Incumbent Mike Spano (D) has served as Mayor of Yonkers since being first elected in 2011. Before, he had served as a Republican member of the New York State Assembly for almost a decade. While Yonkers has twice voted to limit elected officers to two four-year terms, Mayor Spano has twice signed legislation to extend this limitation and is running for an unprecedented fourth four-year term.
This year, elections may be the toughest Spano has faced to date. His Democratic challengers in the June 27th primary are City Council member Corazon Pineda-Isaac and Yonkers Public Schools educator, Margaret Fountain-Coleman. The winning Democrat will face Republican council member Anthony Merante in November’s general election.
But of these contenders to Spano’s virtually-proclaimed throne, it is Pineda-Isaac who POLITICO chose to feature in a 1,500 word profile story. This David vs. Goliath examination centers around the legacy of racial segregation in Yonkers that may still have its grip-at least politically-on the city.
Yonkers is stuck in the past
The article published by Julia Marsh in POLITICO, begins with reminding readers of Yonkers’ most infamous story of segregation as chronicled in the book turned HBO mini-series, “Show me a Hero.” It likens Mike Spano to a remnant of a bygone era of “patronage posts and tax breaks to fat cat developers.”
It proceeds to document Pineda-Isaac’s entry into politics at the age of 26 through her run for mayor this year at age 34. On policy issues, affordable housing takes center stage. The author accompanies the council woman to a municipal housing project to speak with residents about their views on the city. There, the pair listened to a resident’s concern about how difficult it is to leave the public housing system due to a lack of low-cost rentals in the area. On this issue, Pineda-Isaac squarely blames the mayor for prioritizing “giving tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks to major developers building luxury housing on the city’s waterfront.”
But, housing policy may not be the only major factor in this year’s elections; one anonymous Democratic consultant in Westchester acknowledged. Yonkers is a majority-minority city and the Spano administration is 80% white. This is in contrast to four of the seven representatives of the elected City Council being women of color. So, “when you look at demographics like this, […] a person of color in the highest office in the city is inevitable,” said the political insider. Though, they still concede that it may not be inevitable in 2023.
National press does not equal electoral success
Even with national mainstream press, any challenger to Mike Spano is at a great disadvantage.
Beyond incumbency and control over the levers of governmental power, Spano also has a fortune to spend. Recent campaign disclosures show over $500,000 raised-with his biggest donors being developers and other firms with business before the city. Pineda-Isaac’s filings only show $76,000 in comparison.
And, if past is prologue, the path to victory is slim. In the 2019 primary election for mayor, Spano easily bested his two female opponents. Out of roughly 8,300 ballots cast, Ivy Reeves won 638, Karen Beltran 1,405, and Spano a whopping 6,117. That’s 74% of the total vote. Assuming Spano can maintain these same voters, Pineda-Isaac’s only path is to engage the other fifty thousand Democratic voters that stayed home during the last mayoral primary.
Her campaign believes support in the second council district-where she has served for nine years-provides a strong foundation of votes. That, coupled with allies in powerful political organizations like NYCD16 Indivisible and the backing of many minority populations in Yonkers will deliver an upset victory. They argue this victory will not just be against a man who desires to stay in power indefinitely, but also an outdated “boss-driven system” devoted to controlling an entire city.