Assemblymember Michael Benedetto defeats Progressive challenger Jonathan Soto in Democratic primary

A victorious Michael Benedetto speaks to his supporters at a watch party in Throggs Neck Tuesday night.
Photo Adrian Childress

Unofficial results show Assemblymember Michael Benedetto won the Democratic primary Tuesday night for the role he has held for more than two decades.

With more than 90% scanners reported on Tuesday night, according to the city Board of Elections, Benedetto, the Education chair for the state Assembly, had garnered 3,253, or just over 56% of votes. Progressive Jonathan Soto, the incumbent’s biggest threat, had 2,794 votes, or just under 36%.

Algernon Quattlebaum, a minister and veteran with a tough-on-crime platform, received 598 votes, or 7.7%.

“I thank the voting public for believing in me, and not believing the lies that were, you know, spread about me, and having confidence that I have led and worked well for this community,” Benedetto told supporters in Throggs Neck Tuesday night. “And because of that, they have apparently voted overwhelmingly in my favor.”

Wearing a beige blazer and a light blue button-down, Benedetto was met with laughter from his watch party attendees as he cracked a joke about Hudson Valley state Senator James Skoufis, a former assemblymember who stood by his side, coming to the city all the way from Buffalo. Bronx Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie was also among the list of those the incumbent thanked.

The 82nd Assembly District covers the most eastern parts of the Bronx, from Co-op City to City Island down to Throggs Neck, including Pelham Bay Park and Ferry Point Park.

Over at the Working Families watch party at Clinton Hall, Soto, who said he felt “incredibly grateful and surprisingly energized” despite the results, also expressed gratitude while pointing a finger.

“I see an amazing group of people who came together in spite of the deep and insidious propaganda that has injected fear into our political system,” he said in conceding the race, saying there were false depictions of his campaign rooted in fear.

Jonathan Soto said he felt “energized” after taking the loss Tuesday night. Photo Robbie Sequeria

Shortly after the polls closed at 9 p.m. Tuesday night, Soto organizers told the Bronx Times they felt confident, but admitted battling an incumbent is tough.

At 9:45 p.m., nearly 87% of results were in, with Benedetto garnering almost 57% of votes.

Soto arrived with fellow Progressive Jessica Woolford shortly after 10 p.m., who also took a loss in challenging longtime Riverdale incumbent Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz. About 150 people showed up for them, according to Working Families Party Deputy Political Director Nina Lowe.

A public school parent, Soto told the Bronx Times in January that he expected to bring public school parents and faith leaders to the polls — he was appointed by former Mayor de Blasio to head the Center for Faith and Community Partnerships and he worked at Union Theological Seminary.

While the former organizer for U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ran a distant second behind the incumbent, he fared better than Benedetto’s past challengers.

Benedetto first won his Democratic seat beating two opponents in the 2004 primaries — an election where he raised $37,298 in reported donations. Over the course of the eight elections that followed prior to 2022, he was only challenged in the primaries three times.

In 2010, Rafael Dominguez and Herbert Moreira-Brown challenged Benedetto’s Democratic spot, getting 799 and 831 votes respectively, while Benedetto got 4,325.

Egidio Sementilli challenged Benedetto in the Democratic primaries in 2012, getting 396 votes while the incumbent garnered 3,125; in 2020 he tried again and received 11,300 fewer votes than Benedetto. By then, Benedetto’s campaign had $171,609 under its belt.

Benedetto himself lost various elections before settling into his role as a fixture in state politics. He ran for state Assembly unsuccessfully in 1976 and state Senate in 1978; in 1980 he lost the state Senate primary, according to a 2000 New York Times report.

In 2000, he lost the Democratic primary again for state Senate.

According to data from the New York Times, 71.6% of the 82nd Assembly district voters supported President Joe Biden in the 2020 general election. Data from the 2020 census determines that 40% of residents in the district are Hispanic, 26.7% are White non-Hispanic, 24.1% are Black and 5.8% are Asian, according to Redistricting and You: New York, a project of CUNY’s Center for Urban Research.

Quattlebaum could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes