Democrat Cordell Cleare won in a landslide during Tuesday’s general election to fill the Harlem state senate seat vacated by Brian Benjamin, who was appointed lieutenant governor.
Cleare took 89% of the vote in the special election beating out her opponents, Republican Oz Sultan and Independent Shana Harmongoff. Cleare, who previously served as chief of staff for former State Sen. Bill Perkins, was named the Democratic nominee for the race by members of the Manhattan Democratic Party.
“This is what happens when Harlem unites,” Cleare said to her supporters at her election night party. “This is your victory tonight. The work starts immediately.”
Cleare has been involved in politics for several years, including serving for nearly 20 years with Perkins. A Harlem native, she was also a New York City district leader for District 70. This year she ran for City Council to represent District 9 and placed fourth.
During her senate campaign she focused on affordable housing, education and small businesses.
During her victory speech, Cleare thanked her mother for teaching her the value of community.
“I appreciate everything she made me do because it taught me service, it taught me to care for my community, it taught me to care for family, it taught me to care for other human beings,” Cleare said. “I’ve seen myself incorporate that in everything that I did.”
Cleare received several major endorsements during her campaign including Benjamin, Mayor-elect Eric Adams, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, former Congressman Charlie Rangel and Assemblywoman Inez Dickens. The weekend before the election she received the endorsement of the Exonerated Five.
On Monday, the day before the election, a political who’s who of Democrats held a rally at A. Philip Randolph Square in Harlem to urge people to vote. Cleare joined Adams, Williams, Benjamin, Manhattan District Attorney-elect Alvin Bragg and State Attorney General Letitia James, who recently announced her run for governor.
“Greater days are coming for Harlem,” Cleare said. “We have to make sure that the weakest of us, the least of us are cared for. I want to represent you in Albany because I want to take those concerns and take them to the halls of the legislature and make them understand that Harlem wants safe streets, Harlem wants better schools, Harlem wants funding for small businesses and Harlem wants to create some big businesses.”
Harlem District Leader William Allen said Cleare’s history in politics and her relationship with the community made her the perfect choice to go to the state senate.
“We needed Cordell to step in as our senator,” he said. “We now have a chance to reclaim what is ours. Now we really have to step up and be with her. This is the moment that she really needs us. They’re going to be after her.”