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2021 City Council Races: The Elections and What to Know

Nearly Two-Thirds of City Council Seats Are Up for Grabs

Although this year’s mayoral election has major implications on the City’s rental housing industry, nearly three dozen City Council races are equally as important.

Despite the fact that Democrats have held a vast majority of City Council seats for decades, never have we seen so many pro-tenant, progressive Democratic Council Members than over the last eight years. Under this current administration, we have seen some of most anti-owner laws ever passed in City history. Now, with many of these Council Members stepping down at the end of the year due to term limits, we could be on the verge of an even more progressive shift at the Council.

Several special elections have already been held over the last three months to fill seats that became vacant for various reasons, but just over 30 of the 51 Council seats will be up for grabs beginning this June during the primary elections. So far, more than 300 candidates have registered to run with the City’s Campaign Finance Board, which means City residents in various districts will have to familiarize themselves with all of the candidates and make sure that they vote for those who will consider a fair balance between building owners and tenants.

Regardless of your political party affiliation, the dramatic shift in City demographics all but ensures that whichever Democrat wins a Council district primary election in June will more than likely win in the general election in November. The biggest concern amongst all Democratic candidates are that some are more progressive and extreme than the others and are more likely to support stronger tenant protections and onerous compliance requirements for building owners. That is why it is very important to learn as much as possible about all of the candidates running in your Council district and vote for the most moderate candidates.

Because of the fact that there are hundreds of candidates for over 30 seats citywide, we will not provide a full list of some of the important names as we did for the mayoral race in last month’s issue of the RSA Reporter. However, we can provide some helpful tips when trying to determine who the best possible candidate is in a particular district.

First, you must determine the number of the Council district that you live in. Although we encourage you to also familiarize yourself with the district in which your building may be located, it is important to remember that you can only vote for a Council candidate in the district in which you are registered to vote. Second, once you know which district you live in, you should visit the City Campaign Finance Board website, which provides a full list of candidates running in each Council district. 

Once you have compiled a full list of candidates in each district, you can learn more about them from their individual campaign websites, social media pages and local borough newspapers that sell in your area. These local newspapers typically give extensive coverage on various candidates running for office in a particular borough. You should also attend local Community Board meetings over the next few months, which will more than likely host various candidates to speak in front of residents that live within the district.

The publication known as The City has also provided an in-depth portal of what you should know about this year’s Council races. There is even an interactive map where you can highlight a particular Council district and it provides names of all candidates running in that district. The website, which is updated frequently, can be accessed by clicking here.

As we mentioned last month, the new voting system put in place by the City this year will also have a tremendous impact on who will be elected to certain offices. The new system, known as Ranked Choice Voting, allows voters to rank their top five candidates in primary and special elections for Mayor, Comptroller, Borough President, and City Council races. On their ballots, voters are able to rank up to five candidates in order of preference. Please keep in mind that in some Council districts, there may not be five people running for that Council seat. If no candidate receives more than 50% of votes, there is an automatic runoff using the ranked choices. Voters can still choose to only vote for one candidate if they would like. You can learn more about Ranked Choice Voting by visiting

Over the next few months, we will keep our members apprised of all major developments with regard to all citywide races through the RSA Reporter, email blast, and our monthly membership meetings. 

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