Let the game of musical chairs begin!
The post will be highly coveted by current elected officials who face term limits, but want to stay politically active in the borough. And by “current elected officials who face term limits,” we mean several members of the City Council, all of whom will be forced out of office at the end of 2021.
That list includes Donavan Richards, Jimmy Van Bramer, Costa Constantinides, Eric Ulrich and Paul Vallone, who have all expressed an interest in running.
Van Bramer has already been aggressively fundraising, and of all of the potential candidates is the most well-financed in the race so far.
Former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley has been more of a presence in public in the borough recently in anticipation of running for the post. She, along with Richards and Vallone, have also been actively fundraising for their campaigns.
Two Assembly members are also eyeing the position. Ron Kim of Flushing has been rumored as a potential candidate, while Alicia Hyndman of southeast Queens is the only person running to have officially established a campaign committee.
One person who isn’t running is Tiffany Caban, the upstart political newbie who nearly pulled off an upset of Katz for the district attorney post.
Some thought that she might capitalize on her strong showing in that race and make a push for another borough-wide seat, but she has stated she is not interested, although she has said she would be interested in running for another office in the future if the right opportunity presented itself.
Now for the nitty-gritty on how all of this will play itself out.
Katz has said she will not step down until after the November election. After a tough primary, she now faces a challenger in Joe Murray, a lifelong Democrat that the Queens County Republican Party tapped to run against her in the general election.
The Queens County GOP initially had a candidate from their own party in attorney Daniel Kogan, but his overwhelmingly tepid enthusiasm for actually running any sort of viable campaign forced the party to look elsewhere.
County leadership was initially courting Greg Lasak, a former judge who came in third in the Democratic Primary, but he refused the line so the GOP turned to Murray.
Apparently there isn’t a single qualified registered Republican in the entire borough who could serve as a candidate.
Caban was a hardcore progressive focused on sweeping criminal justice reforms, and the oft-contentious campaign and her strong showing forced Katz to move further to the left. The GOP is hoping Murray can appeal to more moderate voters wary about voting for someone too progressive on the issues.
But one thing is for sure, the Queens County GOP has assured that a Democrat will win in November. Let’s just assume for now that is going to be Katz so we can break down how the race for borough president will work.
If Katz wins the general election, in all likelihood a nonpartisan special election will be held in February. Off all the names mentioned, Ulrich is the only Republican among them at this point.
But party affiliation won’t really matter as much because candidates will not be allowed to run on an established party line, whether that be Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Working Families.
Even in a nonpartisan election, the backing of the Democratic Party used to be a huge stepping stone to victory, but with the near-defeat of Katz and the shocking upset of Congressman (and former head of the Queens County Democratic Party) Joseph Crowley by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an endorsement from the party doesn’t carry the cache it once did.
In fact, two candidates are already on record as saying they won’t even seek the party’s support. Van Bramer, who was a vocal supporter of Caban until the very end, and Crowley have both said they will run their campaigns without party backing.
If everyone who has expressed an interest in the post stays in the race, it is a very qualified and experienced pool. With so many candidates, whoever wins will likely do so without a huge number of votes.
Then they will get just over a year in office before they will have to run again in 2021, first in a primary if a Democratic challenger comes forward – which could happen if one of the other candidates narrowly loses in the special election and feels they could fare better in a pared-down field – and then again in a general election, which could appeal to Ulrich, the only registered Republican in the bunch.
And of course, whoever does get elected - other than Crowley - will leave behind a vacant office, which will have to be filled with a...wait for it...nonpartisan special election!