Citing an inability to balance his responsibilities as a lawmaker with his duties to his family, New York State Assemblyman Victor Pichardo Jr., announced Friday that he would be stepping down.
The 36-year-old Democrat’s resignation will take effect next month.
“Eight years ago, I was a young man completely dedicated to my work … Today, I am blessed with a fantastic partner and wife, and two beautiful, intelligent, curious daughters,” he said in a message posted on Twitter. “Like many, I have struggled to balance spending time with them and focusing on the incredible work that needs to be done to improve our community. Unfortunately, I can no longer do both. Therefore, it is with a very heavy heart that I am stepping down from the New York State Assembly effective September 10th.”
Pichardo, a west Bronx lawmaker who currently chairs the Assembly’s Banks Committee, first joined the statehouse in 2014, winning a special election in November 2013. He won successive reelections in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020.
His current two-year term was set to expire in 2022.
But his three hotly contested primary battles with activist Hector Ramirez highlighted his early years in politics, including winning a controversial 2014 Democratic primary over Ramirez by just two votes. Ramirez would later be arrested on allegations of voter fraud, which he pleaded guilty to in 2016.
A graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School and SUNY Buffalo, Pichardo initially cut his teeth in politics working as a staff assistant to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer before being promoted to community outreach coordinator. He would go on to work at Mercy College as its associate director of public relations before transitioning back into public service as director of community affairs for state Sen. Gustavo Rivera in 2012.
Rivera told the Bronx Times that Pichardo has been an example of professionalism, dedication and of unwavering commitment to improving lives in the community he has called home for many years.
“While it saddens me that he will no longer represent the 86th Assembly District,” he said, “I have no doubt that his accomplishments as a legislator and on the ground will be felt for many years.”
During his eight-year tenure in the Assembly, Pichardo helped pass legislation legalizing marijuana, ushering in the DREAM Act and the Green Light Act – immigrants over the age of 16 and in the U.S. illegally can apply for a driver’s license – raising minimum wage to $15 an hour and reforming the criminal justice system. He was a proponent of increased funding for education and after-school programs while representing one of the lowest income districts in the borough.
“I am proud of the work I have done … but still, there is a lot more to do,” Pichardo said. “I believe in the citizen legislature; we run for office, we serve for a time and then we step down to allow others amongst our community to take up the mantle of public service.”
State Sen. Jamaal Bailey, who also serves as the chairman of the Bronx Democratic Committee, said Pichardo served the people of the west Bronx with integrity.
“The impact of his service has been felt by Bronxites everywhere,” he added. “This is a great loss for the Bronx delegation and the New York State Assembly.”
Bailey called Pichardo a tireless champion for economic opportunity and investment in neighborhoods in the Bronx. He also credited him for “helping lead the Bronx through the darkest days of the pandemic.”
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Bronx had the most cases and deaths per 100,000 out of NYC’s metropolitan area. According to data released on Aug. 12 by usafacts.org, Bronx County totaled 183,027 reported COVID-19 cases and 6,596 COVID-related deaths.
The 86th Assembly District covers Fordham Heights, University Heights, Morris Heights and the west Bronx.
Filling the vacancy in the state Legislature will likely require a special election.
Reach Christian Falcone at email@example.com or (718) 260-2541. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bronxtimes.