Fernandez rides to victory, wins 80th AD seat

Fernandez rides to victory, wins 80th AD seat
Photo by Miriam Quin

Democrats in the borough declared victory as Nathalia Fernandez claimed the 80th Assembly District special election, for the seat formerly held by her boss.

“It is because of you and this community that I am ready to take us forward,” said Fernandez in her speech during the celebration at Maestro’s Caterers, Tuesday evening.

The 30-year-old becomes the first person of Colombian heritage elected to New York State office and the youngest Latina elected to the New York State Assembly.

“This community is so diverse and that is what makes us great,” continued Fernandez.

Several people who helped out her campaign are expected to join her staff on her first official day of office.

They include Otis Guerrero, as the planned director of Operations and Forhad Rahman, as a policy analyst, according to Dylan Tragni who directed her campaign.

Rahman also worked as a legislative aide for Assemblyman Gjonaj.

“This is a victory for the 80th Assembly District,” Tragni declared.

Fernandez worked as the Bronx representative for Governor Cuomo since last year.

She was also the chief of staff for Gjonaj who represented the 80th AD until the end of 2017.

“Nothing makes me prouder tonight,” said Councilman Gjonaj, who was present at the celebration. “Knowing I’m passing the torch to someone who’s going to carry it further than I did.”

Fernandez embraced her family, friends, and fellow colleagues through the evening, smiling for photos with supporters within and outside the district alike, and danced in celebration of the occasion.

As her celebration was also held with the victory party for Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda, she also received congratulations from Mayor de Blasio, who showed up to the gathering in support of Sepúlveda’s win in the 32nd Senate District.

“It’s been such a whirlwind since day one and I can’t wait to get started,” said Fernandez.

Throughout the campaign, Nathalia promised to tackle education, housing, seniors care and the labor sectors.

Fernandez, who is a resident of the 80th AD, was actually raised in Rockland County.

The neighborhoods in the 80th AD played a large part in her upbringing and at the start of her campaign she even reminisced on her first summer job in Morris Park.

Much of her life was spent in the area visiting family and friends, and her start in politics brought her back to the place she essentially called home.

“Winning the 80th AD is like coming full circle for her,” said Nathalia’s brother, Wilfredo Cuascut.

In the April 24’s special election Fernandez captured more than 80 percent of the vote over the Republican-backed Independent, Gene DeFrancis.

Some voters complained that the low voter turnout led to the underwhelming results, as less than 2,500 voters went to the polls in a district that encompasses Morris Park, Allerton, Gun Hill, Norwood, Van Nest and Pelham Gardens.

DeFrancis told his supporters at his election night gathering, prior to the results, that he hoped the community was able to feel empowered by his campaign.

“At the very least we’re a winner because the people had a choice,” said DeFrancis on the lack of other candidates running for the position. “It’s a start of the community getting its voice back.”

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.