With all but absentee ballots tallied, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto has successfully staved off a Democratic Party primary challenge from two serious challengers.
Benedetto captured 73% of the vote on Tuesday, August 14, running strongly in all sections of the 82nd Assembly District that encompasses Throggs Neck, Country Club, Spencer Estate, Co-op City, City Island, and Zerega, as well as parts of Pelham Bay, Pelham Gardens and Allerton.
His two challengers, attorney Herbert Moreira-Brown of Co-op City and Community Board 10 member and former regional coordinator for the U.S. Census Rafael Dominguez, came in second and third, respectively.
Benedetto captured 4,091 votes out of 5,617 total votes cast in the tentative count. He picked up about 2,350 of those votes in Co-op City, a Democratic stronghold in his district, where about 60% of all the votes the Primary Day votes were cast.
“I never thought I would get that high a percentage in a three-way race,” Benedetto said. “The first time I ran for assemblyman in the 82nd district I got 52% of the vote in a three-way primary. That time the remaining vote was equally divided by my opponents. This time I won by a large margin, and it was very gratifying.”
Moreira-Brown has run for office before, challenging Congressman Eliot Engel in 1996 and 1998. He also ran for Democratic district leader. Dominguez is a newcomer to the political scene.
In Co-op City, where the voting was heaviest, Moreira-Brown, who lives in Section E of Co-op City, received 643 votes in preliminary results.
Dominguez, who comes from Country Club, received about 280 votes in Co-op City. In Throggs Neck, Country Club, Zerega, and Pelham Bay, Dominguez came in second, with Moreira-Brown trailing.
In explaining his success, Benedetto said he believed that being connected to residents made his race easier this time. He believed that walks through his district, and meeting with constituents in building lobbies and on street corners, secured success.
“Quite often people would say that they only see elected officials around election time,” Benedetto said. “I make an honest effort to go and meet the voters every day that I am in office.”
Moreira-Brown takes issue with Benedetto’s service to his constituents in Co-op City. He feels Benedetto should have fought harder against service cuts to bus lines in Co-op City. He said his main reason for challenging Benedetto was that he feels no one should get a free ride in the electoral process.
“It is hard to unseat an incumbent,” Moreira-Brown said. “Probably the best time to run is when there is an open seat, but sometimes if you have something to say, it is important to run.”
Moreira-Brown said that while he was disappointed he never got to debate Benedetto, he congratulates him on his win and hopes he will be responsive to the needs of his district.
Dominguez said that he ran to encourage civic participation. While he has no future plans to run for office, he promised to keep advocating for community needs.