Defund on the ballot: How did the movement fare in the NYC Democratic primary election?

First, the Racial Justice Working Group and the #DefundNYPD campaign extend our enthusiastic congratulations to NYC-DSA’s City Council slate candidates who won their primary elections: Tiffany Cabán in D22 and Alexa Avilés in D38. Our candidates are creating constituencies for socialism, tenant and worker power, and for the abolition of racist institutions of policing and incarceration across New York City. They pulled off their primary wins despite opposition from the PBA, the real-estate lobby, and Trump donor billionaire Stephen Ross, whose Common Sense PAC spent nearly $400,000 against DSA-endorsed candidates.

Second, we want to offer our assessment of the balance of power in NYC following the primary elections. NYC-DSA’s Racial Justice Working Group believes that one takeaway from the election results that is immediately clear is that socialist candidates can win class-struggle elections on platforms that foreground Defund as a clear and radical demand. We also believe that these results tell us that Defund is a demand with wide-ranging popularity across a number of different districts and constituencies, in the recognition that the massive expansion of public spending on policing, jails and corrections in the past four decades has come at the expense of budget justice for working-class communities. Several council candidates who ran on a platform of cutting NYPD’s budget, reallocating that money to community services, closing Rikers and stopping new jail construction won their races. In addition to our successful NYC-DSA slate candidates, seven candidates who signed our #DefundNYPD pledge won their elections as well, as did three candidates who didn’t sign the Defund pledge but whose platforms align with its core demands: cutting half the NYPD’s operating budget, closing Rikers, stopping the borough-based jail plan, and achieving budget justice for underfunded communities. The number of DSA, pledge, and aligned candidates who won their races totals 12 members of the 51-seat city council, 24% of the entire body.

Taken together, the results of these races represent a significant swing away from the law-and-order consensus that falsely promised safety to people on the basis of Broken Windows policing and mass incarceration, and abandoned whole communities to poverty, neglect, unemployment, and crumbling physical and social infrastructure. The success of these pro-Defund, anti-carceral candidates gives the lie to the mass-media narrative that New Yorkers — at least, the ones who can vote, and vote often — reject Defund at the polls. This is plainly untrue: we have the numbers to prove it. These future councilmembers represent a developing alignment of forces and constituencies that has the potential to move substantial resources from policing and jails and restore those resources to desperately underfunded communities across the city, building the anti-carceral bloc we need to secure real racial and economic justice and increase working-class power in NYC.

Take action.

  • Join our growing movement. The #DefundNYPD Campaign is entirely volunteer-driven, and we need your help spreading the message with our neighbors, researching public safety, creating inspiring new communications materials — whatever you can offer. Sign up to volunteer with the #DefundNYPD Campaign today!
  • Demand more from our leaders. Pressure a new generation of elected leaders to support the reallocation of the NYPD’s yearly expenditure into the social services that lead to safe and thriving communities. Sign the #DefundNYPD Petition here.
  • Join our biweekly Defund Power Hour. Every other Monday from 6–7PM ET, we meet to share strategy updates and discuss ways to advance our movement. Register for the calls here.

About #DefundNYPD: #DefundNYPD is a campaign led by NYC-DSA, a local branch of the National Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). They are the largest leftist organization in the United States — and support the people’s demand to defund the police and abolish the prison industrial complex. DSA works collaboratively with labor unions and grassroots organizations to build a mass, multiracial, democratic abolitionist movement.

Racial Justice Working Group is part of the NYC chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Follow us as we #DefundNYPD and refund the people.