A vacancy committee for the Bronx Democratic Party tabbed John Zaccaro Jr., chief of staff to New York City Councilmember Rafael Salamanca Jr., as its nominee for the New York State Assembly District 80 seat — set to be vacated by Nathalia Fernandez following her state Senate primary victory last month.
Zaccaro will face Republican nominee Phyllis Nastasio, a Community Board 11 member, in the Nov. 8 general election for the district that spans the neighborhoods of Morris Park, Pelham Gardens and Allerton.
“I am honored to have received the unanimous support of the county committee to be the Democratic nominee for the State Assembly in November,” said Zaccaro Jr., told the Bronx Times. “As a longtime member of this community who brings a wealth of legislative experience and who understands the issues affecting my neighbors, I am excited for the opportunity to serve my community in this capacity.”
Zaccaro, 33, who has 14 years of local government experience under his belt, told the Times that this was an opportunity to take a wealth of on-the-ground work to the Assembly, where he wants to address housing insecurity, crime, quality of life and “subpar” public education in the district.
“I’ve been involved in this district for the better part of a decade, and to be able to take the experiences I’ve learned in this district, in my experience with (Salamanca) to the Assembly, is a tremendous opportunity,” he said in an interview last week. “I like to think I’ve kept my ears to the ground to know what people of this district are looking for in an assemblymember and it would be a great opportunity to put that in action to best improve the quality of life in this district, and the borough at large.”
Community Board 7 District Manager Ischia Bravo and community leader Bharati S. Kemraj were also being considered for the seat when the vacancy committee selected Zaccaro in a closed-doors meeting in Williamsbridge on Tuesday night. Zaccaro’s appointment, according to those familiar with the voting on Tuesday, was unanimous, with Bravo also seconding his candidacy.
A former district leader, Irene Estrada, put her name forward for consideration but was not seconded for a vote, according to City & State.
“As a lifelong Bronx resident, John Zaccaro Jr. knows the struggle of many working families and the insecurities they face, and he has dedicated over two decades of his career to public service, working towards uplifting these communities,” said state Sen. Jamaal Bailey, who chairs the Bronx Dems. “We look forward to his victory in November in becoming the next Assemblymember for the 80th district.”
Fernandez will vacate her Assembly seat at the year’s end to join the state Legislature’s upper chamber, succeeding outgoing state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi as the representative of Senate District 34. After winning the state Senate primary convincingly over Christian Amato on Aug. 23, Fernandez is expected to defeat Conservative candidate Samantha Zherka in the general election in November.
In a statement Wednesday, Fernandez expressed support for Zaccaro, who worked on her state Senate campaign.
“John has been a tremendous community partner to me over the years, and I know he is the best candidate to serve the people of this district. From his work as District Leader and as a community activist, to his experience in government as Chief of Staff to Councilmember Rafael Salamanca,” said Fernandez,”I’m positive that John Zaccaro will execute the responsibilities of this role with the responsiveness and compassion the district deserves. I look forward to continuing our partnership throughout this campaign, and delivering results for our districts in Albany.”
In 2018 and 2020, Fernandez won elections to her Assembly seat by 86% and 79% clip, maintaining the district as a Democratic stronghold and boding well for Zaccaro’s candidacy. However, Nastasio has received bipartisan support for her campaign in recent weeks, securing endorsement from longtime Bronx politico Ruben Diaz Sr. and the local Northwest Bronx Democrats group.
Members of the state Assembly earn a yearly salary of $110,000 plus per diem, and are elected to two-year terms.
Reach Robbie Sequeira at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes