Skip to Content

Exonerated Central Park Five member will win primary for NYC council seat in Harlem, CNN projects

<i>Mary Altaffer/AP</i><br/>New York City Council candidate Yusef Salaam pictured on May 24
Mary Altaffer/AP
New York City Council candidate Yusef Salaam pictured on May 24

By Gregory Krieg, CNN

(CNN) — Yusef Salaam, an exonerated member of the Central Park Five has won the Democratic primary for a New York City Council seat in Harlem, CNN projects, after a reallocation of ranked-choice voting results expanded Salaam’s lead.

The first-time candidate, who was wrongly accused in 1989 and then convicted along with four other Black and Latino teenagers of raping a jogger in Manhattan’s Central Park, spent nearly seven years in prison before DNA evidence emerged linking someone else to the crime.

“This is a victory for justice, dignity and decency for the Harlem community we love,” Salaam said in a statement. “We are going to have a New Harlem Renaissance.”

The case against Salaam and the other accused teens dominated the headlines in New York and drew national attention. Former President Donald Trump, then still a local figure, infamously took out full-page newspaper ads that read: “Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!”

Trump has never apologized and, in 2019, suggested the city was wrong to settle a lawsuit brought by the exonerated men. After the election in June, Salaam called the ads “a whisper for the state to kill us. A whisper, in fact, into the darkest enclaves of society for them to do to us what they had done to Emmett Till.”

Now 49, Salaam launched what many viewed as a long-shot bid for the city council that pitted him against Inez Dickens, a state assemblywoman and former council member, and Al Taylor, who effectively backed Salaam in a cross-endorsement before the vote. The seat became open after incumbent far-left member Kristin Richardson Jordan withdrew from the race.

Salaam is not expected to face a serious general election opponent, his primary win all but cementing his path to the council.

New York City uses a system known as ranked choice voting in primary and special elections for many local offices, where voters can list up to five candidates in order of their preferences. A candidate who receives more than 50% of first-choice votes is declared the winner. If no candidate meets that mark, the candidate with the fewest votes gets eliminated and their ballots get redistributed to voters’ next choice. That process continues until there are only two candidates left and the candidate with the most votes wins.

Initial results released by the New York City Board of Elections just after June 27 primary showed Salaam with just over 50% of the first-choice votes. Updated results released Wednesday, which include nearly all the votes cast in the race, showed Salaam just under that mark, but after reallocation his support stood at nearly 64%.

On the campaign trail, Salaam often invoked his wrongful conviction, imprisonment and exoneration along with the vengeful campaign waged against the group by Trump. When the former president was indicted by the Manhattan district attorney in late March in connection to hush money payments, Salaam released a brief statement: “Karma – again.”

But his candidacy also focused heavily on affordable housing, gentrification and overall quality of life in Harlem, a historic home of Black New Yorkers.

“This campaign has been about those who have been forgotten, this campaign has been about our Harlem community who has been pushed into the margins of life – and made to believe that they were supposed to be there,” Salaam said on the night of the election.

The campaign, he told supporters, “has restored my faith in knowing that I was born for this.”

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Sydney Kashiwagi, Jenn Agiesta and Ethan Cohen contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content