June 25, 2021 By Allison Griffin
The outcome as to who will be the next borough president is likely to be determined by western Queens voters—the supporters of Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.
The nail-biting borough president race is currently a near-tie with only 2,076 first-choice, in person votes separating incumbent Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and former Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. Van Bramer, the third candidate in the race, is far behind.
Richards leads Crowley by just over one percentage point. He generated 64,814 votes—or 41.53 percent of the first-choice votes—compared to Crowley’s 40.2 percent or 62,738 votes, election night results show.
With Richards falling short of gaining more than 50 percent of the votes, the city’s new ranked-choice voting system will come into play.
Van Bramer, with 17.82 percent of first-choice votes, will be eliminated as part of the tabulation process and those who voted for him will see their second-choice votes counted. His voters, who are concentrated in western Queens, will essentially act as the tiebreaker.
“My voters will directly decide this race as a result of ranked choice voting,” Van Bramer told the Queens Post. “I do not know who will ultimately prevail, but I feel good knowing that progressive western Queens voters who ranked me #1 will determine who will win.”
The progressive council member earned the majority of votes in his council district, including Sunnyside, Long Island City and parts of Woodside and Astoria, according to early election results and a map published by the data analytics firm Competitive Advantage Research.
“Nearly 30,000 people voted for me in this race. I am humbled by that support,” Van Bramer said. “Of course I’m thrilled we did so well in my Council district and much of Astoria and Western Queens.”
Richards, meanwhile, won the majority of Southeast Queens — a predominantly Black area with historically high voter turnout where mayoral candidate Eric Adams also did well — and Far Rockaway, which he previously represented in the City Council. He also snagged much of East Elmhurst’s votes, according to the map.
Crowley earned the majority of votes in much of the rest of the borough, including northern Queens and her former council district covering Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth and Woodhaven.
The neck-and-neck race was a shock to many political observers who assumed Richards would easily win re-election.
Richards won the June primary/ special election for the seat last year and will stay in office through the end of the year.
He beat Crowley last year by bringing in 36 percent of the vote, compared to her 29 percent. Costa Constantinides, an Astoria council member at the time, finished with 18 percent of the vote.
A Queens borough president hasn’t lost a bid for re-election since 1957, City & State reported.
Likewise, it’s unusual for the winner of a special election to lose in a following primary election. For instance, Queens Council Members Selvena Brooks-Powers and James Gennaro who both won special elections this year easily won a majority of votes in their respective primary elections on Tuesday.
However, the move is not unheard of. In fact, Crowley has accomplished it herself. In 2008, she lost a special election against Republican Anthony Como for Council District 30. Four months later, she beat Como in a general election for the seat.
Queens residents will have to wait until next week to find out the candidate Van Bramer supporters ranked second.
The Board of Election (BOE) plans to release the results of the ranked-choice count on Tuesday — however it will not include more than 27,000 Queens Democrats’ absentee ballots returned to the BOE as of Wednesday.
It won’t release the ranked-choice count–with absentee ballots– included until July 6. The results are expected to be certified the week of July 12 or later.
In many of the electoral districts in western Queens where Van Bramer secured a majority of first choice votes, Crowley came in second.
For instance, in Assembly District 37, which primarily covers Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City, Van Bramer pulled in 4,955 of first-choice votes, compared to Crowley’s 3,931 and Richards 3,049.
In Assembly District 36, which is represented by Democratic Socialist Zohran Mamdani and covers much of Astoria, Crowley narrowly beat Van Bramer. She pulled in 4,278 first-choice votes, compared to Van Bramer’s 4,258 and Richard’s 3,600.
It’s unclear whether this trend means that Van Bramer’s voters will rank her second but she says she is on track.
“We believe we’re on a path to victory,” she tweeted just after midnight Wednesday.
Her campaign also issued a statement expressing confidence.
“There are over 32,000 absentee ballots to be counted and they will favor us,” a Crowley spokesperson said. “There are also outstanding votes in the 12 Assembly Districts we won. Finally, not only are we leading Richards handily in Van Bramer’s base, ADs 36 and 37, but we’re winning the 13 Assembly Districts which make up 90 percent of Van Bramer’s votes, often by 15 points or more.”
Progressive voters, however, could go either way, according to one political analyst who didn’t want to be named.
The analyst said that many Van Bramer voters may reject her given her support of the NYPD and her last name, which is associated by many as being part of the political machine. While Richards was backed by the Queens County Democratic Party, Crowley’s cousin is Joseph Crowley.
On the flip side, Richards was tagged by Crowley and Van Bramer for taking real estate money.
Richards is confident that he can maintain his lead.
His campaign believes that there are votes in areas where he performed well that have yet to be counted. One such area is Assembly District 31, where 8 percent of the vote remains to be counted where he has already pulled in 4,531 votes compared to Crowley’s 1,509.
“As we wait for every vote to be counted and the ranked choice process to commence, we feel confident in the campaign we ran over the last few months,” a spokesperson for Richards said.
“There are districts where we performed strongly that have not completed counting Election Day ballots and we believe that our message resonated with those who ranked Council Member Van Bramer as their first choice.”