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KEW GARDENS, QUEENS — City Council Member Donovan Richards has won the race for Queens borough president, according to projections by NY1 and the Associated Press.
Early results showed Richards, who won the five-person Democratic primary in June, with about 68 percent of the vote. Those results do not include absentee ballots, which the Board of Elections will begin counting next week.
But they do include one vote that Richards referenced in a victory speech from the restaurant Pa-Nash Eurosoul in Rosedale: his father's very first vote since becoming a U.S. citizen last year.
Richards is slated head to Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens to fill the remainder of former borough president Melinda Katz's term, which is up at the end of 2021.
Katz vacated the seat at the start of this year, when she took office as Queens district attorney. Sharon Lee, her deputy, has since served as acting Queens borough president.
"Queens is the future," Richards said. "Queens I want you to know: We are stronger together."
Richards' Republican challenger,, conceded the race Wednesday with a note thanking "common sense voters" for their support.
"Though we did not prevail in this race, that voice was heard far beyond party registration and will only continue to grow louder as we head into 2021," Ariola said in a written statement. "I will always proudly stand with you, as we continue the fight for sane government, public safety and to make life better for everyone in Queens."
Ariola's campaign, which focused on public safety and policing, faced an uphill battle in a borough where the vast majority of voters are registered Democrats.
She captured 30 percent of the vote, according to unofficial tallies Wednesday. Dao Yin, a third-party candidate, won 2 percent of the vote.
Richards, who had the backing of the powerful Queens County Democratic Party, was considered the likely winner in the borough president race after he cinched the Democratic nomination in June.
Richards has been a member of the City Council since 2013, representing Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens.
In a Patch candidate profile for the June primary, Richards said he decided to run for borough president to "do even more for our borough" and touted his experience chairing the City Council's zoning, environmental protection and public safety committees.
"Queens faces great challenges as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the fight for racial equity," he wrote. "I'm prepared to take on those challenges and work with our communities and partners in government to build a Queens that truly works for everyone."
At that time, Richards named health care as the most pressing issue facing Queens residents.
"The COVID-19 pandemic exposed what we've been saying for years about the disparity in healthcare that exists in our borough," he wrote. "We need to invest in our healthcare system so that all residents have access to high quality affordable care, including expanding our hospitals. And we need to make sure that developers know that we have needs in this area when they come here expecting to build."
Borough presidents oversee major land-use decisions and control a multimillion-dollar budget to support local organizations. They also appoint members of community boards, the City Planning Commission and community education councils, which govern school districts along with the local superintendent.
The position will be up for grabs again in 2021, when Katz's term formally expires. The winner of that race will serve the normal four-year term.