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There’s no rest for the campaign weary.
Just 13 months after their last elections, candidates for New York’s 2023 City Council seats are already off to the races — and Republicans are bullish about their prospects of expanding their bloc in the chamber.
The most competitive seats are shaping up to be the newly redrawn 47th District comprising Bay Ridge and Coney Island; The Bronx’s 13th District in City Island and Pelham Bay and a newly created Asian-majority 43rd District in Sunset Park, Dyker Heights, and Bensonhurst.
If the GOP wins all three seats, it would create an eight-member minority in the 51-seat council. Plus, conservative Democrats Kalman Yeger and Bob Holden often vote with the GOP bloc.
“Democrats haven’t moderated their positions and those in vulnerable seats may also face primaries from the left first,” said Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island).
Embattled Dems like Councilman Justin Brannan — who won his last election by 601 votes — isn’t taking any chances.
“The red wave that hit southern Brooklyn last election has Trump Republicans feeling emboldened. So far, there are 4 candidates gearing up to challenge Justin in 2023, each trying to out-MAGA the other,” said Brannan’s fundraising email going out in December 2022 — an early warning.
Brannan was redistricted into the slightly more advantageous 47th District this time around. Borough Republicans have been looking to oust him for years. His most formidable challenge is expected to come from Councilman Ari Kagan, who recently stunned city political watchers by becoming a Republican in December. Redistricting will pit him against Brannan — if he can survive his own GOP primary.
“We have been sounding the alarm on the concerning political headwinds in southern Brooklyn for quite a while,” Brannan told The Post. “I have been able to win my races – hard-fought races — because of my constituent services. Being responsive and getting things done for people is something that transcends party and that’s ultimately the job.”
Kagan’s main competition for the Republican line is expected to be Michael Ragusa, a former city EMT.
During an appearance last week on WABC-AM radio, both Ragusa and the conservative talk show host Sid Rosenberg accused Kagan of being a “flip-flop artist” who switched parties — not because he has strong conservative values, but because it’s the easiest path for the ex-Democrat to beat Brannan.
Kagan declined to comment.
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In the 43d District, Republicans note the rightward drift of Asian-American voters over issues like crime and education, as a reason for optimism. Curtis Sliwa, the 2021 GOP mayoral candidate, won the district by more than 60% of the vote.
“I don’t think they feel safe,” said Rob Cole, a longtime GOP consultant said of district residents, adding that former Mayor de Blasio’s drive to end testing for the city’s elite high schools had been another deal breaker for Asians. Mayor Adams later backed off in the face of withering criticism.
Cole, who thinks as many as 10 Democratic Council seats may be in play, said the state Assembly’s early refusal to seat Republican Lester Chang over residency issues would be a gift to the party in 2023. Chang was ultimately allowed to take his seat.
“He’s the first Asian Republican to be elected to the Assembly,” Cole said. “I think Asian people will see it as a slap in the face to them and their representation of that district.”
Party leaders are hoping to field a star candidate in the Bronx to challenge Democratic Councilwoman Marjorie Velázquez. Her district went narrowly for Sliwa in 2021, but Velázquez won her race with 55.4% of the vote.
“If there is anything we’ve learned it’s that it’s better to have fantastic candidate with a presence and fundraising ability and ground game in an OK district than just throw anyone out there in a strong district for us,” Borelli said.
Besides dealing with Republican challengers, some Democratic incumbents are expected to face tough primary fights in June as the party’s centrist and far-left factions continue to grow further apart.
For instance, state Assemblywoman Inez Dickens plans to take on Democratic socialist Councilwoman Kristin Richardson Jordan in the 9th District representing Harlem and the Upper West Side because she said she’s had it with Richardson Jordan’s soft-on-crime, tough-on-cops politics,
Meanwhile, there is also the hope by some Republicans that Councilman Holden — who will be term-limited after 2023 — will just switch parties entirely.
“We joke about it all the time,” Borelli said.