City Council member Inez Dickens overwhelmingly won re-election in the Democratic primary Tuesday night, setting the stage for her campaign to become City Council speaker in the coming months.
By early Wednesday morning, Dickens had earned nearly 70 percent of the vote relative to about 30 percent for challenger Vince Morgan, SIPA '06. She will continue uncontested in the November general election.
“The community trusted me enough to continue to represent them in the City Council,” Dickens told Spectator Tuesday night at her victory party at Londel's Supper Club on Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 140th Street.
“People would tell me, You've got it, you've got it,'” Dickens said in a speech to supporters, interrupted by cheers after almost every sentence. “I would never take my community for granted.”
Dickens was joined by Rep. Charles Rangel, who has called her his “political wife,” as she eagerly watched the results come in.
“This is a historic evening,” Rangel said. “We expected she will have an overwhelming victory.”
Dickens thanked countless prominent Harlem residents including Rangel, State Assemblyman Keith Wright, other politicians, district leaders, and her family members.
“Everybody's family here,” she said.
But even as she celebrated her victory, Dickens was thinking about her next big race—for speaker. While she faces several tough competitors—including fellow Manhattan Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, who also won re-election Tuesday—Dickens said she hopes her re-election will set her up well for the speaker's race.
“That's my goal,” she said.
“The more votes she has, the more well-known she will be,” Rangel said. “We're setting up for a big, big election in November for speaker.”
The speaker is elected by the council members, who usually vote in blocks in a byzantine, sometimes behind-closed-doors process.
“I look forward to her hoping to become speaker,” Gilda Sophia Cruz, a Harlem-based businesswoman, said. “I feel she truly fights for us. She has done a lot for her community.”
Dickens overcame a scandal over city fines on several apartment buildings she co-owns. She was aided by staunch support from Rangel and Harlem's old political guard, as well as unions and business groups.
The mood at the party was celebratory, with Beyoncé and Alicia Keys playing in the background. All the doors and windows were adorned with at least one Dickens poster, and campaign flyers were scattered around the restaurant.
“The community will always cast their lot to those who show them they will stand for them,” Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas, Community Board 9 chair, said. “And that's Dickens.”
Meanwhile, in his concession speech at the Harlem Tavern on Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 116th Street, Morgan stressed how difficult it is to run for office—especially in Harlem, where voter participation rates are low.
“The deck is stacked against you,” he said.
Morgan said he hopes his candidacy inspired other people to get involved in local politics. He said he expects the Harlem political scene to change drastically in coming years, with Rangel getting older and term-limited Inez Dickens running her final City Council race this year.
“This is part of the transition,” he said, stressing the neighborhood's changing demographics.
One of Morgan's supporters, Shirlene Jackson, said Morgan was “the most formidable challenge” Dickens has faced. The neighborhood needs a change in leadership, she said.
With no Republican candidates running in District 9, Dickens will represent Harlem for another four years.
As she concluded her speech, she said, “Thank you and let's party! This girl is on fire!”
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