Bronx Times November Election Primer: What to know about your state Assembly races

New York State Capitol Building, Albany
The New York State Capitol Building in Albany.
Photo courtesy Getty Images

State Assembly

Members of the state Assembly earn a yearly salary of $110,000 plus per diem, and are elected to two-year terms.

77th Assembly District:
Latoya Joyner (Democrat)
Challenger: Tanya Carmichael (Republican)

As chair of one of the state Legislature’s labor committees, Latoya Joyner has proposed legislation that would bump minimum wage increase to reach $20.45 by 2025 and a bill that would require companies to publicize salaries for open jobs.

Her opponent, Tanya Carmichael is a district leader, city election official works for the city Board of Elections, who ran against Joyner in 2020, but was defeated in a blowout, with Joyner winning 89% of the vote.

The district is represented by portions of Claremont, Concourse, Highbridge, Mount Eden and Morris Heights.

78th Assembly District:
Challengers: George Alvarez (Democrat); Michael Dister (Republican)
This seat is open since incumbent Jose Rivera was defeated by Alvarez in a Democratic primary*

The 78th Assembly race is a changing of the guard as outgoing Assemblymember Jose Rivera’s 21-year tenure comes to an end.

The Espaillat-backed George Alvarez usurped Rivera and a PAC-supported community board chair in landslide fashion in June’s three-candidate race.

Alvarez, a member of Bronx Community Board 1 and vice president of the Bronx Democratic Party, told the Bronx Times his “Better Bronx” message seeks to uplift lifestyles in the neighborhoods of District 78 — which encompasses the Belmont and Fordham Manor sections.

Republican candidate Mike Dister is hoping for more support than during his 2020 challenge to Rivera, where he only received 11% of the vote.

79th Assembly District:
Chantel Jackson (Democrat)
Challenger: Richard Bryan (Republican)

Chantel Jackson was one of many first-time candidates to run and win office in 2020, and her first term has included an effort to take on gun sellers in the state, in a statewide effort to tighten conceal carry permit provisions following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that scaled back New York’s century-old law.

In August, Jackson along with other state senators released a letter urging credit card CEOs to make a coding change that would enable them to categorize gun dealers as a distinct group of sellers.

Jackson is the likely winner against political unknown Richard Bryan for a seat the represents Concourse Village, Morrisania, Melrose, Belmont, Claremont and East Tremont.

80th Assembly District:
Challengers: John Zaccaro Jr. (Democrat); Phyllis Nastasio (Republican)
This seat is open since incumbent Nathalia Fernandez vacated the seat*

The Bronx’s second open Assembly seat that spans the neighborhoods of Morris Park, Pelham Gardens and Allerton, drew an interesting divide among Democrats, some who are tepid on recent candidate picks by Bronx Dems.

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 state’s Assembly District 80 seat, following Nathalia Fernandez’s Senate primary victory in August.

Zaccaro enjoys a major advantage, considering the overwhelming Democratic voter advantage of more than 540,000 registered voters in the borough, the backing of the incumbent and the party establishment in the Bronx.

Phyllis Nastasio, a longtime school teacher and Morris Park community leader, managed to secure endorsements from a range of local Democrats — including Northwest Bronx Democrats and ex-NYC Councilmember Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. — and is promoting herself as the “quality of life” candidate who can work with anyone in the state Assembly.

81st Assembly District:
Jeffrey Dinowitz (Democrat)
Challengers: Jessica Altagracia Woolford (Working Families); Kevin Pazmino (Conservative Party)

Longtime incumbent Jeffrey Dinowitz is taking on potentially-shady Riverdale homeless shelter operators and traffic concerns, as well as two candidates hoping to pull off a monumental upset on Nov. 8

After 13 consecutive elections dating back to his special election win in 1994 having never being challenged in a primary, the longtime Riverdale representative has seen recent primary challenges from George Diaz Jr. and Woolford in 2020 and 2022, respectively.

Jessica Altagracia Woolford was the progressive challenger looking to topple Dinowitz in the June primaries, but fell flat with her opponent capturing 62% of the total vote.

Woolford, spent a decade working in Democratic politics — mostly in communications roles — and resigned as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s New York City press secretary to focus on her campaign.

Kevin Pazmino, a freelance filmmaker and former District 11 City Council candidate, is a long shot to add “Assemblymember” to his impressive resume. According to Norwood News, Pazmino holds “controversial views” when it comes to science, and is against movements to defund the police and wants to repeal The Less Is More Act and overturn/repeal cashless bail.

82nd Assembly District:
Michael Benedetto (Democrat)
Challenger: John Greaney (Republican)

Michael Benedetto is likely to continue his two-decade run in the Assembly, and is frequent bill-maker as chair of the state’s Education Committee.

Benedetto, a former teacher and Bronx Times co-founder, represents East Bronx constituencies from Co-op City to City Island down to Throggs Neck, including Pelham Bay Park and Ferry Point Park.

John Greaney is the current Bronx GOP chair who replaced Joseph Savino, the former Bronx GOP chair after he was implicated in a bribery scandal involving ex-Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and was sentenced to seven years in jail. One-time Democrat, Greaney brands his campaign as one that aims to protect small businesses and quality of life in a “new Republican party.”

83rd Assembly District:
Carl Heastie (Democrat)
Challenger: Tristann Davis (Republican)

Carl Heastie will most likely head into his ninth year as Assembly speaker.

The long-tenured Heastie took over the Bronx Democratic Party nearly 15 years ago as a member of the Rainbow Rebellion and has come away largely unscathed in Albany’s scandal-ridden past.

Even if the role as Assembly speaker can draw some backlash — such as demonstrations at his Gun Hill office by dismayed proponents of the failed All-Electric Buildings act in early April — he’s expected to comfortably cruise to re-election against Tristann Davis, a political unknown with no information on his campaign online.

Heastie, whose district encompasses Williamsbridge, Edenwald, Eastchester, the Valley and part of Wakefield, green-lit the impeachment inquiry into embattled former Gov. Andrew Cuomo before his resignation and eagerly awaits the winner of the increasingly tightening gubernatorial race.

84th Assembly District:
Amanda Septimo (Democrat)
Challenger: Rosaline Nieves (Republican)

Amanda Septimo has been involved with Bronx politics since she was a teen, and her first Assembly term included sponsoring successful bills relating to the emissions of toxic air contaminants — which directly impacts her district, one that has the highest asthma rates in the country.

District 84 encompasses the Hunts Point and Mott Haven neighborhoods, and The Hub. Septimo won the seat in 2020 by nearly 75 percentage points, defeating Republican challenger Rosaline Nieves, who will hope for a better showing this November.

In her second term, Septimo will attempt to gather consensus in her South Bronx communities, as residents grapple with everything from a city jail to systemic issues such as climate change and the city’s rising affordability crisis.

One of Septimo’s big goals for her second term is the passage of a bill that would require methadone program facilities in the city to be proportionately disbursed and sited across the five boroughs.

85th Assembly District:
Kenneth Burgos (Democrat)
Challenger: Laurine Berry (Republican)

Housing is on the top of Soundview Progressive Kenneth Burgos’ second-term goals. Burgos, who represents one of the nation’s most disadvantaged districts, is hoping to revitalize momentum behind “good cause” protections to prevent escalating evictions in the Bronx.

The Good Cause bill, which didn’t make out of the state’s budget process this year, would allow tenants to challenge exorbitant rent increases and unjust evictions in court. The law would require landlords to justify rent increases greater than 3% or 150% of the Consumer Price Index and let tenants fight the increases in court if a landlord attempted to evict a tenant for not paying the new, higher rent.

Burgos has also been honing in on efforts on criminal justice reform, as he was one of five New York electeds who took an unannounced visit to the controversial jail facility Rikers Island — housed in his district — where 17 inmates have died in 2022 alone. Last year, 16 inmates died at the facility.

86th Assembly District:
Yudelka Tapia (Democrat)
Challenger: Betty Obregon (Republican)

Tapia, who calls herself a “progressive fighter” for her community, said that as a lawmaker she has been able to push for bills and funding that echo her efforts as an activist before becoming an elected official. Tapia won an uncontested special election in November 2021 to finish the Assembly term of former member Victor Pichardo Jr., who announced his resignation in August of that year.

Tapia cited wins in the Assembly budget, from Foundation Aid — which she said she marched to Albany two times for during the decades-long fight for equitable school funding — to home care worker wage increases, which will help Black and brown women workers, she said.

The 86th Assembly District covers parts of the west Bronx, including University Heights, Fordham, Tremont and part of Morris Heights.

87th Assembly District:
Karines Reyes (Democrat)
Challenger: Ariel Rivera-Diaz (Republican)

As a per diem oncology nurse, Karines Reyes pulled shifts at Montefiore Medical Center during the height of the pandemic’s heavy toll on the Bronx. As a lawmaker, Reyes was instrumental in the passage of the NY Hero Act, a precedent-setting policy effort which protects private sector employees against exposure and illness during future airborne infectious disease outbreaks.

If reelected, Reyes will hope her proposed New Deal for CUNY, which requires that certain amounts of college tuition be replaced by federal, state and city funds, can get across the finish line. The measure would also increase the ratio of faculty and mental health counselors to full-time students

One of Reyes’ constituencies, West Farms, a predominantly Black and Latino neighborhood, is still recovering from high unemployment levels that reached 26% at one point during the pandemic.

Rivera-Diaz was one of 10 candidates running in a special election for the then-open District 15 City Council seat won by Oswald Feliz. Rivera-Diaz is a former finance clerk with the city’s Board of Elections, former official at the Republican National Hispanic Assembly and currently works at the city Board of Education in the Bronx.

Rivera-Diaz also unsuccessfully vied for the District 86 seat back in 2018 against then-incumbent Victor Pichardo Jr.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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