UPDATE: In historic win, Marmorato beats Velázquez for Council District 13 seat

Kristy Marmorato celebrates her City Council victory on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023 in the East Bronx with supporters at Brewski's Bar & Grill.
Kristy Marmorato celebrates her City Council victory on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023 in the East Bronx with supporters at Brewski’s Bar & Grill.
Photo Erin Edwards

The long anticipated Council District (CD) 13 race in the East Bronx has been called in Kristy Marmorato’s favor — the first time a Republican has been elected to public office in the Bronx since 2004.

If the votes stand she’ll boot incumbent Democrat Marjorie Velázquez — who served one term — from her current post as CD-13’s council member.

At Brewski’s Bar and Grill in Throggs Neck on Tuesday night, Marmorato declared victory in the presence of her family and supporters.

“We did it,” the Republican first-time candidate said to cheers and applause. “I’m honored to have this role and I’m going to make the people of the District 13 so proud.”

With 98.3% of the scanners reported on Wednesday afternoon, Marmorato secured almost 53% of the vote — ahead of Velázquez’s nearly 47%.

In her victory speech, Marmorato said she wanted to tip her cap to her opponent.

“I want to congratulate Marjorie, she ran a good campaign and it was a tight race,” she said. The Bronx Times has reached out to Velázquez’s team seeking comment on whether or not the incumbent has conceded and is awaiting response.

CD-13 includes the neighborhoods of Throggs Neck, Allerton, Morris Park, City Island and Pelham Parkway. The district is made up of 61.7% registered Democrats, 14% registered Republicans and 20.8% unaffiliated voters. And in 2021, Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa won the district by one percentage point over now-Mayor Eric Adams. 

Both candidates were busy campaigning on Tuesday to round out a contentious election season. 

Velázquez, 42, was out in CD-13 for a large portion of the day. According to her campaign manager JT Ennis, around 250 volunteers showed up for last-minute campaigning today. 

“On election day alone, we knocked over 3,000 doors, made over 12,000 calls, and connected with voters across every corner of District 13 thanks to the 250 plus volunteers that came out,” Ennis said this afternoon. “We’re proud of the strong campaign we put together thanks to support from organized labor, grassroots volunteers, community leaders, and countless other supporters.”

The incumbent’s outreach pushed Edmond Suluku — a Democrat who has been living in CD-13 for about five and a half years now — to vote for her, he told the Bronx Times. According to Suluku, he got two calls from team Velázquez and had one person knock on his door during her campaign. 

But for others, like 63-year-old CD-13 resident John Mercorella, the incumbent’s campaign hasn’t swayed them.

Mercorella, a former union worker who has lived in the district his whole life, has always been a registered Democrat but switched aisles this year and cast his vote for Marmorato. He said his major issues with the district right now are “rampant crime with no consequences” and inflation. Mercorella told the Bronx Times earlier today he thinks the Republican challenger will “be more for our neighborhood.” 

Marmorato is looking ahead to a four-year term at the CD-13 post — a position that pays a base salary of $148,500 annually, according to SeeThroughNY. 

In the June primary, Velázquez  easily scooted past her Democratic challengers — securing 67% of the total vote and the win in the first round of ranked-choice voting. Throughout her campaign she’s also had the backing of many prominent Bronx Democrats and state politicians, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James and Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson. 

The primary wasn’t as quick and painless for her challenger, however. Marmorato — a radiologic technologist at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut — ran on both the Republican and Conservative lines in the primary and just narrowly eclipsed her opponent George Havranek on the third round of ranked-choice voting. Since her primary victory, Marmorato has secured the endorsements of former U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) — who ran a close race against Hochul for the governor’s chair last election — as well as Sliwa and the City Council’s Republican minority leader Joseph Borelli. 

Marmorato and Velázquez are coming off about a month of head-to-head public forums and debates, the most recent on BronxNet TV — which aired a week ago and escalated to heights never before seen by the network. The two have been going after each other’s political credibility and party ties throughout the race. 

Velázquez has recently criticized Marmorato for accepting donations from employees of the New York City Board of Elections (BOE), where the challenger’s husband Gino Marmorato works as a GOP commissioner. But the security is nothing new — Marmorato’s connections to the Republican Party and Board of Elections have been dissected throughout her bid for the seat.

CD-13 incumbent Marjorie Velázquez campaigns for re-election on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.
CD-13 incumbent Marjorie Velázquez campaigns for re-election on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. Photo Emily Swanson

Apart from her husband at the BOE — critics, including Velázquez, have chastised Marmorato’s endorsement from the Bronx GOP, where her brother Michael Rendino serves as the county chair. She’s also come under fire for launching her council bid with Nancy Marks as treasurer — the former campaign manager for the twice-indicted U.S. Rep. George Santos who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in federal court. 

But Velázquez hasn’t been immune to negative commentary over her intentions and political connections either. For the past year, the Democrat has taken a lot of heat from low-density housing proponents over her about-face on the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning project a year ago. The plan, which is set to bring 348 new apartments to Throggs Neck, including units set aside for seniors and veterans, passed the full City Council in October 2022 after Velázquez’s unexpected decision to back the project. The incumbent has repeatedly defended her final “yes” vote — saying the original Bruckner proposal and the one she landed on were “vastly different.”

Marmorato has also thrown shade at her Velázquez’s political ties through the Democrat’s husband Jeff Lynch — who used to be a first deputy commission for the NYC Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit from 2017-2018 under Bill de Blasio, and the director for the NYC Mayor’s Office of City Legislative Affairs from 2018-2020. Lynch was also a longtime chief of staff and strategist of former CD-13 Council Member Jimmy Vacca, who term-limited out in 2017  — the same election cycle Velázquez lost her first bid for the East Bronx seat. 

All other Bronx Democratic incumbents won their seats for another term tonight. Those reelection winners were Diana Ayala, Eric Dinowitz, Kevin Riley, Pierina Sanchez, Oswald Feliz, Althea Stevens, Rafael Salamanca Jr., and Amanda Farías. 

– Emily Swanson, Steven Goodstein, ET Rodriguez, Christian Falcone and Erin Edwards contributed to this report

Correction: This article was updated on Nov. 8 at 8:35 p.m. to reflect the accurate number of registered Republican voters in Council District 13 — 14%. The article stated that the number was 44%.

Reach Camille Botello at cbotello@schnepsmedia.com. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes