elected to represent District 34 in the State Assembly this year.
Photo by Dean Moses Photo by Mark Hallum