UPDATED: Assemblymember Fernandez wins big in east Bronx state Senate race

Nathalia Fernandez celebrates her state Senate Democratic primary win with supporters at Havana Room in Throggs Neck on Tuesday night.
Photo Aliya Schneider

State Assemblymember Nathalia Fernandez declared victory early Tuesday night securing the Democratic nomination for state Senate District 34.

As of Wednesday, with 185 of 187 election districts reporting unofficial tallies according to the state Board of Elections, Fernandez had captured 60.5% or 5,286 votes. Christian Amato, a Community Board 11 member and former staffer for state Senator Alessandra Biaggi, was running a distant second with 27.9% or 2,439 votes, and John Perez, a retired Army officer and perennial candidate, finished with 7.4% or 652 votes.

“I’m just very happy, ecstatic, you know, obviously tired — it’s been a vigorous campaign — but grateful, grateful for the support that we’ve built to get to this point,” Fernandez told the Bronx Times Tuesday night, surrounded by who she said are her family, friends, team, mentors, supporters and some constituents.

Shortly before 10 p.m., Fernandez, 34, was comfortable enough with her lead to announce victory while Amato, a Pelham Parkway native, was still hopeful, pointing to Westchester results that hadn’t come in yet, a couple of broken poll machines and absentee ballots.

Amato was among about 20 supporters at Archie’s Tap and Table in City Island spread across a handful of outdoor tables, eating and drinking beers as the results came in.

Candidate Christian Amato followed the results with supporters Tuesday night at Archie’s Tap and Table in City Island. Photo Aliya Schneider

The outdoor patio at the Havana Room in Throggs Neck had a different atmosphere, full of cigar smoke, loud music, cocktails and open-bar energy. Supporters threw hugs around Fernandez and were already calling her “Senator.”

Bronx Assemblymember Kenny Burgos celebrated with Fernandez, telling the Bronx Times he is proud of and excited for his colleague, who was backed in the race by the Bronx Democratic Party.

“She has a knowledge of what the people need and the issues that are facing the Bronx right now,” he said. “And I think going into 2023 she is going to be a huge partner in Albany for our residents.”

Amato, 34, called Fernandez to concede the race at 12 p.m. Wednesday, he told the Bronx Times. He said in a statement that he is grateful for and proud of his seven-month campaign.

At Archie’s Tap and Table Tuesday night, Amato told the Bronx Times that he felt the district has been ignored by politicians who don’t follow through with promises, and that machine politics have been more hurtful than helpful to constituents.

“So I never set out to make promises,” he said. “I set out to listen and to commit myself to fighting for a punch list that the community helped me develop. And that process was beautiful to me and informative, and I had a blast knocking on every corner of this district, connecting with community members from Pelham to New Rochelle, all the way down to Soundview and in my home community of Morris Park.”

Cigar smoke filled the air as loud music played at Havana Room in Throggs Neck Tuesday night. Photo Aliya Schneider

If Fernandez, a Morris Park resident, had lost the race, she would have retained her spot as the Democratic candidate for the 80th Assembly District, as there was no challenger to her seat during the Assembly’s June primary. Now, party committee members in the district can decide who will run on the Democratic line for Assembly come November.

Fernandez said she is also looking forward to chairing a committee in the state Senate, a responsibility she said would be new for her. She listed mental health, environmental conservation, cultural affairs and youth development as issues she would be interested in taking on, noting that seniority plays a role in where she would be placed.

Early voting in the Bronx plummeted in this primary compared to June’s primaries, and turnout wasn’t high on Tuesday either, with just 79 ballots scanned at MS 101 Edward R. Byrne in Throggs Neck through 6:15 p.m., and a few hours earlier, just 76 scanned at PS 108 Philip J. Abinanti in Morris Park.

Of 111,014 active Democratic voters in Senate District 34, just 8,732 cast votes in Tuesday’s primary, with 6,505 of those votes coming from the Bronx portion of the district. Two Westchester districts remained unaccounted for as of Wednesday.

The 34th Senatorial District encompasses the east Bronx neighborhoods of City Island, Throggs Neck, Pelham Bay, Middletown, Country Club, Castle Hill, Parkchester, Clason Point and portions of Morris Park, as well as the southern Westchester communities of Pelham, Pelham Manor and portions of New Rochelle.

This article was updated at 10:00 p.m. on Aug. 24 to reflect comments from Christian Amato and additional comments from Nathalia Fernandez.

Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes