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Tuesday’s primary could break records for lowest voter turnout in New York City ever.

Four years ago, Bill de Blasio fended off four other challengers to win the Democratic mayoral primary with just over 40 percent of the vote—enough to avoid a runoff.

The race was long, highly competitive and fraught with drama—remember Anthony Weiner— yet only 20 percent or about 700,000 eligible Democratic and Republican voters cast ballots.

This year, the mayor has only a nominal opponent in the Democratic primary, and no challengers to Republican Nicole Malliotakis have surfaced since Paul Massey dropped out this summer.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer is also running unopposed. Public Advocate Letitia James may as well be. None of the borough presidents—and few district attorneys except Brooklyn’s—face competitive elections.

That leaves a fistful of competitive City Council races; there are 10 open seats and seven members who are term-limited and departing. The candidates are counting on the few voters who do show up at the polls to vault them into City Hall.

These seven races should be the closest campaigns to watch:

Brooklyn District 35 Crown Heights-Fort Greene

This bitter rematch between progressive rivals Laurie Cumbo and Ede Fox is one of the few contests that could be decided by a neighborhood development project. Both Democrats oppose the mayor’s plan to redevelop the Bedford Armory in Crown Heights. But Fox has argued that Cumbo, the incumbent councilwoman, came out against the plan far too late and has hammered Cumbo in the press. “Cumbo could lose the race based on gentrification,” said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “The armory represents gentrification and the dispossession of black working families, and if Fox can make the argument work that Cumbo was late to the game, it could be very competitive.” Cumbo has touted endorsements from a number of elected officials including Letitia James and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was reportedly not thrilled that Fox is running against Cumbo. “Fox broke her word—when she was hired by her [Mark-Viverito] to be on the Council staff she promised she would not run against Laurie, so Mark-Viverito endorsed Cumbo,” said political consultant George Arzt. Cumbo beat Fox 35 percent to 26 percent in 2013, but only about 1,800 votes separated them.

Queens District 20 Flushing

Councilman Peter Koo is another incumbent who could be in real trouble next week. He ran unopposed in 2013 but has a tough challenger in Community Board 7 member Alison Tan, who is a dogged campaigner and happens to be the wife of popular Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim. Koo’s baggage doesn’t help him either: A former Republican, Koo joined the Democratic Party in 2012 but retains a conservative streak. Pro-choice groups slammed him for giving Council funds to a group promoting alternatives to abortion. And Tan criticized pharmacies owned by Koo’s family for selling cigarettes while the city cracks down on tobacco use. Koo has picked up the governor’s endorsement but the race will likely come down to who can mobilize voters and appeal to a slice of white, African American, and Latino residents in Flushing. “In emerging communities there’s always factionalism, and when there’s factionalism anyone can become a victim,” said Sheinkopf. “Incumbents are only ejected if there’s a strong anger that’s localized.”

Bronx District 13 Throgs Neck-City Island

Bronx Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj has spent over $700,000 in his race to succeed term-limited Councilman Jimmy Vacca—and he still might lose. He’s facing Bronx Community Board 10 member Marjorie Velazquez, whom Vacca endorsed, and two other male candidates in a race consultants call a toss-up. “I would not be surprised to see either one win,” said consultant Jerry Skurnik. “The two most popular elected officials are Jeff Klein and Jimmy Vacca, and each is backing a different candidate. I think part of it is which one has more influence this year.” Klein has endorsed Gjonaj, who has the support of much of the Bronx Democratic Party.

Manhattan/Bronx District 8 East Harlem-Mott Haven


Mark-Viverito is stepping down from her seat after eight years in City Hall, including four as Council speaker. She wants her deputy chief of staff Diana Ayala to replace her, but Bronx Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez is gunning for the seat. The race has led to a political rift in the Bronx, with Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. backing Ayala while Bronx Democratic Party Chairman Marcos Crespo backs Rodriguez. Mark-Viverito managed only 35 percent of the vote among six candidates in a low-turnout race four years ago, so this contest could be decided by a very close margin.

Brooklyn District 38 Sunset Park

Political upstart Carlos Menchaca was one of the only candidates to defeat a Democratic incumbent four years ago. He is facing his former foe, Sara Gonzalez, as well as Albany stalwart Assemblyman Felix Ortiz this time around. Ortiz has high name recognition in Sunset Park and Red Hook, while Menchaca’s allies, including Brooklyn Rep. Nydia Velazquez, have been asking for support for his campaign. Even Queens Rep. Joe Crowley has been helping out, sources said.

Queens District 30 Maspeth-Glendale

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley is one of the most conservative Democrats in the City Council, but she might be too liberal for her district. She’s facing another right-leaning Democrat, Bob Holden, in a lively but vicious campaign that has seen a bomb threat, excessive name-calling, and a “Simpsons” reference on a mailer comparing Holden to an angry Abe Simpson. Controversies over the placement of a homeless shelter in Maspeth, the siting of a jail that would replace Rikers, and general discontentedness over Mayor de Blasio’s agenda have been part of the debate. This district’s voters may be angry and motivated enough to toss Crowley out of office.

Queens District 21 Elmhurst-Corona

We will soon find out whether New Yorkers are willing to elect a former lawmaker convicted of assault and political corruption. Former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate is attempting a comeback in a bid to succeed his protégée, Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, after spending 21 months in prison for misusing campaign funds. He says he’s changed. Now he wants his old job, which he had before winning his Senate seat, after he was ejected from Albany for breaking a bottle on his then-girlfriend’s face. Queens Assemblyman Francisco Moya jumped into the race as soon as Ferreras-Copeland unexpectedly retired, and the two men have traded barbs on the future of Willets Point, immigration advocacy and domestic violence. Moya is backed by Queens County Democratic leaders, who badly want to claim the seat, while Monserrate has the support of anti-county foes. “This is a proxy battle against Joe Crowley to embarrass him and make it less likely to determine who will be City Council speaker,” said Sheinkopf. “You might as well put Crowley’s name on the ballot, not Moya’s.”

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