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Yusef Salaam, a member of the Exonerated Five, won his primary election to the New York City Council in a strong fashion.

As the results of the Democratic primary for the City Council’s 9th District came in at 11 P.M. on Tuesday night (June 27th), the 49-year-old author and justice activist was leading state Assembly members Inez Dickens and Al Taylor with more than 50% of the vote. Dickens and Taylor netted 25% and 15% of that vote, respectively. Kristin Richardson Jordan, the incumbent who dropped out of the race unexpectedly but was still on the ballot, came in last but earned 10% of the vote.

Salaam gathered with his supporters at Harlem Tavern, entering to raucous applause. In a speech he gave to the crowd which was covered by Jeff Coltin of City & State NY, he said: “What has happened on this campaign has restored my faith in knowing that I was born for this. I am not a seasoned politician. So therefore this was not politics as usual.”

In being one of the five Black and brown teens – the others being Antron McCay, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise – falsely accused and convicted of assaulting and raping Trisha Melli in 1989, Salaam’s experience served as fuel for his life as a justice advocate after he and the others were exonerated after another man confessed to the crime. That story drew many in the Harlem district to back his campaign. The win guarantees that Salaam will serve on the City Council for two two-year terms, as there is no Republican candidate slated for the district.

He referenced that situation and the 1989 newspaper advertisement by Donald Trump calling for the death penalty in their case, although he deigned to call out the former president by name. “This campaign has been about those who have been counted out, those who have been forgotten,” Salaam said in his speech. “I am here because, Harlem, you believed in me.”

There was the possibility of Salaam potentially going through a second round of counting votes due to New York’s ranked-choice voting system, but the lead that he holds makes it mathematically impossible for Dickens and Taylor to overcome. The 73-year-old Dickens, who scored the only endorsement by Mayor Eric Adams in any City Council election this primary, reportedly called Salaam to concede later that evening.