Discover more from The Narrative Wars
The Seven Factions of New York City Politics
A breakdown of New York City politics into seven distinct factions based on ideology, class, neighborhoods and political institutions. Where are the City's various electoral coalitions headed?
Almost two years ago, Ross Barkan wrote a fascinating piece titled, “The Three Factions of the American Left,” about the many ideological stripes within the Democratic Party - namely the Socialist Left, Liberal Left (+ The Alphabet Left), and the Moderate Left.
In his piece, Barkan reflects on the policy and ideological distinctions between each segment of the American Left, while examining their respective relationships to the country’s foremost institutions, and the electorate itself. In light of all the developments in local and national politics over the past twenty-four months, it is absolutely worth a re-read.
I always strived to one day write a similar piece - but specifically about New York City politics, the bedrock of my newsletter.
Given my penchant for electoral politics, I sought to tailor this piece towards melding coalitions based around ideology, class, geography and electoral appeal. Some of these factions are defined quite clearly, like the Democratic Socialists, while others are more nuanced and designed to reflect a confluence of factors, many of which I will outline below.
Broad coalition building, in light of New York City’s adoption of Ranked Choice Voting, is now more tantamount to victory than ever before - particularly in contests that span the entire five boroughs. While State and Federal races (without RCV) are more reliant upon large fundraising and maximizing a strong existing base, race and ideology continue to play significant roles in shaping the electoral outcomes we see in New York - with many of the leading politicians capable of melding coalitions that transcend those variables.
As the role of traditional political institutions (like County Democratic organizations, neighborhood clubs) throughout New York City continues to change, each faction is defined by their relationships to said institution(s). Their power (or lack thereof) is oftentimes reflective of the strength of the institutions behind them.
Furthermore, as neighborhoods throughout the City continue to shift politically, I have included a list of “Core Neighborhoods” within each section - in an attempt to underscore where each faction is most politically potent in any given race.
Disclaimer: I am not trying to put anyone in a box, this piece is designed to be one tool (of many) that observers can use to continue to evaluate the ever-changing political landscape of New York City.
In another ten years or so, I will write an updated version of this piece to reflect all the changes that await us over the next decade.
Without further adieu, let me introduce you to:
The Seven Factions of New York City Politics
Democratic Socialists: The vanguard of ascendant left politics featuring New York City's most ideological voting contingent - whose most consistent support derives from young renters in Western Queens and North Brooklyn.
The Alphabet Left: An amalgamation of progressive non-profits led by the Working Families Party, whose politicos have strong appeal in professional-class enclaves like Brownstone Brooklyn. Also very ideological.
Hybrid Progressives: Comfortably to the left of New York City’s ideological median; retain influence with reformers, young progressives, and working class voters at the heart of their respective districts. Capable of rankling the left on occasion, but nonetheless an important piece of the City’s broad liberal-progressive coalition.
Affluent Liberals (and Moderates): Voting base is predominantly white, high-income earners concentrated throughout Manhattan south of 96th Street, and lush semi-suburban pockets like Riverdale and Forest Hills. The New York Times endorsement is the bell-weather for this group.
Center-Left Establishment: Candidates with strong fundraising, ties to organized labor, and an apprehension towards the left - particularly with respect to Israel. While their base rests with low-income and working class voters in the outer boroughs, this cohort maintains appeal with Manhattan liberals through their adjacency to the State’s most powerful political institutions.
County-aligned Moderates: The foundation of Eric Adams coalition in the 2021 Mayoral Primary. Outer borough homeowners, notably Black voters in Southeast Queens, Canarsie/Flatlands, and the Northeast Bronx, who are electorally aligned with the moderate inclinations of their local County Democratic organization.
Old and New Republican Coalition: A confluence of the declining white ethnic population in Staten Island, Southern Brooklyn and Northeast Queens and the growing Asian electorate.
Now, let’s begin.
Key figures: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Tiffany Cabán, Jabari Brisport, Julia Salazar, Zohran Mamdani, Kristen Gonzalez, Phara Souffrant Forrest, Alexa Avilés, Marcela Mitaynes, Emily Gallagher
Core Neighborhoods: Astoria, Greenpoint, East Williamsburg, Bushwick (west of Myrtle Avenue), Fort Greene, Ridgewood, Gowanus
Institutions: NYC-DSA, Jacobin
Catalyzed by Bernie Sanders, spearheaded by NYC-DSA, and headlined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, no faction of New York City politics has grown more over the past five years than the Democratic Socialists.
Before Ocasio-Cortez’ stunning triumph captured the imagination of young people and the press alike, New York City had not sent a socialist representative to Congress in one hundred years. Yet, it was the defeat of State Senator Martin Malave Dilan - a relic of Vito Lopez’ North Brooklyn machine - at the hands of Julia Salazar that same fateful summer, that proved equally demonstrative of DSA’s growing power, electoral base, and future ambitions.
Two years later, Jabari Brisport joined Salazar in the Senate, with Zohran Mamdani, Phara Souffrant-Forrest, Marcela Mitaynes and Emily Gallagher following suit, prevailing in close and contentious contests to enter the lower chamber. With an eye towards the State Capital, seven of the ten NYC-DSA electeds currently serve in Albany, helping the progressive left shift the overton window in State government.
And, while there are other socialist lawmakers in New York, like City Council Members Charles Barron and Kristin Richardson Jordan, who are not affiliated with the local chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America - NYC-DSA nonetheless serves as the preeminent socialist electoral institution in the five boroughs, equipped with an army of volunteers that is the envy of every candidate forced to rely on paid field organizing. This asset - hundreds of volunteers, canvassers, and organizers - is especially powerful in micro-level races, like State Assembly, City Council, and State Senate - where win number thresholds are lower and a robust field operation is the most important variable in deciding the race’s outcome.
Overall, Democratic Socialist candidates perform best with young renters, many of whom are unabashedly progressive and increasingly active in local politics in the wake of Sanders' Presidential bid and the meteoric rise of AOC. While the movement’s core strength resides in gentrified (or gentrifying) pockets like Astoria, Greenpoint and Fort Greene - multiple socialist candidates have submitted strong performances with Latino voters in their respective districts, from Jackson Heights to Bushwick to Sunset Park West.
Electorally, the Democratic Socialists have made a habit of either dispatching moderate incumbents in increasingly-progressive districts with challenges from the left - as was the case for the victories of Salazar, Mamdani, Mitaynes, and Forrest (with the latter even foiling Hakeem Jeffries’ protege, Walter Mosley, in the process) - or netting blowout open-primary victories in their core neighborhoods - as was the case with Brisport, Kristen Gonzalez, and Alexa Avilés.
Yet, harmony between progressives and socialists is never guaranteed, as DSA candidates have faced political headwinds when pitted against the Alphabet Left, shortcomings that were illustrated by the 2021 City Council races.
In District 39, DSA endorsed organizer Brandon West over Shahana Hanif, a top staffer to Brad Lander (the outgoing CM) who was endorsed by many of the progressive non-profits that define the Alphabet Left, like the Working Families Party, NYPAN, Sunrise Movement, and the Jewish Vote. Despite a staunch progressive constituency, the district - which spans Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Park Slope, and Windsor Terrace - skewed older and wealthier than DSA’s traditional base, allowing Hanif, with a majority of the support from the “institutional left” and a progressive platform of her own, to coalesce many liberals and progressive. Coincidentally, a similar dynamic played out in the 35th District, where DSA once again faced a top staffer, Crystal Hudson, to the district’s former council member - the latest installation in the organization’s proxy war with House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Many of the same left-aligned non-profits and politicians that backed Hanif also supported Hudson (in addition to organized labor), leaving DSA-endorsee Michael Hollingsworth pitted against much of the Alphabet Left and forces aligned with Jeffries’ camp, culminating in a narrow defeat.
Both races underscore an analogous current: While Democratic socialist candidates can expect to perform quite well in “Alphabet Left” neighborhoods on a generic ballot against moderate or establishment-aligned Democrats, they will likely encounter a degree of resistance in more localized races where there is a credible, progressive alternative - particularly if they are backed by institutional left organizations and labor unions. Notably, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez personally endorsed both West and Hanif, while offering no endorsement decision in the District 35 race - Hollingsworth was the only DSA-endorsed candidate that Ocasio-Cortez did not personally support - putting this fracture in the broader-progressive movement into perspective.
Editor’s Note: Hanif, Marjorie Velazquez, Jennifer Gutierrez, and Sandy Nurse were the only City Council candidates to receive Ocasio-Cortez’s personal endorsement that were not backed by DSA.
Pundits and observers remain split on the electoral potential of the Democratic Socialist coalition when extrapolating to borough-wide, federal, or even citywide races. Thus far, only two candidates - Cabán (Queens DA) and Ocasio-Cortez (Congress) - have competed in such contests. Many districts across the five boroughs that could conceivably elect socialist representatives are already tied up by progressive electeds for the foreseeable future. Crucially, DSA has shown a willingness to invest resources in races far beyond their leftist-friendly core neighborhoods - including campaigns in University Heights, Glen Oaks, and Flatlands. While those more ambitious races have not borne fruit (yet), breakthroughs will eventually come - particularly at the micro-level.
Key figures: Jamaal Bowman, Brad Lander, Jumaane Williams, Michael Gianaris, Yuh-Line Niou, Rana Abdelhamid, Mondaire Jones, Zephyr Teachout, Cynthia Nixon, Ana Maria Archila, Maya Wiley, Shahana Hanif, Jessica González-Rojas, Alessandra Biaggi, Jessica Ramos
Core Neighborhoods: Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Prospect Heights, East Village/Alphabet City (west of Avenue D), Long Island City, Morningside Heights, Red Hook, Windsor Terrace, Greenwood Heights/South Slope, Kensington, Hudson Heights
Political Institutions: The Working Families Party, Our Revolution, NYPAN, Make the Road, New York Communities for Change, Indivisible Chapters, The Jewish Vote
Before the rise of Democratic Socialism, the Alphabet Left - a term coined by Ross Barkan in his aforementioned piece - largely defined the progressive movement across both New York City and the State at large.
Anchored by the Working Families Party, the Alphabet Left married organized labor with progressive activists and organizations to push the Democratic Party leftward throughout the Guliani, Pataki, and Bloomberg eras.
Yet, it was New York’s previous Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo, who ultimately defined the modern Alphabet Left. The imperial executive forced labor to abandon the Working Families Party, while tacitly sanctioning a power-sharing agreement in the State Senate between Republicans and renegade Democrats, known as the Independent Democratic Caucus. Without the more moderate inklings of organized labor, combined with the hyper-partisanship of the Trump era, this cohort of progressive Democrats shifted farther to the left, endearing themselves to disaffected liberals looking to increase their involvement in local politics.
Several candidates, backed by different combinations of Alphabet Left organizations - The Working Families Party, local Indivisible chapters, NYPAN/Our Revolution etc - broke through during the progressive wave of 2018, with Jessica Ramos and Alessandra Biaggi defeating IDC-aligned incumbents. Jumaane Williams, despite a significant fundraising deficit, came within four points of unseating Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul - winning New York City as a whole by over seven points, buoyed by heavy margins in Brooklyn and Manhattan - eventually parlaying that momentum into a commanding election to Public Advocate. The good vibes crested in 2020, as Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones won neighboring Congressional districts that stretched from the Bronx to the Hudson Valley, as the former resoundingly dispatching a fourteen-term incumbent with the latter comfortably pulling away in what should have been a more competitive race.
However, the momentum came to a head in 2021, as much of the blame for Eric Adams’ victory was laid at the feet of the Alphabet Left, who struggled to coalesce the many factions within the City’s progressive movement behind a singular progressive candidate - as the Working Families Party initially backing the (soon to be) scandal-scarred campaigns of Scott Stringer and Dianne Morales before eventually settling on Maya Wiley - a chaotic endorsement migration that befell many institutions across the progressive left.
Even with the silver lining of Brad Lander’s election as Comptroller, an electoral performance pattern had emerged, with evident hurdles to a citywide victory. Traditionally, Alphabet Left candidates perform well in DSA-friendly enclaves (think Bernie Sanders supporters), like Astoria, Greenpoint and Ridgewood - given that in Citywide/Statewide contests, they are routinely the most-progressive choice in the race. Yet, in contrast to socialist candidates, they often possess greater appeal with progressives in the professional managerial class (think Elizabeth Warren supporters), many of whom live in higher-income neighborhoods like Park Slope, Cobble Hill, and Windsor Terrace, given that less of their rhetoric is rooted in class struggle.
Five years ago, Jumaane Wiliams successfully assembled a daunting progressive coalition, performing well amongst 1) young leftists in Western Queens and North Brooklyn 2) affluent liberals from Greenwich Village to the Upper West Side 3) upwardly-mobile progressives across Brooklyn’s Brownstone spectrum 4) African Americans and Afro-Carribeans in Harlem and Central Brooklyn - an electoral map reminiscent of 2013 Bill de Blasio. It is important to mention that Williams won a game-breaking endorsement from The New York Times, an essential component of any campaign hoping to perform well in Manhattan.
However, this breakthrough came against a feckless Kathy Hochul, who was completely unknown downstate at the time. Against Andrew Cuomo, who was armed to the teeth with labor endorsements and near-unlimited finances, Cynthia Nixon would be less fortunate - handily losing all of the working class neighborhoods that Williams had won, in addition to fairing much worse in Manhattan to The Times-endorsed Cuomo, solely performing well in DSA strongholds and Alphabet Left-aligned neighborhoods like Park Slope, Red Hook, and Carroll Gardens.
In the Mayoral race, Wiley failed to overcome Eric Adams because she struggled to break into the working class quarters of Central Brooklyn and Upper Manhattan (the way Williams had), let alone challenge Adams in more moderate Black-enclaves like Southeast Queens or the Northeast Bronx. Additionally, without The New York Times endorsement, Wiley was not competitive with many of Manhattan’s high-income whites, as Kathryn Garcia, a more technocratic candidate that closely aligns with the “Affluent Liberal” archetype, blitzed the borough south of 96th Street. Even Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods that once cast their ballots in droves for Williams/Nixon gave a majority of their support to Garcia three years later. An argument can be made that had Brad Lander faced a stronger field (instead of a weakened Corey Johnson, pre-indictment Brian Benjamin, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera post-50 point loss to AOC, and infamously hot-tempered Kevin Parker) during his quest to become Comptroller, particularly a formidable candidate with durable ties to the City’s outer borough Black and Latino working class - the outcome may have been the different.
Following an overall disappointing performance in 2022, the Alphabet Left faces an inflection point. Despite no longer facing Andrew Cuomo, the left’s performance in the Governor’s race regressed nonetheless, as Jumaane Williams and Ana Maria Archila were exponentially outspent, and electorally reduced to only the movement’s bedrock neighborhoods. Three of their rising stars, Yuh-Line Niou, Mondaire Jones and Alessandra Biaggi - lost tumultuous Congressional races, with all three beginning the new year outside the confines of elected office.
In a cruel twist of fate, Jones likely kneecapped Niou’s chances of winning the NY10 congressional seat by eschewing a member-on-member primary with Sean Patrick Maloney in his native district. Ultimately, Jones failed to secure even a modicum of support from the local institutional left, much of which sided with Niou, who placed second - two points behind Dan Goldman. As Jones lays the groundwork for a return to NY17, it remains to be seen whether his failed gambit permanently damages his reputation with the Alphabet Left, or costs him goodwill with New York City’s progressive voters, activists, and organizations when he eventually runs for Senate (too soon?).
So long as they continue to bleed portions of their progressive base to high-income liberals who prioritize competency over ideology, without making enduring gains amongst the outer borough working class, the full-potential of the Alphabet Left will never be realized.
Looking ahead, I will be closely watching Michael Gianaris, the Deputy Majority Leader of the State Senate. Had I crafted this list six years ago, the native of Astoria would not have been as far left as he is now (to be fair, that statement is true for many). However, Gianaris read the political winds of Western Queens better than most, quickly working to help disband the IDC, nix the Amazon HQ2 Deal, and ingratiate himself with many DSA electeds - to the point where he is now a fixture at election night celebrations, inaugurations and fundraisers. With past interest in running for State Attorney General, Gianaris would be a formidable candidate in an open primary (provided Tish James one day steps aside or runs for Governor) - given he is a shoe-in to dominate amongst progressives, and maintains a sincere opportunity to coalesce Manhattan liberals, outer borough ethnic whites, and many of the left-trending suburbs north of New York City.
Ultimately, these sections on Democratic Socialists and Alphabet Left progressives would be incomplete without mentioning Rep. Jamaal Bowman.
Editor’s Note: A member of Lower Hudson Valley DSA, who was endorsed by the organization during his inaugural run for Congress in 2020, controversy brewed between Bowman and DSA when the Congressman publicly opposed BDS, in addition to voting to “approve supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system and for visiting Israel in late 2021 on a trip sponsored by J Street” (Jewish Insider). DSA did not re-endorse Bowman two years later - hence why I put him on the fence between the two cohorts.
From the raw perspective of simply winning campaigns, few elected officials in New York State possess the ceiling that Bowman does.
Less than three years ago, Bowman throttled incumbent Elliot Engel in neighborhoods where no modern leftist candidate has ever had success - specifically with middle-class Black homeowners in Wakefield, Williamsbridge, Edenwald, Eastchester and Co-Op City, all neighborhoods in the Northeast Bronx.
Now, one could surmise that Bowman’s impressive totals could be due to the fact that he is Black, and Engel is white - and I would certainly not dispute race as a factor, but it does not tell the whole story. Even in the aforementioned Williams-Hochul tilt in 2018, the besieged Hochul still comfortably won the Bronx as a whole, performing her best in precincts where Bowman demolished Engel two years later, which coincidentally overlap with the districts of State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Bronx Democratic Chair Jamaal Bailey - not exactly picturesque progressives. Bowman’s dominant display was far from inevitable, as he even held his own throughout Westchester - from Mount Vernon to Yonkers to New Rochelle. This level of electoral prowess - winning Blacks, Latinos and Whites in a district that crisscrossed counties and meshes both urban and suburban voters together - is, to put it simply, quite rare.
If Bowman resided in the Bronx rather than Westchester, the Mayoral talk from the progressive left would have already reached a fever-pitch, and he would have been the odds-on-favorite to succeed Adams, so long as he wanted the job. Instead, Bowman will have to “settle” for waiting out the retirement of either Chuck Schumer or Kirsten Gillibrand - unless he wants to duke it out with Kathy Hochul in four years. So long as Bowman can raise the requisite $20-40 million to run television ads and carry a robust team through the primary, he holds the greatest electoral potential of any candidate on the left - capable of bridging support from progressives in Western Queens and North Brooklyn to middle-class Blacks across the Northeast Bronx, Central Brooklyn, and Southeast Queens. Bowman could realistically capture endorsements from both Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Hakeem Jeffries, closely contend for the favor of The New York Times Editorial Board, not to mention Latinos in Upper Manhattan and Alphabet Left progressives in Brownstone Brooklyn, all while remaining competitive throughout New York’s suburban counties like Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Rockland, and Dutchess.
Key figures: Nydia Velázquez, Letitia “Tish” James, Antonio Reynoso, Carlina Rivera, Zellnor Myrie, Robert Jackson
Core Neighborhoods: Southside Williamsburg (Los Sures), Bushwick (East of Myrtle Avenue), Bedford-Stuyvesant, Washington Heights, Sunset Park West, Central Harlem (south of 125th), Crown Heights, Jackson Heights, Sugar Hill
Political Institutions: 1199 SEIU, Brooklyn Reform Clubs
Unlike the previously detailed Democratic Socialist and Alphabet Left factions of New York City politics, the Hybrid Progressives branch is not as explicitly tied to a cohort of nonprofits nor a mass-member organization. This political archetype is respected (and even beloved) by the Alphabet Left, and would receive a warm welcome at a DSA inauguration for instance (and even occasionally endorse some of their candidates) - given they sit firmly to the left of the median New York City politician.
Yet, with the emergence of the socialist and alphabet left, hybrid progressives no longer sit at the vanguard of progressive politics, which occasionally leads to conflict. Oftentimes, these electeds represent districts with a larger working class base than other factions of the left, routinely succeeding county machine-aligned incumbents. Hybrid Progressives retain power because they hold dual electoral-appeal with the mixed-income people of color in their district, in addition to many young progressives and earnest reformers - particularly in Brooklyn. Despite these advantages, in ultra-competitive races, this archetype has struggled to gain traction with Manhattan liberals, a result of failing to score The New York Times endorsement.
Out of this group, Nydia Velázquez and Tish James are the most interesting case studies.
Thirty years ago, in a newly-drawn majority-Hispanic district dubbed a “cartographer’s worst nightmare” - a stitching of precincts that included the Lower East Side, Southside Williamsburg, Bushwick, Jackson Heights, and Sunset Park - Velázquez defeated incumbent Rep. Steven Solarz, becoming the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress.
Solarz, who was white, saw his district obliterated in decennial redistricting and chose to run against five Latino candidates rather than primary challenge his colleague Ted Weiss or face liberal Republican Bill Green - with racial dynamics undoubtedly factored into this stunning defeat. However, Velázquez branded herself as the progressive champion in the race, as she campaigned on supporting single payer healthcare, won endorsements from Mayor David Dinkins and 1199 labor boss, Denis Rivera, and touted her independence from the Brooklyn Democratic machine. In many respects, her attacks on the hawkish Solarz for his conservative stances as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, in addition to his lack of connection to the Latino communities he was vying to represent - Solarz had absconded to a “sprawling” Virginia estate many years prior, keeping only a paper address in the district - were reminiscent of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s infamous criticism of Joe Crowley, “He doesn’t drink our water or breathe our air.”
In addition to her consistent Congressional voting record, Velázquez has accumulated a lot of goodwill with reformers for her frequent criticism of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, which dates back to her time on the City Council. As the nature of her district has changed over time, both with respect to its demographic and ideological composition, not to mention the district lines themselves - Velázquez has shown an ability to appeal to a wide-range of constituents, including Chinese immigrants in Sunset Park and Lower Manhattan, Latinos in Bushwick and Cypress Hills, and white liberals in Brownstone Brooklyn. Her progressive history, relative closeness to the Alphabet Left, and working class base insulates her from a challenger - on either side of the ideological spectrum.
Unlike Velázquez, Tish James began her career currying favor from Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair, Clarence Norman, while serving as the understudy to State Assembly Member Roger Green, once an old foil of Hakeem Jeffries at the turn of the millennium. Yet, James became a darling of the progressive left when she was elected to the City Council on the Working Families Party ballot line in 2003, despite also receiving support from the county machine. A frequent critic of the Bloomberg administration, James emerged as a potential successor to Congressman Ed Towns, before opting to run for Public Advocate. Despite struggles amongst white liberals from Manhattan and Brooklyn’s affluent spheres, James, with the support of the labor-aligned Working Families Party, defeated REBNY-aligned State Senator Daniel Squadron off the support of working class Blacks and Latinos in Brooklyn, Southeast Queens and the Bronx.
Yet, James’ cushy relationship with the left was put to the test by Andrew Cuomo. Amidst the heated campaign for State Attorney General, James spurned her longtime ally, Working Families Party, at the behest of the Governor. In what was portrayed as a “deal with the devil,” James lost a significant amount of cache with progressive voters - lamenting to David Freedlander, “In May, I was the progressive darling, and now I am the Establishment.” Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout absorbed the mantle of the left, disavowing corporate PAC money on her way to endorsements from both The New York Times and the Daily News, who cast suspicion on James’ ability to hold Cuomo accountable. Tied to the political establishment, James ran to Teachout’s right, which cost her considerably among progressives and liberals, but only strengthened her resolve with the City’s outer borough working class, who carried her to victory.
Whatever progressive clout James lost during her race against Teachout was regained following her publicized efforts as State Attorney General to hold Cuomo accountable for multiple allegations of sexual harassment. After declaring her intention to challenge Kathy Hochul for re-election in 2022, James prematurely threw in the towel after running a half-hearted campaign over the course of a month. Hochul deftly navigated the “Invisible Primary” for institutional endorsements and financial backing, which amounted to nothing more than a mirage that covered up her numerous electoral weaknesses, many of which were exposed in last November’s general election. The difference between James, and key figures amongst the Alphabet Left and the Democratic Socialists, is that those aforementioned progressives are comfortably mounting insurgent campaigns against incumbents where the political establishment is against them. Thus far, James has proved throughout her career that she is not comfortable with such an undertaking.
While both Velázquez and James are distinguished and respected throughout progressive spaces, they have nonetheless periodically rankled other factions of the left - most recently in the wake of Kathy Hochul’s controversial decision to nominate Hector Lasalle to the State Court of Appeals. When Hochul first unveiled Lasalle as her Judicial nominee, amidst a chorus of dissent from labor unions and the broad liberal-progressive-socialist coalition in the State Senate, Velázquez and James were touted by the Governor as both early supporters of the pick, and, crucially, progressive validators - to the dismay of many ideological allies. While the majority of the fallout from Lasalle’s nomination fell at the feet of Governor Hochul, who foolishly doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down on what quickly evolved into a futile effort - even threatening to sue the Senate to bring a floor vote (that later failed as well) - these fissures, like relationships with the Governor, separate “Hybrid Progressives” like James and Velázquez from the Alphabet Left.
The electoral lessons of a candidate like Nydia Velázquez can be demonstrated through the differing outcomes in races featuring her two closest proteges, Antonio Reynoso and Carlina Rivera.
Reynoso, a former Council Member in Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood, entered the race for Brooklyn Borough President as the contest’s definitive progressive candidate - compared to the likes of Jo Anne Simon and Robert Cornegy. With much of the left apparatus behind him, as opposed to outflanking him, Reynoso combined his strength among working class Latinos in Sunset Park, Bushwick, and Cypress Hills (+ an impressive performance with Black voters in Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant) with progressives in Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Fort Greene and Alphabet left-strongholds Park Slope and Windsor Terrace.
Given some of the dynamics outlined in this piece, both Simon (Brownstone liberals, white ethnics) and Cornegy (Black voters in the borough’s Central/Southeast + Borough Park, Midwood) were limited beyond their initial coalitions - dooming them against the more electorally versatile Reynoso.
Contrast this phenomena with Carlina Rivera’s showing in the NY10 primary - who was boxed in from the left and the right, with respect to achieving a winning coalition - as the Alphabet Left largely coalesced behind Yuh-Line Niou, while more institutional forces, like the The New York Times, gravitated towards Dan Goldman. Although NY10 included working class Latino and Asian enclaves in Sunset Park and the Lower East Side, said voters only constituted 1/5th of the primary electorate, leaving Rivera’s inability to manufacture a hybrid-coalition with some combination of Manhattan elites, Brownstone liberals, and Alphabet Left progressives as the reason behind her fourth place finish.
Despite two significantly different outcomes, neither result was particularly reflective of the political acumen of Reynoso or Rivera - but rather the electoral conditions within the race itself. The Hybrid Progressive archetype is uniquely poised to perform well if they are able to fully assume an ideological lane, be it to the left (moreso the case) or the right (as James did in 2018) of their opponent - a formidable asset in Ranked Choice Voting. Due to these factors, a politician of this mold would be best positioned to challenge Eric Adams in 2025, given they could realistically siphon working class votes from the Mayor while retaining the broad liberal-progressive coalition that uniformly opposed him two years ago. However, they also risk being outflanked - by affluent liberals, hardcore progressives, and the moderate political establishment - in crowded and competitive open primaries for Federal or State office, where there is little incentive or will to consolidate candidates, and reliance on a high-turnout base assumes greater importance.
Affluent Liberals (and Moderates)
Key figures (Liberals): Jerry Nadler, Brad Hoylman-Sigal, Liz Krueger, Robert Caroll, Jo Anne Simon, Scott Stringer
Key figures (Moderates): Dan Goldman, Kathryn Garcia, Gale Brewer, Julie Menin, Lynn Schulman, Eric Dinowitz, Corey Johnson
Core Neighborhoods (Liberals): Upper West Side, Greenwich Village, Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, TriBeca, FiDi, Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights
Core Neighborhoods (Moderates): Upper East Side, Riverdale/Fieldston/Spuyten Duyvil, Forest Hills
Political Institutions: The New York Times, Neighborhood Democratic Clubs
A consistently influential, but not electorally overwhelming force in New York City politics, the Affluent Liberal (and Moderate) coalition is as strong as ever - home to many of the highest turnout Assembly Districts in the five boroughs.
Defined by the political touchstone of the The New York Times, Affluent Liberals are infamously loyal to the Grey Lady, whose endorsement wields overwhelming influence in the City’s urban core - almost singlehandedly deciding the Democratic Primaries for the 10th and 12th Congressional Districts this past Summer. Despite the decline of the newspaper industry at large, The New York Times remains one of the most powerful institutions in dictating the outcomes of macro-level races in New York State - in spite of cutbacks to the Metro section and a prolonged decrease in local political coverage.
Anchored by the Upper West Side but comfortably spread throughout Manhattan’s other exclusive enclaves, this faction skews white, wealthy and well-educated - spearheading many of the borough’s community boards, and frequently eliciting complaints of NIMBYism from their more progressive compatriots.
Speaking of, a key fault line has emerged over the past three years between the Affluent Liberals and the Progressive Left at large, a rift that took center stage last Friday when fifteen members of the City Council left the Progressive Caucus, after refusing to sign onto a new Statement of Principles pledge to “do everything we can to reduce the size and scope of the NYPD and the Department of Correction.”
As you can see from the map above, four of the departing members - Bottcher, Brewer, Powers and Menin - came from some of the City’s wealthiest districts in Manhattan, not to mention Dinowitz and Schulman, who hail from upper-middle class majority-white neighborhoods in the Bronx and Queens - all of which represent the bedrock of the affluent liberal/moderate electorate.
Amidst a new era of fervent partisanship and a decade of political realignment within the City itself, Manhattan, buttressed by many of these voters, served as Kathy Hochul’s Blue Wall against Lee Zeldin in the too close for comfort outcome of the Governor’s Race. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that many of these same neighborhoods - particularly those I tagged as “Affluent Moderates”, namely the Upper East Side, Forest Hills, and Riverdale/Spuyten Duyvil - staunchly supported Michael Bloomberg’s Mayoral campaigns, particularly when he faced outer borough non-white Democrats, like Fernando Ferrer and Bill Thompson.
Less than two years ago, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia came within 7,000 votes of winning the Mayoralty - a near miss that comes at a time when, despite their considerable institutional and electoral influence, the “Affluent Liberal” is becoming increasingly starved for prominent elected officials at both the City and State levels.
In the elusive equation of Democratic Primary ranked choice voting, Affluent Liberals and Moderates are capable of pairing with ideological opposites, namely outer borough white ethnics in right-leaning neighborhoods and/or Alphabet Left progressives in waterfront pockets across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens - a wave which Garcia nearly rode to victory.
Her late rise, attributable to a surprise endorsement from The New York Times, was almost entirely bereft of the institutions - labor unions, congressional members, political clubs, nonprofits - that defined campaigns in New York City for generations. With an aurora of competence and technocracy, Garcia endeared herself to high-earners across the political spectrum who valued her managerial experience - making inroads with ethnic whites in northeast Queens and Southern Brooklyn, while peeling off enough left-leaning voters in Brownstone Brooklyn to remain competitive with Maya Wiley.
Sample Kathryn Garcia voter in Manhattan:
2009 Mayoral General: Michael Bloomberg
2013 Mayoral General: Bill de Blasio
2018 Democratic Primary: Andrew Cuomo / Jumaane Williams / Zephyr Teachout
***Always Jerry Nadler***
Of the final four, Garcia(#3) trailed Wiley(#2) by over 15K votes for who would advance to the final round of Ranked Choice Voting against Eric Adams. Here, she received some crucial help from Andrew Yang, who endorsed Garcia as his second choice days prior to the election.
While Adams assumed Yang’s support with the Hasidic community, much of the latter’s cache with Asian communities in Southern Brooklyn (like Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst), Elmhurst, and Northeast Queens (like Linden Hill, Whitestone, Bayside, College Point) translated to Garcia, giving her a crucial advantage over Wiley, allowing her to advance to the final round of RCV, where, despite inheriting the majority of progressive support, she ultimately fell short.
Garcia’s shortcomings perfectly illustrate the pitfalls facing the “Affluent Liberal” in a citywide race: Without the means or the will to make inroads within the City’s working class Black and Latino neighborhoods, a coalition of high-income spheres in Manhattan and Brooklyn - even with tangential support from white ethnics in the outer-boroughs - will not be enough. Not to mention, without Andrew Yang’s endorsement, it is unlikely Garcia would have inherited such support with Asian voters, giving she did little to demonstrate any strength with the working class.
In several majority Black Assembly Districts in Brownsville, East Flatbush, Canarsie, East New York, Wakefield, Eastchester and Southeast Queens - Garcia finished with less than 15% of the vote.
AD58 - East Flatbush - Adams 93% Garcia 7%
AD60 - East New York, Starrett City - Adams 92% Garcia 8%
AD32 - Jamaica, Rochdale - Adams 90% Garcia 10%
AD29 - Hillsdale, Hollis, Springfield Gardens - Adams 88% Garcia 12%
AD83 - Wakefield, Eastchester, Edenwald, Williamsbridge - Adams 88% Garcia 12%
AD55 - Brownsville, Ocean Hill - Adams 87% Garcia 13%
It cannot be forgotten that much of the left-liberal coalition threw their weight behind Scott Stringer, who was viewed, in theory, as a politician capable of uniting progressive voters of all ideological inclinations. However, the former Manhattan Borough President and City Comptroller struggled throughout early polls - as his support was divided between Wiley, Dianne Morales, and Garcia - before his campaign imploded following two sexual misconduct allegations. The Alphabet Left gravitated towards the late-breaking Wiley, while affluent liberals backed Garcia - and the rest is history.
Unlike the Alphabet Left and Democratic Socialists, who have relatively deep benches of above-average candidates, the Affluent Liberals (and Moderates) are noticeably lacking in terms of key figures going forward. While a lot of wealthy Manhattan’s electoral power has remained, the political power has left the City center and migrated to Brooklyn.
While Jerry Nadler remains in Congress, crushing his East Side ex-colleague, Carolyn Maloney, in last August’s bifurcated Primary, he is likely entering one of his final terms in the House. His long-standing protege, Stringer, remains stained by the allegations surfaced during the Mayoral race, and faces a long road to even have a chance to run again. Garcia is perched as Kathy Hochul’s Director of State Operations, and has stated on the record that she has no plans to run for Mayor in 2025. Jo Anne Simon tried to win a promotion to Congress in NY10, but finished in a distant fifth place.
Off the strength of local influence, demographics, and class composition - the Manhattan liberal archetype will likely hold the NY12 Congressional seat indefinitely following Nadler’s retirement, with Brad Hoylman-Sigal likely a top contender, endearing to West Side progressives and The New York Times Editorial Board for his work on the State Senate Judiciary Committee.
While this voting cohort has played a decisive role in flipping countless Mayoral races - from Dinkins to Bloomberg to Bill de Blasio - I am skeptical that an “Affluent Liberal” can forge a necessary coalition to win a City or Statewide race, given they will *almost* assuredly face BOTH 1) a more progressive-aligned candidate, and 2) a candidate who performs significantly better amongst working class voters.
Key figures: Hakeem Jeffries, Adriano Espaillat, Ritchie Torres, Kathy Hochul, Andrew Cuomo
Core Neighborhoods: South Bronx, Morrisania, Mott Haven, Inwood (east of Broadway), Castle Hill, Hunts Point, East New York, Brownsville, East Harlem, Bay Ridge, University Heights, Fordham, Bedford Park, Cypress Hills, North Corona, Port Richmond, Public Housing Developments
Political Institutions: Labor unions (32BJ, DC37), Corporate PACs
The strongest electoral contingent in New York City politics, the Center-Left Establishment is, quite literally, the political establishment - occupying some of the most powerful offices, not just in New York State, but the entire country. Amidst my list of key figures, one can find the Senate Majority Leader, the House Democratic Leader, two additional Members of Congress, and the current and former Governor.
Prolific fundraisers allied closely with organized labor, the “Center-Left Establishment” remains strongest in the City’s working class and low-income quarters, particularly throughout wide swaths of the South and Central Bronx, Eastern Brooklyn (Brownsville, East New York), and Upper Manhattan - drawing equal strength from Black and Latinos. However, what makes this cohort so electorally potent is that - unlike the County-aligned moderates to their ideological right - this faction is not radioactive to high-income, educated voters.
In fact, many of the aforementioned figures received significant support from liberals on their way to elected office. Despite now openly antagonizing the progressive left at every turn, Hakeem Jeffries began his political odyssey as a favorite of local reformers, even achieving his largest margins against Charles Barron with voters in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Fort Greene/Clinton Hill. In both his challenges to veteran Rep. Charlie Rangel, the polarizing Lion of Harlem, then-State Senator Adriano Espaillat cast himself as the progressive insurgent, in an attempt to curry favor with young professionals who moved to the borough’s north. The ultimate liberal-institution, The New York Times, backed Ritchie Torres in a clown-car race for NY15 back in 2020. Even Andrew Cuomo, prior to his tumultuous three terms as Governor, was a consensus favorite of liberals in the lead-up to the 2010 election, who eschewing the scandal-plagued administration of incumbent-Governor David Patterson (who was soon forced to drop out), in favor of Mario Cuomo’s son.
However, once said politicians ascended to office - their relationship with the liberal left frayed.
While Espaillat has been largely successful in growing his political network in Upper Manhattan and the West Bronx, he faced significant headwinds when trying to oust State Senators Robert Jackson and Gustavo Rivera - with both gambits failed miserably, denting the Dominican’s reputation. Despite having one of the most progressive voting records in all of Congress, Espaillat’s local reputation, as one of the last true power brokers left in New York City, is far more mixed.
Nonetheless, Espaillat’s relationship with progressives is cordial, unlike that of Hakeem Jeffries and Andrew Cuomo. Much ink has been spilled on the former Governor, and I do not plan on adding to that. Similarly, Jeffries’ animosity towards DSA, Justice Democrats, and many progressive figures is well-documented but my central point is this:
The likes of Espaillat and Jeffries can routinely challenge the left, or even outright antagonize them - and pay little consequence - for they have already ascended. Espaillat remains insulated in New York’s 13th Congressional District, but does not appear keen on making one more political move - for Mayor or Senate. The same can be said for Jeffries, who at the age of fifty-two, is already House Minority Leader, and remains secure in his Brooklyn-based district. Cuomo, foiled and forced into retirement, consistently irked liberals and progressives throughout his time in office, but never paid the price for it at the ballot box - largely due to his commanding margins with working class voters.
Yet, such is not the case for Ritchie Torres.
Ambitious and “intent on advancing politically”, Torres has been tapped for stardom since his election to the City Council at age twenty-five, a notion only furthered when he succeeded Rep. Jose Serrano, following a crowded primary for the compact South Bronx-based District, becoming the first gay Afro-Latino elected to Congress.
However, Torres’ rise has not been bereft of tension with the progressive left - from criticism of his role in the passage of the Right to Know Act, emerging ties to FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried and crypto-deregulation, not to mention his embrace of donations tied to real estate, wall street, and pro-Israel lobbying - the latter of which comes at a time where liberals and progressives are growing increasingly apprehensive of the Israeli government’s rightward lurch, ongoing settlements in the West Bank, and continued mistreatment of the Palestinian people.
Even though Torres remains secure in his district - capable of holding the seat for as long as he pleases - he undoubtedly desires something greater - like a seat in the United States Senate.
Nevertheless, it is my contention that Torres, should he continue along these political optics, may be setting himself up to be boxed in during a hypothetical primary - rendering him unable to materialize a winning coalition.
While a de-facto allyship with Adriano Espaillat strengthens his profile with Dominican communities in Upper Manhattan and the West Bronx - if Torres needlessly alienates liberals - who in many respects, could be attracted to other aspects of his political brand - he waters down a potential path to victory, and will become more reliant upon a compelling performance throughout the suburbs or with Black voters in Brooklyn and Queens, in order to achieve victory.
The strongest politicians are those who actively seek to add to their existing coalitions.
In a three-way Senate race between Dan Goldman, Jamaal Bowman, and Ritchie Torres - who wins?
Dan Goldman straddles both the Affluent Liberal and Center-Left Establishment archetypes, and I’ll make the case he belongs in both categories.
With respect to policy and aesthetics, Goldman is now poised to court the progressive left to greater effect as an elected official than as a candidate, while his staunch support for Israel reflects the prevailing view of the Democratic establishment - like Chuck Schumer. He is considerably wealthy - the heir to the Levi Straus fortune - and is well-regarded by both DC elites and MSNBC viewers, following his role as Lead Counsel for the House Impeachment against then-President Donald Trump. Ideologically, I view Goldman as closer to the Center-Left establishment.
However, electorally, Goldman bears far greater resemblance to the “Affluent Liberal” archetype. For starters, he won The New York Times endorsement and dominated in Manhattan, particularly in the West Village, Tribeca, and Greenwich Village - ultimately the source of his margin of victory. While progressive precincts in Park Slope and Windsor Terrace were wary of Goldman, they did not outright reject him.
In fact, Goldman’s worst performances in the district came in Sunset Park, Chinatown, and NYCHA developments in Red Hook and the Lower East Side - all areas of the district that contained the highest concentration of working class people of color. Meanwhile, his best performances came in some of the City’s wealthiest census blocks - indicative of electoral trends correspondent to the “Manhattan Liberal.”
A key pillar of the “Center-Left Establishment” candidate, is that, regardless of race, they can perform well - or at the very least remain competitive - throughout the City’s working class enclaves. I see limited evidence to suggest that Goldman’s performance with working class voters would improve if he ran in a competitive Citywide race - assuming finances and candidate quality were controlled.
If Goldman ever desires a promotion to the Senate (he does), he would be wise to learn from New York’s senior statesman, Chuck Schumer. A relentless hustler who rose from perennial underdog to Senate Majority Leader, Schumer may be the strongest electoral force in New York State’s history, having never lost a single race.
Schumer’s prowess was on display throughout the 1998 Democratic Primary for Senate, in what was widely forecasted to be a closely-contested affair between the aforementioned Brooklyn Congressman, former VP nominee Geraldine Ferraro and Public Advocate Mark Green. Instead, Schumer thrashed the competition - handily winning all five boroughs, Long Island, and the suburban counties north of the City (Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess) - before dethroning Republican Al D’Amato, who had staved off Democratic challengers since 1980. Nonetheless, it was Schumer’s performance in New York City during the Primary that was overwhelming, as he melded a coalition of higher-income liberals, outer borough white ethnics, and working class Blacks and Latinos in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx - doubling up Green in his home borough of Manhattan, while crushing Ferraro throughout her native Queens.
While that election took place twenty-five years ago, Schumer’s remarkable electoral versatility would hold true today - precisely because he makes sincere efforts to ingratiate himself with a wide-range of constituencies, famously visiting all of New York State’s fifty-two counties every year.
Dating back to his years in the House, Schumer excelled as a retail politician who prided himself on delivering bread and butter issues to his southern Brooklyn district. As many of his colleagues, most notably Stephen Solarz, grew increasingly out-of-touch with their respective districts, Schumer doubled-down on his philosophy - ascending farther than anyone (not named Charles Schumer) could have ever predicted.
Whether Goldman’s attempts to raise his profile - through cable news appearances, donor networking, and traversing the D.C. circuit - supersede (or overshadow) his efforts to make inroads with working class voters, may ultimately define his future.
Will Dan Goldman be the next Chuck Schumer? Or Stephen Solarz? Only time will tell.
Key figures: Eric Adams, Gregory Meeks, Carl Heastie, Jamaal Bailey, Rodneyse Bichotte, Melinda Katz, Rueben Diaz Jr, Adrienne Adams
Core Neighborhoods: Southeast Queens, Harlem (North of 125th Street), Kew Gardens, Rego Park, Elmhurst, Canarsie, Wakefield, Co-Op City, Eastchester, Williamsbridge, East Elmhurst, Flatlands, Throggs Neck, Ozone Park, Far Rockaway
Political Institutions: County Democratic Organizations, Neighborhood Democratic Clubs
Defined by a middle-class base that values homeownership and the traditional infrastructure of the Democratic Party, be it political clubs or the local County Organization, this denomination of New York City politics enjoys its strongest foothold in the farthest reaches of the outer boroughs.
The aforementioned County Democratic Organizations - headlined by Jamaal Bailey in the Northeast Bronx, Gregory Meeks in Southeast Queens, and Rodneyse Bichotte in Flatbush - retain the requisite cache to keep their organizations relevant, despite lacking the proverbial muscle of past eras. While the Manhattan Democratic Party - in the wake of Keith Wright’s narrow 2016 loss to Adriano Espiallat (and Kristin Richardson Jordan’s upset over Bill Perkins two years ago) - lacks the juice of its’ outer borough counterparts, the county network still carries weight in Central Harlem even amidst a political power vacuum on the neighborhood’s horizon.
However, this faction is more loosely-defined than the many which preceded it, instead serving as a reflection of where the respective County Organizations are strongest, and ultimately a composite of the class and ideologically-moderate tendencies of this voting base - rather than a reflection of intra-borough political alliances. Eric Adams and Carl Heastie - despite many shared priorities, and a relative closeness on the ideological spectrum of City and State politics - have frequently sparred in the media, particularly with respect to bail reform. Meeks even bypassed backing the native son of Southeast Queens (Adams), in favor of supporting ex-Citigroup executive Ray McGuire.
Adams’ crowning in the Mayoral race was validation for a first of its kind winning coalition. Throughout New York City’s modern history, a primary coalition of people of color - be it working class Latinos in North Corona, or public housing residents in Brownsville, or middle-class Black homeowners in Edenwald - was ultimately reliant (to some degree) on support from the City’s white enclaves, be it from liberals, progressives, or conservatives. Despite losing many of the highest turnout Assembly Districts, in Manhattan and Brooklyn, by over fifty points - Adams shattered such precedent - largely due to commanding margins over Garcia, Wiley and Yang with Black and Latino voters.
No New York City Mayor had ever been elected solely off the strength of Blacks and Latinos of varying classes, boroughs, and ideological dispositions - until Eric Adams.
Despite his deep unpopularity with Affluent Liberals and Alphabet Left progressives, Adams banked just enough support to prevail, as Andrew Yang, allied with Bloomberg-adjacent Tusk Strategies, absorbed far more resentment from the liberal-left and media throughout the primary.
While that friction has only heightened amidst his Mayoral tenure, this evolving dynamic illustrates a keen divide between politicians of the Adams archetype - particularly those tethered to County machines frequently maligned by reformers - and those of the Center-Left Establishment variety - with the latter retaining a degree of appeal amongst the liberal voting cohort. Had Eric Adams ran into another well-financed candidate with durable ties to the City’s working class, yet somewhat amenable to left-liberals -- particularly for a third, fourth, or even fifth ranking in an RCV primary - his countless electoral limitations would have been more pronounced.
These optics, which highlight any perceived closeness with the “political machine”, immediately alienates socialists, progressives, and many liberals. Yet, politicos like Adams and Bichotte lean into that opposition, further fueling political narratives of race, class, and gentrification - in an effort to further cement and fortify their existing electoral base.
With the collective power of the County Organizations waning throughout the 21st Century, coupled with middle-class Black families leaving the City at an accelerating pace, this coalition - while undeniably imposing at the moment - is poised to encounter an inflection point before the decade concludes.
As the working class electorate slowly declines, and with Ranked Choice Voting here to stay, the County-Aligned Moderate could be approaching the twilight of their electoral power - increasingly estranged from the City’s elite voters, while outflanked by their closest ideological parallel.
The New & Old Republicans
Key figures: Lee Zeldin, Nicole Malliotakis, Curtis Sliwa, Joe Borelli, Inna Vernikov, David Carr, Vickie Palladino, Joann Ariola, Lester Chang, Kalman Yeger, Simcha Felder, Robert Holden, Ari Kagan
Core Neighborhoods: All of Staten Island south of I-278 (+ Westerleigh, Castleton Corners, Sunset Hill, Sunnyside, Rosebank, Fort Wadsworth), Borough Park, Satmar Williamsburg, Bath Beach, New Utrecht, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Gravesend, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Mill Basin, Marine Park, Bergen Beach, Howard Beach, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, College Point, Whitestone, Beechurst, Linden Hill, Kew Garden Hills, Broad Channel, Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Woodlawn, Morris Park, east of the Throgs Neck Expressway, Orthodox Jewish communities in Crown Heights and Far Rockaway
Political Institutions: The New York Post
While this piece has solely focused on the Democratic factions of New York City politics - thus far - no analysis of the City’s political character would be complete without mentioning the GOP.
Unlike their left-leaning counterparts, the Republican Party in New York City is bereft of significant ideological and geographic rivalries (save for bad blood between Joann Ariola and Vickie Palladino) - the result of a shrinking coalition in the wake of Bloomberg’s departure from City Hall and the ideological consolidation within the GOP following the ascendancy of Jamaica Estates native, Donald Trump. A development which accelerated electoral polarization amongst high-income registered Democrats, which has been particularly detrimental to Republican prospects in Manhattan over the past decade.
Liberal Republicans, in the mold of John Lindsay, Jacob Javits, and Bill Green - are now extinct - while even billionaire Michael Bloomberg, a three-term Republican Mayor of the 21st Century (and once proponent of stop and frisk) can be considered a standard-issue Affluent Democrat.
Despite covering many acres across the five boroughs, the collective strength of the GOP's historic base of middle-class whites in Staten Island, Southern Brooklyn, and Northeast Queens is not capable of matching the raw vote totals of civically-active neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brownstone Brooklyn, and Southeast Queens.
Without a red-baiting candidate like Zeldin capable of firing up the GOP base, Republicans wouldn’t have received astronomical margins in Southern Brooklyn and Staten Island during last November’s Gubernatorial race. While a candidate like Harry Wilson would have likely performed marginally better in Manhattan and Brownstone Brooklyn, his electoral ceiling in traditional Republican strongholds would have undoubtedly been lower - evidence that Republican candidates for office in New York State face an ideological paradigm. In the Trump era, moderate candidates like Wilson are flopping in GOP Primaries against the likes of Zeldin - regardless of their upside (or lack thereof) in the general election.
For his part, Zeldin tried to mask many of his most right-leaning elements in the runup to the general election - like his close ties to Trump and vote to decertify the 2020 Presidential Election - intent to win via low Democratic turnout and a robust performance by the Republican base. However, the Democratic Party retains a stranglehold on the most powerful institutions in New York State, particularly in the City. With those institutions, from financial capital totaling $50 million dollars, an endorsement from The New York Times, and assistance from the State’s largest labor unions - even a fledgeling candidate, like Hochul, could survive a disastrous cycle.
Despite his loss, Zeldin accentuated three years of Republican gains with Asian voters in New York City - which peaked in 2022, as multiple incumbent Democrats in Southern Brooklyn were ousted down the ballot. Coincidentally, many of the neighborhoods that have seen a rise in Asian immigration - be it Bensonhurst or Fresh Meadows - are historically GOP-friendly, keeping those parts of the five boroughs relatively red for the foreseeable future, even amidst outer borough middle-class whites relocating to Long Island, Westchester and Staten Island. Concerns about crime, which dominated the Gubernatorial campaign, and backlash to Democrat-led efforts to scrap the SHSAT - the entrance exam to the City’s eight specialized high schools - converged to catalyze Asian voters to the right, remaking the Citywide electorate in the process.
The days of down-ballot Democrats in New York City surviving difficult races in right-leaning districts even amidst carnage at the top of the ticket are over.
Editor’s Note: The State Assembly seat once held by Chuck Schumer was won by Lee Zeldin by fifty-five points last November.
Yet, with a coalition of outer borough white ethnic homeowners, Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, coupled with an emerging Asian electorate - Republicans will not compete at the Citywide level so long as they (1) remain shut out of Manhattan and (2) continue their historic trend of atrocious performances among Black voters (so long as they lack a warchest capable of outspending their Democratic opponent by a margin of 10 to 1). Even in a statewide primary, absent a change in New York City’s electoral conditions, Democrats will continue to hold the Governor’s mansion - given Long Island and NYC’s suburban counties are no longer R+15, like in the days of Alfonse D’Amato - as high-income liberals, once confined to Manhattan and Brooklyn, have increasingly migrated outside of the City center over the past two decades.
Yet, while many of the aforementioned neighborhoods comfortably vote Republican in November’s General Election, they are nonetheless also important to Democratic Party Primaries, given they still retain a sizeable share of registered Democrats - particularly in Midwood, Douglaston, Beechurst, Rockaway Park, and the Hasidic community of Borough Park. Despite comprising some of the lower turnout precincts in the primary, this crossover electorate can potentially swing a close race - especially with Ranked Choice Voting.
In fact, this contingent played an important role in shaping the outcome of the 2021 Mayoral Primary. Andrew Yang, lacking institutional support across all levels, tailored too much of his approach towards courting this fragment of the electorate (Not enough votes in a D primary). While Yang convincingly won the Asian and Hasidic vote, he cornered himself against Adams and Garcia - with the former winning crime-wary working class voters, and the latter besting Yang amongst white ethnics, whose racial and class base with Garcia proved too much to overcome - leaving the ex-Presidential candidate, increasingly radioactive with liberals and progressives, unable to expand beyond his narrow base. Many of the traditional Republican strongholds, which predominantly skew whiter and wealthier than the median City voter, uniformly backed Garcia, a phenomena when coupled with a last-minute RCV endorsement from Yang (and a subsequent boost among Asian voters), ultimately pushed the former Sanitation Commissioner into the final round against Eric Adams. Here, the Brooklyn Borough President, despite being shut out with white voters everywhere else in the City (progressives, liberals, and Republicans alike) banked his support from Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish enclaves - including the Satmar community in Williamsburg, the Hubad Lubavitch of Crown Heights, and the various Hasidic sects throughout Borough Park, not to mention Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Midwood and Far Rockaway.
This overwhelming support, on behalf of Registered Democrats in precincts that would eventually vote for Lee Zeldin by 60-80 point margins seventeen months later, comprised the 7,000 vote margin that brought Eric Adams to City Hall.
If you enjoy my content and find yourself coming back, please consider a free or paid subscription ($5/month)
Connect With Me:
Follow me on Twitter @MichaelLangeNYC
Email me at Michael.James.Lange@gmail.com