Call Her Council Member: Selvena Brooks-Powers Wins D31 Race

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 District 31 officially  has a new city council member. On Friday, March 19, Selvena Brooks-Powers was sworn in after winning New York City’s first real test of ranked-choice voting in the special election for the District 31 City Council seat.

On February 23, District 31 ranked their top five choices for city council out of nine candidates. By the end of the night, Brooks-Powers held the lead with about 38% of the vote, but she didn’t have the 50% threshold needed to officially be declared winner, so ranked-choice voting officially came into play for the first time in an election.

On Tuesday, March 16, the NYC Board of Elections finally began the process of hand counting the ballots in ranked-choice voting rounds, eliminating those with the lowest votes from the process, and going through voters’ next choices to redistribute the votes. By Thursday, March 18, they had a winner. With 3,841 votes, Brooks-Powers had 59% of the vote, beating out Pesach Osina’s 2,674 votes.

“I am honored to be elected by the residents of the 31st City Council District in Southeast Queens. I stand on the shoulders of the leaders that have come before me, but especially that of Juanita Watkins, the first woman of color to serve a NYC Council district and the only woman to have ever served the 31st District — almost 20 years ago,” Brooks-Powers soon said in a statement after her win.

"Running for office takes commitment and drive, and I wish the best for the other candidates. I remain thankful to everyone who supported me during the campaign - my family, friends, mentors, faith-based leaders, community leaders, and brothers and sisters in labor.

"We are in the midst of a tremendously challenging time, and the 31st District has been one of the hardest hit. I understand the gravity of the next few months and am ready to hit the ground running to begin immediately delivering for the district. In the last 20 years, we faced 9/11, Flight 587, Superstorm Sandy, the 2008 economic crisis, and now the Covid-19 pandemic. Our community is resilient, and we will recover from this pandemic and come back stronger. I will work tirelessly to ensure we get our fair share of support, resources, and respect from City Hall.”

Former District 31 City Council Member, now Queens Borough President Donovan Richards congratulated Brooks-Powers, who he had endorsed, on her win. “All of the ballots are counted, and the people have spoken: congrats Council Member-elect Selvena Brooks-Powers! With this being the first true test of Ranked Choice Voting, it was great to see democracy in action and see Selvena prevail,” he said. “I am confident Council Member-elect Brooks Powers will build on the work my office and I started and chart a new course for the future of the 31st District. She will make Southeast Queens proud.”

Runner-up Osina conceded saying, “Queens City Council District 31 is and will always be my home. I want to first thank my family for supporting my run for office as this takes a lot of patience and understanding. I want to thank everyone who believed in me and supported my candidacy by voting for me, by volunteering for my campaign, and would also like to thank my staff who assisted me run a great campaign. I am grateful and extremely humbled by each and every one of you.

“We ran a great campaign, but the voters of Queens' 31st Council District have exercised their right, and have used the power of their votes, their ranked choice votes ... and they have spoken.

“I congratulate Selvena Brooks-Powers on her victory as the next person to represent our community in the New York City Council. I wish her the best as we need to come together as a community given the many challenges ahead,” Osina said.

Brooks-Powers is already hitting the ground running in her new position as the City Council Member for District 31, but she will soon have to get to work on defending her position. The recent election was to fill the remainder of Richards’ term, which ends on December 31. In June, Brooks-Powers will likely face contenders again in a democratic primary, and once again in the general election for a full term for the position in November.

 By Katie McFadden

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