“A New Me, a New Mealy:” A Former Brownsville Council Member Nabs an Unexpected Primary Victory

In what could be one of most unexpected upsets in the 2021 city primary election cycle, Darlene Mealy seems to have outflanked incumbent Alicka Ampry-Samuel in the Democratic primary election for Council District 41.

“A New Me, a New Mealy:” A Former Brownsville Council Member Nabs an Unexpected Primary Victory

Darlene Mealy in 2014 (Image: William Alatriste for the New York City Council)

Darlene Mealy is no stranger to criticism.

Mealy, who represented Brooklyn’s 41st District in the City Council from 2006 to 2017, was declared “the worst New York City lawmaker” by City & State in 2017 for her poor attendance at City Hall meetings and lack of legislation. The New York Daily News slammed her for the same reasons five years earlier. She drew rebukes for trying to sponsor a $25,000 grant for a Brooklyn block association run by her sister, and for offering $5,000 to an eccentric “etymology teacher” who had been arrested for threatening a former Congressman.

So when Mealy, who left office due to term limits, announced she would run for her old seat again this year, few outside observers seemed to take her seriously. Her successor, current Council Member Ampry-Samuels, had the power of incumbency, significantly more campaign cash, and support from nearly every major union in the city. She also had backing from powerhouse politicos like Congress Members Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffrees as well as from local State Assembly Member Latrice Walker, who previously employed Ampry-Samuel as chief of staff and who defeated Mealy in a 2016 race for the state seat.

Despite her resistance to defunding the NYPD and her participation in a lawsuit that attempted to block the implementation of ranked choice voting, Ampry-Samuel even earned the support of progressive groups like the NY Working Families party and New York Communities for Change. She introduced ambitious green energy legislation, was profiled in the New Yorker for her efforts to improve police-community relations, and was one of several serious contenders to become the next Council speaker.

Mealy’s challenge to Ampry-Samuel received little press attention, except from the Daily News’ editorial board, which explicitly instructed readers not to vote for Mealy because of her “distinctive track record as one of the Council’s least effective, most absent lawmakers.”

None of that seems to have mattered to the district’s voters.