Queer Women Vying for Council Nab 21 in ‘21 Endorsements

Out queer City Council candidate Tiffany Cabán at Queens Pride during her 2019 campaign for district attorney.
Donna Aceto

A grassroots group aiming to bring much-needed gender diversity to the New York City Council in next year’s elections unveiled dozens of new endorsements on October 19 — including some of the out LGBTQ women running for city office.

The group 21 in ‘21, formed in 2017 with the purpose of adding more women to a City Council that currently includes only 12, used rank-choice voting to endorse a bipartisan collection of candidates — meaning their top choice was listed first, followed by other candidates in descending order of preference. City residents will be voting in ranked-choice format in next year’s primaries and special elections. Any races in which one person does not win an outright majority will face additional rounds of vote counting, with candidates with the lowest number of first choice rankings eliminated each round and voters who chose them reassigned to their second place choices until a candidate gains a majority.

Crystal Hudson of Brooklyn’s District 35 could become the first out LGBTQ Black woman elected to the City Council.Twitter/ @CrystalHudson

Three out City Council hopefuls were included among the 33 candidates that received a first-choice endorsement from 21 in ‘21, which spells women as womxn to be more inclusive: District 22 candidate Tiffany Cabán of Queens, District 29 candidate Lynn Schulman, also of Queens, and District 35 candidate Crystal Hudson of Brooklyn.

Group working to bring gender diversity to City Hall ranks candidates ahead of next year’s primaries

Out candidates who landed second-place endorsement rankings were District Nine candidate Kristin Richardson Jordan and District 15 candidate Elisa Crespo. While most candidates are anticipating next June’s primary races, Crespo is first competing in a special election to replace out gay lawmaker Ritchie Torres, who is on his way to Congress, and if she wins that competition she will again have to square off in the June Democratic primary election in order to get re-elected.

Although there are multiple trans candidates running for City Council next year, Crespo’s looming special election — likely to be held in the early months of 2021 — provides her with a chance to make stand-alone history as the first out trans candidate elected to the City Council months before other trans candidates face off in primary races.

The 21 in ‘21 effort is similar to a campaign to elect queer candidates called LGBTQ in 2021, which is intended to ensure queer representation at City Hall next year when the entire LGBT Caucus — which consists of Torres, Speaker Corey Johnson of Manhattan, Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm of Queens, and Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn — will be term-limited.

In fact, the 2021 elections present a prime opportunity for the City Council to increase gender and racial diversify in an LGBT Caucus that is entirely made up of cisgender men. Other out trans candidates include Jordana Lusk, who is challenging incumbent Keith Powers in Manhattan’s District 4, and Alejanda Caraballo, a candidate in Brooklyn’s 35th District who last year became the first out trans individual appointed to a community board in the borough.

In addition to out queer women, there are also out men as well as non-binary candidates — like drag artist Marti Gould Cummings, running in Manhattan’s District 7 — eyeing City Council seats next year.

According to 21 in ‘21, candidates qualified for endorsement by identifying as a womxn, registering with the state’s Board of Elections, and establishing “campaign viability” by meeting or planning to meet the matching funds requirement. The candidates were interviewed by 21 in ‘21 leaders and subsequently voted on by the group’s membership.

“This was a long and thoughtful process, and all of the womxn who applied, with their bold leadership skills and their proven advocacy track records, certainly did not make our endorsement decisions easy,” 21 in ‘21 executive board chair Amelia Adams said in a written statement. “We know having too many strong, qualified applicants is a good problem to have, and we are confident in our slate’s ability to transform New York.”

The endorsement process, however, drew some criticism. Crespo’s relegation to a second-choice slot sparked a tweet from Caraballo, who asserted that the group should be doing more to help out trans women running for office.

“Spelling the word womxn that way while not supporting the openly trans NYC Council candidate @elisacresponyc in BX 15 is what I’ve come to expect from cis allies,” Caraballo wrote in a tweet October 20. “Word spellings are empty gestures if you don’t actually put in the work to uplift trans people of color.”

Nonetheless, the three first-choice endorsed candidates turned to Twitter to thank 21 in ‘21 for throwing support behind their campaigns.

Queens District 29 candidate Lynn Schulman was among three out candidates who won first place endorsements from 21 in ’21.Schulman2021.com

“I’m honored to receive @21in21NYC’s endorsement! With 12 women in the @NYCCouncil & only five LGBTQ members (all term-limited), and as an unapologetic Black, queer, GNC woman, I am thankful for orgs like 21 in ‘21 who know that representation matters,” Hudson wrote.

Cabán also welcomed the endorsement, writing, “Grateful for @21in21NYC ‘s support as we fight for a more representative Council and a more equitable New York City!”

With the hashtag #WomenPower, Schulman echoed the tweets posted by Hudson and Cabán.

“So proud to have the endorsement of @21in21NYC,” Schulman wrote. “Thank you to the awesome board members and congrats to all the other super dynamic endorsees. Looking forward to having you as colleagues in the next City Council.”

Crespo spoke up on Twitter, as well, praising the other candidates and even congratulating her opponent, Ischia Bravo, who wound up securing 21 in ‘21’s first-choice endorsement.

“Electing more womxn to the @NYCCouncil is a must,” Crespo wrote. “It’s time our local govt reflect our city’s population. Congratulations to all the amazing and strong womxn endorsed by @21in21NYC and congratulations to my colleague in the race @Bronxbravo for securing her endorsement.”

Overall, 76 percent of 21 in ‘21’s first-choice endorsed candidates are women of color, 52 percent are mothers, and 100 percent have committed to ensuring gender parity in their hiring decisions, according to 21 in ‘21. The list also includes one Republican primary candidate, Felicia Kalan, running in the same district as Cabán.

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