Unlike most of their incoming freshmen peers, the winner of the election in the 22nd Council District will not have nearly two months to get set.
The district has not had a representative since April when Costa Constantinides resigned. The winner will be expected to take office shortly after Nov. 2.
Former public defender Tiffany Cabán is running for the Democrats, with Felicia Kalan running for the Republicans. Also on the ballot is Edwin DeJesus of the Green Party.
The district covers Astoria, Rikers Island and parts of Jackson Heights, Woodside and East Elmhurst.
Cabán told the Chronicle that the last two weeks of the campaign will be largely unchanged.
“We’re staying the course in that our goal has always been the same,” she said. “Elections are a vehicle for organizing, engaging community members. We’re meeting people where they’re at.”
She said they remain open to adjustments, such as in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Ida, where they took voter outreach along a different path.
“We started doing wellness checks, knocking on people’s doors, sending them texts,” Cabán said. “We were helping them fill out paperwork with the city comptroller and FEMA applications.
“We’re sticking with a campaign model that has been successful.”
Looking forward, Cabán acknowledged that things she wants to accomplish will be expensive, and that the city is facing large budgetary constraints, with projected deficits of about $5 billion over each of the next three years.
“One, while it’s a limited budget, it’s a really big one,” she said. “We’re coming with the most progressive City Council ever. A lot of people are running on budget justice.”
She said it is a matter of prioritizing the money that is available.
“On the city or federal level, you have the budget for police or the military, but we say we don’t have the money to expand people’s healthcare options,” she said.
“This is really about political will.”
Cabán also said investments in healthcare, combating homelessness, substance abuse and violence prevention programs will save money.
“You will have tremendous downstream savings,” she said.
Cabán expects Eric Adams to win the mayoralty, and said she was not given to pause when Adams, in the Democratic primary, thrashed opponents more politically aligned with her.
“Not at all,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a surprise that there are things Eric Adams and I disagree on. Where I think people might be surprised is the things that we agree on.”
She cited bike and bus lanes and crisis intervention personnel as examples.
“I was a public defender,” Cabán said. “I tell people no job prepared me more for politics. I had a client, a constituent, and was facing someone, a prosecutor, literally on the other side of the aisle.”
She said the same skills of reaching across that aisle, building up trust and respect, will work in the Council.
Kalan also said things are going well in the homestretch. And she is not daunted by talk that Cabán is the favorite.
“We’re getting great feedback from the community, both from Republicans and Democrats,” she said. “This is an election that is going to transcend political parties. It’s really about the best person for the job.”
She said there has been traditional door-knocking and phone banks — in English, Spanish and Greek.
Like her Democratic opponent, Kalan said there is a need to secure the district’s priorities within existing fiscal means.
“We have a $98 billion budget,” Kalan said. “If you’ve seen what’s happened to that money, ThriveNYC for example,” she said, citing the highly controversial multibillon-dollar mental health initiative run by first lady Chirlane McCray. “That money hasn’t been well-accounted for and has not been well used. With a $98 billion budget, we need to work within the existing budget to address these issues. That hasn’t been done. There hasn’t been accountability for the programs that are already out there. I think with $98 billion, we can address that issue.”
While she would be one of very few Republicans on the Council, Kalan, a mother of two children, said she should have no trouble finding common ground with many across the aisle, including, if he wins, Adams.
“Eric Adams is someone who cares about public safety,” she said. “We can work very well together. If he is elected mayor, I have no concerns about being able to deliver what I want for my district. Republicans have been able to do that.”
On one of her signature proposals — ending mayoral control of schools and adding regional school boards, Kalan believes it would not put an end to the ability to hold people accountable for the Department of Education’s results.
She believes, unlike appointed boards of the past, members of new governing bodies can be elected, possibly along Council district lines.
She said with the race being for a two-year term because of Census redistricting, that she is better suited as a resident and parent to represent the needs of the concerns of the community.
DeJesus also said he and his volunteers are not going to be changing up.
“I’ve been talking to the voters on the street every day, in businesses and restaurants, in the subway,” he said. “We recently sponsored a breast cancer awareness event in Astoria Park.”
And he said in a recent telephone interview that he is not a fringe candidate or a spoiler.
“Everyone should vote their conscience,” DeJesus said. “The spoiler tag is a myth perpetuated by the ruling class that wants to maintain the status quo. The idea that third-party candidates are not viable is an illusion. And the more people vote for them the more viable they become. People should vote their consciences — especially if they want anything to change.”
He cited, as an example, the idea that Green Party issues are regularly co-opted by the Democrats.
“What Democrats do is take things the Green Party wrote and water it down with all their corporate interests,” he said. “Take the Green New Deal for example. Their proposal contains half the jobs that it did when the Greens wrote it in 2006. If climate change is existential to them, why are they taking so long to do something about it?”
He said the same is true of Medicare for All.