For the first time in the City of Yonkers’ history, there are two women of color running for the Yonkers City Court Judge position. This year there are three seats available and 5 candidates on the ballot. Two of these candidates are women of color, who are each attempting to make history as first African-American female(s) to serve on the bench in Yonkers.
First, we have Judge Karen Best who is a 34-year Trinidadian and we also have Verris Shako who is of African-American descent.
Karen Best is a 34-year-old Administrative Law Judge for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and former Public Defender in Yonkers City Courts. Black Westchester’s People Before Politics Radio interviewed Ms. Best in her capacity as an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Westchester where she also discussed her vision for running for Judge. Judge Best ran as a write-in candidate last year, this year she is on the ballot.
“I want people to vote for me because I am qualified: I am a former public defender in the City of Yonkers, and I worked in the NYPD division that handled the Eric Gardner case,” Judge Karen Best shared with Black Westchester on the eve of the primary. “Last year, as an Administrative Law Judge, I presided over 9,000 cases. I have experience in healthcare, social services, and teaching. I hope my experience earns your vote to serve you on the bench of Yonkers City Court”.
It is important to note that Karen Best did not receive the endorsement of the Democratic Party in the City of Yonkers in 2020. Ms. Best felt that she did not need the party’s endorsement to run. She has also exposed some folks who were committing voter fraud against the elderly and minorities in her journey to garner votes. Ms. Best has shown a passion that is unmatched by any other candidate, a determination that any woman of color can applaud. She’s doing it her way.
In contrast, we also have Verris Shako who is also running for one of the three City Court seats. Verris also stopped by People Before Politics Radio Show, Sunday, March 1, 2020, to discuss her candidacy.
Verris is running as part of a team, a campaign of three endorsed by the Yonkers Democratic Party. She is the first African-American woman to be nominated to run for judge in Yonkers and plans to be the first elected to serve as City Court Judge.
“I have consistently served the residents of Yonkers in Yonkers City Court, where I am running for judge for close to 15 years,” Verris Shako shared with Black Westchester the night before the primary. “I also have over 10 years of family court experience representing parents, grandparents and children in custody, visitation and serious neglect and abuse cases. My experience protecting the rights of our residents on these important cases made it clear how important it is to have judges who are fair, thorough and give residents the opportunity to be heard and treated equally. I am asking for your vote so that I can continue to serve our community. As a proud wife, mother, PTA member, Class Parent and South Yonkers Girl Scout Troop Co-Leader I am invested in our Yonkers community and am asking for your vote so that I can serve our community at a higher level.”
The band of three Yonkers Democratic endorsed campaign are managed by Jen Oelkers. A young powerhouse and already a legend. A force to be reckoned with and has delivered Judges victories time and again. So, Verris is in excellent hands.
Up until recently, Yonkers City Courts, like many courts in the country were predominantly white. Until last year when Elena Goldberg Velazquez became the first Latina on the bench in Yonkers. Now we have two African-American women who hope to follow Judge Velazquez in making history and making the Yonkers City Court as diverse as the city of Yonkers.
The Democratic primary election is tomorrow: Tuesday, June 23rd; if you live in Yonkers and do not know your polling place, check your County Board of Elections website to see where you can cast your ballot. In addition to the vote for District Attorney the vote for Yonkers City Court Judge is the most important vote you can cast as far as Criminal Justice in the City Of Yonkers. The future of the city criminal justice depends on it. Vote wisely.