It was recently reported that hedge fund billionaire Daniel Loeb of Third Point LLC and his wife Margaret, Citadel founder Ken Griffin, and Citadel Securities CEO Peng Zhao have contributed a total of $1.5 million to increase voting among Blacks, Latinos and Asians for next month’s mayoral primary. Led by the NAACP, the Asian American Federation and Hispanic Federation, a campaign will begin next week to contact voters in these communities.
This time, New York City elections are different from previous elections in many ways: There’s a new, June 22 Primary date, with early voting beginning on June 12, and, for the first time, Rank Choice voting. And yet, the stakes have never been greater! All citywide offices are up for grabs––mayor, comptroller and public advocate. Borough Presidents are all term-limited, as is the City Council, with 2/3 of that body up for election, with nearly 300 contenders vying for seats.
While this new, billionaire-funded effort to encourage New Yorkers to vote through direct mail, phone, texting and messages on the App WeChat––which is popular in the Chinese community––most current data indicates that Black voters play a very significant role in a candidate’s success, especially at the top of the ticket. Against the backdrop of immense and unequal suffering in communities of color due to COVID-19, NAACP-New York Chapter President Hazel Dukes describes the move to increase Black voter turnout and its results as empowering. “This past year, Black communities across New York City have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, beaming a spotlight on the racial inequities that harm and oppress our own residents.
“Our mission now,” Dukes said, “is to increase voter turnout and empower Black voters to make their voices heard in New York City’s June 22 primary.”
With the mayoral election the focal point and marked disparity in positions from defunding the NYPD to the city’s economic recovery––mixed in with many distractions and political theater rife with various forms of mudslinging––there is justified concern that down-ballot candidates may be ignored. This is a shame, since, as a practical matter, council members are often the most in-touch elected officials a community can have and rely upon.
All in all, the key to the next four years and having a city that we want to live in––and a city that is welcoming and supportive of us, is to vote. Former President Obama said it best: “I’m hopeful that despite all the noise, all the lies, we’re going to remember who we are, who we’re called to be. Out of this political darkness, I see a great awakening,” he said. “If you vote, things will get better, it will be a start.”
Gregory Floyd is president, Teamsters Local 237 and vice president at-large on the general board of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.