Central Park Five Member Wins NYC Primary

'Started from the bottom, now we here,' says Yusef Salaam, apparent winner of council seat
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 28, 2023 7:23 AM CDT
Central Park Five Member Poised to Hold Power in NYC
New York City Council candidate Yusef Salaam, left, and his campaign manager Jordan Wright, second from left, talk to campaign volunteers while canvasing in Harlem, Wednesday, May 24, 2023, in New York.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Wrongly convicted of rape as a teenager, Yusef Salaam served almost seven years in prison before he was freed in 2002. Since then, he's become a poet, author, activist—and now, apparently, a New York City councilor. Salaam, a member of the Central Park Five, appeared Tuesday to have defeated three other candidates, including one backed by Mayor Eric Adams, in the Democratic primary for Harlem's 9th District. There are no Republicans running, meaning the winner of the primary will claim the seat, per AM New York. With 99% of ballots counted, Salaam claimed 50.14% of the vote, while Adam's pick, Inez Dickens, trailed with 25.02%. The results are not yet official, though Salaam appears to have hit the 50% mark needed to avoid rounds of ranked-choice voting.

"Started from the bottom, now we here," Salaam said in declaring victory late Tuesday. "What has happened in this campaign has restored my faith in knowing that I was born for this. Every single thing that happens to you, happens for you." The 49-year-old who was born and raised in Harlem but spent the last several years living in Georgia spoke of "having to be kidnapped from my home as a 15-year-old child, to be lodged in the belly of the beast." But "I was gifted to turn that experience into the womb of America," Salaam said. "I was gifted because I was able to see it for what it really was—a system that was trying to make me believe that I was my ancestors' wildest nightmare. But I am my ancestors' wildest dream."

Candidate Al Taylor, a State Assembly member who claimed 14.39% of the vote with 99% of ballots counted, had encouraged his supporters to rank Salaam second on the ballot. "I believe in this young man" and "wish Yusef all the best," he said, per AM NY. Dickens, a former councilor who joined the state Assembly in 2016, conceded but vowed to "continue to fight for what my community needs," per the AP. On the campaign trail, she slammed Salaam's Georgia residency and lack of experience, per the New York Daily News. Salaam countered that his "lack of experience in politics is a great thing" as he promised to bring fresh ideas to City Hall. His campaign was the most expensive in this year's Council elections, with more than $230,000 spent, per the Daily News. (More Central Park Five stories.)

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