Kristin Richardson Jordan, a Democratic socialist who is among the most left-wing elected officials in New York City, announced Tuesday that she is abruptly withdrawing from next month’s Democratic primary and will not be seeking re-election to city council.
Her landslide victory in a 100-vote Harlem Council race just two years ago was seen by some as a turning point for the city’s emerging progressive movement, a sign that voters could accept a politician whose views included abolishing the police force. .
The Nation, a leftist magazine, said in a celebratory piece that a “black lesbian” and “radical poet” had complicated the narrative about black voters and the leftist agenda. A political action committee associated with New York Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave her its endorsement.
Then it got messy. Ms. Jordan was berated for using Council funds to promote her campaign. Her tough positions on the police, housing and the war in Ukraine met with reactions from colleagues and voters. She failed to form alliances, even with natural ideological allies, as she missed nearly half of her committee meetings, city records show.
On Tuesday, faced with three more moderate primary challengers and a menacing flood of negative ads from powerful advocacy groups, she bowed to the reality of her diminished support and pulled out of the June 27 primary.
“Thank you for seeing the true possibility of radical love in the loveless land of politics,” she wrote in a message to supporters on Instagram. She vowed to continue fighting “for community welfare, economic justice, abolition, liberation and radical social change”. She did not respond to requests for comment.
Ms. Jordan’s departure comes at a complicated time for the left across the country. Progressives are still celebrating Brandon Johnson’s swearing in as Chicago’s new mayor on Monday and hope Tuesday’s mayoral race in Philadelphia extends a streak of mayoral victories in major cities.
But the movement’s electoral progress has slowed recently in New York, where moderate Democrats run city and state governments.
Critics and supporters of Ms. Jordan warned that it was not so much her ideology as her job performance and inability to form coalitions that led to her downfall.
“The city council is a place where activists are called to rule, but it misunderstood its role,” said Antonio Reynoso, the Brooklyn city president, a progressive Democrat and former councilman. “There are many other activists on the city council who understand their purpose and also know how to govern.”
Ms. Jordan faced challenges from three more moderate Democrats: Inez Dickens, a state representative who formerly held the Harlem Council seat; Al Taylor, another council member; and Yusef Salaam, one of five black and Latino men acquitted in 2002 of the 1989 rape and assault of a female jogger in Central Park. Despite the fact that she dropped out, Ms. Jordan’s name will likely remain on the ballot to stand.
As Primary Day approached, Ms. Jordan had refused to appear with her fellow candidates at two recent community forums and had become increasingly critical of the meanness of politics and the media.
It also became clear that if she had stayed in the race, Ms. Jordan would face an onslaught of outside spending. An unlikely coalition of real estate developers, a pro-Israel group and some of the city’s largest unions considered independent spending to harm her candidacy. They included the New York City District Council of Carpenters, 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, and the nation’s largest police union, the Police Benevolent Association.
A video commercial truck with a large picture of Ms. Jordan asking, “Have you seen this person?” was recently spotted on the streets of Harlem.
“It was going to be our number one priority to get her out,” said Kevin Elkins, the political director of the Carpenter’s Union, a group that clashed with the alderman over a project to build an affordable housing development in Harlem.
Ms. Jordan rejected the plan, saying the units were not affordable enough for Harlem residents. The developer turned the site into a former truck depot.
Although Ms. Jordan triumphed over Bill Perkins in 2021 (according to his wife, Mr. Perkins died early Tuesday at his Harlem home), she did not have the official endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America or the Working Families at the time. Party, the standard-bearers of the New York left.
However, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s political group, Courage to Change, said she was the first choice in that crowded race. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who has not endorsed Council races this year, declined to comment.
Jaslin Kaur, who helps run the city’s DSA chapter, said on Tuesday Ms. Jordan was unfairly slandered.
“She was relentlessly attacked for the program she was elected to, with attacks from both mainstream Democrats of Jordan’s upset victory against their election machine, and right-wing media outlets,” she said.