Yusef Salaam, a member of the Central Park Five, has only come out further on top in his race for a Harlem City Council seat. Salaam had been leading his closest competitor in the Democratic primary, Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, by nearly twice the amount of votes after the first round of voting–leading him to credibly claim victory. However, he ended up just shy of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff, squeaking in at 49.9 percent. Now, after the second round of ranked choice voting was tabulated by the Board of Elections on July 3rd, Salaam has seen his runoff victory come in at an incontestable 63.8 percent (or 6,993 votes) to Dickens’ 36.2 percent (or 3,962 votes). The third candidate in the race, Al Taylor, was eliminated from the runoff when he only pulled 14.1 percent in the initial round of voting.
Dickens, a veteran politician in Harlem, was endorsed by Mayor Eric Adams. Salaam will now head to the general election for the 9th District position in November, where he is not expected to have any substantial competition.
Salaam was certainly not hindered in his efforts by securing a cross-endorsement from Taylor, with the intention of coalescing votes between the two candidates and heading off Dickens at the pass. This possibly provides one of the reasons Dickens--who is already an elected Assemblymember representing Harlem--fell considerably short in the final tally of votes.
All three candidates were running to replace Kristin Richardson Jordan, a democratic socialist who will be vacating the seat. She dropped out suddenly in May, but her name was already on the ballot. She therefore still received 9.5 percent of--or 1,092--first ballot votes. Incumbents across the city won 49 of the 51 council seats.
Salaam ran a campaign on everything from issuing baby bonds as a form of “economic justice” to reassessing the role of the NYPD in Harlem neighborhoods. Salaam stands as a stark example of justice miscarried, after he was racially profiled and wrongfully convicted--with four other teens--for the rape of a woman on a Central Park jogging trail in 1989. He was eventually exonerated and freed after seven years in prison. He also reputedly hopes to tackle climate change, invest in after-school programs, and fund eviction prevention services.
A statement provided to Straus News by Yusef’s campaign proclaimed that “this is a victory for justice, dignity and decency for the Harlem community we love. It’s a victory in support of not turning our backs on those in need, for saying we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and for saying the only way for all of us to thrive is to believe in the promise we all have. We are going to have a New Harlem Renaissance.”