DLMA 2021 Annual Meeting of the Members, 03.09.2021

For the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association (D-LMA)’s annual meeting of the members, held virtually this year on March 9, a panel of political strategists and lobbyists discussed New York City’s upcoming municipal elections, including the jam-packed mayoral primary in June.

The panel, which was moderated by D-LMA president Jessica Lappin, comprised George Arzt, President, George Arzt Communications; Charlie King, Partner, Mercury LLC; Jefrey Pollack, President, Global Strategies Group; and Jacqui Williams, Founder, 99 Solutions.  All four offered their perspectives on the bevy of open elected positions this year — in addition to the mayoral election, two-thirds of the City Council seats are up for grabs, four boroughs will pick new borough presidents and New Yorkers will elect a new City Comptroller. All this is happening as the city continues to grapple with the Covid-19 crisis, a strapped municipal budget and a new ranked choice voting system. 

As the panelists pointed out, the pandemic has also upended the way candidates campaign, with most swapping out in-person campaign stops and door-knocking for online forums and social media.

“In many ways, candidates are literally in people’s living rooms campaigning, which you never had before,” King said. “There’s an intimacy that you didn’t have before.”

Still, as Williams noted, the shift to online campaigning has left out New Yorkers who lack sufficient technology and internet access, a challenge candidates will have to find a way to overcome. “We’ve got 1.5 million people who don’t have access to broadband. There are 1.5 million voters in the City of New York who are disenfranchised,” she said. 

Lappin asked the panelists to address the difference in enthusiasm from the general election, held in November of last year, and the upcoming citywide elections. 

“There’s no question that with [Donald] Trump gone, some of the energy is out,” Pollack said, though he noted that New Yorkers’ eagerness for a new mayor and new leadership might lead to turnout numbers akin to the 1.1 million people who voted in the high participation mayoral election of 2001. 

The panelists also noted that the mayoral battle in New York is very different from the two-party presidential election.  As Arzt pointed out, New York City’s weak Republican party means that municipal elections rely on infighting. “It’s very tough to show Republicans as boogeymen,” he said. “Now it’s the internal fights of the Democratic Party, with left wing interests at war with the center.”

Panelists noted some new changes to this year’s elections, and not just those in response to Covid. For one thing, New Yorkers will get their first crack at ranked choice voting, in which they can name up to five candidates on their ballot in order of preference.  Other topics addressed included Super PACs, union and newspaper endorsements and issues at the forefront of New Yorkers’ minds, which panelists said varied from Covid to affordable housing, to the economy.  Still, as the panelists made sure to note, the only thing predictable about our local elections is that they’re unpredictable. 

In addition to the panel, the Board Members approved the minutes for last year’s annual meeting and elected new board members: Ric Clark (previously representing the Brookfield Real Estate Group), The Perelman Performing Arts Center at WTC; Ben Brown, Brookfield Real Estate Group; Dr. Anthony E. Munroe, Borough of Manhattan Community College; James Kleeman, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Katie Schwab, Cozen O’Connor; and Jeffrey Yachmetz, Dilmon LLC.