On Tuesday night, the Nest Restaurant & Bar in Richmond Hill, Queens, was jam-packed with Richard David supporters anxiously awaiting the results of the NYC Democratic Primary Election for City Council District 28 of Southeast Queens.
At around 9:10pm, Richard David held an early lead over Adrienne Adams and Hettie Powell. At around 9:30pm, the race was getting even tighter. 70 percent of the vote had been counted and Adrienne Adams had less than a 100-vote lead over Richard David. In the end, Adrienne Adams won, and Richard took second place with only a 7 point margin.
In spite of the hard-felt loss, people from both sides of the Van Wyck were cheering Richard on as their champion. Grown men were crying. Individuals who you might not otherwise see in the same room were all there to show their support. Richard David did what no other candidate has ever done in District 28: he brought everyone together.
When I went to cast my vote, 15 minutes before the polls were closed, I saw a handful of Indo-Caribbean women rushing to cast their ballot. I unabashedly asked who they were voting for: “Richard David! My daughter told me that he’s a great guy. I never voted before but tonight I am.” As I walked out of J.H.S. 226, another set of Indo-Caribbean women were heading in to vote. I never witnessed that kind of excitement for civic life from our community. For primary elections in the past, my Dad and I tend to be one of only a few at the polls. Something was markedly different this time around. Goosebumps graced my arms. My eyes welled with tears.
The race Richard ran was perhaps the most inclusive one District 28 has ever seen. Never before did I witness my Dad truly reignite the political passion from his early adult years in Guyana here in New York City. Richard David gave him the chance to do that. My dad was just one of many volunteers that came through the doors of Richard’s campaign office ready to work to take him to the finish line. People from all walks of life joined the bandwagon. Particularly pleasing was seeing all the young men knocking on doors to get out the vote. This didn’t come as a surprise, given all the work Richard has done to mentor youth in our neighborhood, but it was refreshing to experience. Our youth had something extremely positive to rally behind. They found a leader that they could believe in. Apathy towards politics turned into great enthusiasm.
Council Member Eric Ulrich, a Republican representing neighboring District 32, broke from party lines to endorse Richard David, a Democrat. At the watch party on Tuesday night, Ulrich said that David “finally broke the glass ceiling” and “proved that we can unite communities across the cultural, the ethnic, the religious, the racial boundaries that divide us, that the East Side and the West Side of the Van Wyck Expressway could come together and vote for a candidate that they believed in.” Ulrich continued to say that our community has nothing to be ashamed of. “I am predicting that when we redraw the district boundaries and when we testify as a community and come together and demand accountability and an end to the gerrymandering that slices and dices the people of this community – that we will have a representative at City Hall,” said Ulrich.
Richard addressed the crowd and said, “A lot of people’s hopes and dreams were in my run and I’m really proud of that. When I took this big leap of faith with my friends and my family and people that I met along the way, I said to everyone, ‘Trust me.’ And I said to you, that I’m going to work my hardest. And I think we did that. I think we worked really hard. And I think what the results show tonight is that I am the only candidate in this race that brought the two sides of the Van Wyck together. I’m the only candidate in this race that brought people of different ethnicities and backgrounds and incomes and issues together.”
In speaking about where we as a community go from here, Richard said, “I’ve always said that we gotta get more young people involved in politics. We must.” In true Richard David fashion, he encouraged others: “If those district lines are redrawn, I hope that we have amazing candidates who will come forward. In this campaign, I think a lot of amazing people came forward. I hope that amazing people will continue to run in this district. I hope that we brought this community closer together and that we will continue to fight and that in the next cycle a candidate that can truly bring all the different communities of this district together will be victorious.”
Richard David did everything in his power to show us that attaining elected office is achievable. He ran a campaign that was exactly the kind needed to awake the sleeping giant in Richmond Hill – the Indo-Caribbean voter bloc. He didn’t stop there. He garnered support from our brothers and sisters over the Van Wyck who saw very clearly his genuine spirit, his fearlessness, and his vision for unity. The seven months leading up to Tuesday night were nothing short of inspirational. The results were historic – 2,763 votes for an Indo-Caribbean, a Guyanese-born, in a local primary election; unheard of! Beyond the remarkable turnout, relationships were forged and coalitions were fostered. These will undoubtedly continue well into the future.
Nevertheless, the road ahead will have challenges. We’ll have to cultivate the emerging voter base that may feel disenchanted because Richard didn’t win. We have to encourage political participation among those who believe in their hearts that the system was designed to exclude them. We have to bring to the front those who have sat at the margins. We might even have to convince powerful institutions to take a chance on Indo-Caribbean candidates and get big ticket endorsements that are practically a requirement to winning an election. It’s going to take so much courage. But we made way more than just a few cracks in the glass ceiling with Richard’s race.
Now that we do have a new City Council Member to replace Ruben Wills, who has the ability to bring back funding and resources to a district that has been neglected for years, we must hold her accountable. The momentum from Richard’s race should bolster our political advocacy. We have finally been noticed. We can’t let Richard’s race be a one-off. He worked too hard for that to happen. After she won the primary election, Adrienne Adams said she’d open up an office in Richmond Hill to serve her Indo-Caribbean constituents. Let’s make sure that happens. We also have to galvanize enough people to speak out during the redistricting process. We should no longer be disenfranchised by the lines that draw our districts – making itso difficult for an Indo-Caribbean candidate to win.
There is undoubtedly someone who has been inspired by Richard’s campaign. That person may emerge or Richard may choose to run again. Either way, we should all thank Richard for accomplishing what seemed so out of reach.
Richard David ran a grassroots, honest, and progressive campaign with limited support from big name institutions andnaysayers who blasted hate-filled ads in the wake of Election Day, and he did so with a whole lot of unflinching love from those who believed in him and still do. His run was magical. It’s a new day in District 28, and that’s because of my friend Richard David.
On Tuesday night (Sep 12, 2017), Richard David supporters crowded the Nest Restaurant & Bar.