Gibson surges to lead in Bronx BP Democratic primary

NYC Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson increased her lead over Councilman Fernando Cabrera after three round of voting in the Bronx borough president primary.
Photo courtesy Vanessa Gibson

With the first round of the newly implemented ranked-choice voting now in the books, NYC Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson has emerged as the leader of the pack.

In the hotly contested de facto race to elect a new Bronx borough president, Gibson received 39.2% of the Democratic primary first-choice votes holding a margin of 4,171 votes over runner-up Fernando Cabrera, 34.2%, a NYC councilman who represents District-14, according to unofficial numbers from the city Board of Elections.

“This campaign has always been about talking to Bronxites about the issues that matter,” Gibson said. “We appreciate the confidence that Bronx voters have placed in our #ForwardTogetherBronx message that we ran our campaign on and the plurality that made us their number one choice.”

Gibson, however, failed to reach the required 50% threshold necessary in ranked-choice voting to claim victory. Therefore, additional rounds of voting as well as absentee ballots will need to be tabulated in the coming days.

But with 95% precincts reporting as of 1:48 a.m. on Wednesday, the remaining field of candidates were running far behind.

State Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez finishing third with 14.2%, state Sen. Luis Sepulveda received 9.8% of votes and Samuel Ravelo, a retired lieutenant with the NYPD, tracked last with 1.8%.

In total, 84,238 votes — including early voting — were cast, according to BOE figures. All absentee ballots have yet to be counted.

The population of the Bronx, estimated at 1.4 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is the most diverse of any borough with 56% of residents identifying as Latino and 43% as Black. There are 772,279 active registered voters in Bronx County.

If elected, Gibson, who represents District-16 encompassing much of the South Bronx, would become the first Black person and first female to hold the position of borough president. She would succeed current Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a Democrat who is ending his third term in office. Diaz Jr., who is term-limited out, was expected to be a frontrunner in the NYC mayor’s race until he suspended his campaign in January 2020. The borough president seat is limited to three consecutive terms.

Gibson, 41, is in her second term on the city council after having spent two terms in the state Assembly.

“As the votes continue to be counted, we remain mindful of ranked choice voting and the absentee ballots that remain,” she added. “We continue to stay positive and look forward to seeing every vote counted in the days ahead.”

New Yorkers had nine days to vote early — June 12 to June 20 — ahead of the June 22 primary. And according to the city Board of Elections, approximately 20,590 Bronx residents took advantage of early voting.

But the utilization of ranked-choice voting in New York City elections added a new wrinkle to the campaign this year.

The system allows voters to rank up to five candidates. If a single candidate receives more than 50% of first-choice votes, the candidate is declared the winner. However, if no candidate earns more than 50% of the first-choice votes, then the votes are tallied in rounds.

At the end of each round, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. If the eliminated candidate had been the first choice on a ballot, the vote then transfers to whoever was the second-choice on the ballot. The process continues until there are two candidates left. The candidate with the most votes is declared the winner.

The BOE is not expected to release the full results for ranked-choice voting until June 29. Absentees ballots won’t be released until July 6.