The City Council District 26 race has boiled down to just two contenders, even though just a few months ago there were 17 candidates on one primary ballot: Democrat Julie Won and Republican Marvin Jeffcoat will face off next month to succeed term-limited Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).
The two are drastically different candidates: Won is a self-identified progressive with a focus on small business and economic recovery, while Jeffcoat is running on a conservative platform focused on public safety.
“A vote for our campaign is a vote for our community,” Won said in an email to the Chronicle. “It’s a vote for the small businesses struggling to keep their doors open. It’s a vote for the immigrants in our district working to keep a roof over their family’s head. It’s a vote for delivery workers and gig workers, fighting for safe working conditions and a living wage; and it’s a vote for the thousands of students in our district who missed a full year of school because they didn’t have adequate internet access and could not attend online classes. I’m running to fight for better schools, lower rent, a living wage, and Wi-Fi for all. A vote for our campaign is a vote for the working class of New York City.”
Won emerged victorious after 15 rounds of ranked-choice voting. She led each round, and ultimately beat out competitor Amit Bagga with 56.7 percent to his 43.3 percent.
The Sunnyside resident, who served as a digital strategy consultant at IBM for seven years, was inspired to run for office when Covid-19 hit the city. Both her parents lost their jobs, as well as their healthcare coverage. Won watched other immigrant families go through the same struggle, and was inspired to take action.
“I was hesitant to run at first, because our political system was never designed for people like me, but ultimately that’s why this campaign is important,” said Won. “I’m running to be the first immigrant and the first woman ever to represent District 26 in the City Council, and on November 2nd I believe the people of western Queens will help us make history.”
If elected, the first thing Won would do is close the “digital divide” by providing Wi-Fi for all, protecting education funding and improving remote learning tools. Won believes high-speed internet is a necessity, rather than a luxury, and her first act as a City Councilmember would be to introduce legislation to guarantee Wi-Fi for all.
Jeffcoat was the only Republican to throw his hat in the District 26 race.
He is an Army veteran and city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene facility manager. Jeffcoat’s first act if elected would be to restore funding to the NYPD, particularly in its plainclothes, intelligence and street crimes units.
“I want to give my children the America my parents gave me and I’m tired of socialists with no frame of reference about how life works creating rules that destroy our quality of life and increase burglary, homicide and other violent crimes,” Jeffcoat said.
The Woodside resident believes the “liberal” City Council’s views, and those of his opponent, empower criminals and demonize the NYPD.
Jeffcoat said he represents the average person not connected to the Democratic Party machine, which he believes does not represent the community.
“Marvin is one of us working for all of us: Democrat, Republican and Independent,” he said via email.
One issue on which the two candidates greatly differ is cycling infrastructure. Jeffcoat told the Chronicle that “a vote for Marvin means your government will work for you avoiding hazardous disasters like the Bike Boulevard [Department of Transportation] created overnight on 39th Avenue.”
Won, however, is a major advocate for prioritizing cyclist safety. Won is a cyclist herself, and has vowed to invest in fully connected bike lanes throughout the borough, as well as public transit systems, frequent and reliable bus service, the Fair Fares program and pedestrian-focused street designs.