Gjonaj defeats Cerini for city council

Mark Gjonaj declared victory Tuesday, November 7, after winning the hotly contested race in the 13th Council District to replace the term-limited James Vacca, over four challengers.

“With tonight’s vote, Bronxites spoke with a clear voice, ‘Wake up City Hall!’ Gjonaj told a crowd of supporters gathered to watch election returns.

Gjonaj defeated local businessman John Cerini, a Republican/Conservative, with 49 percent of the vote to Cerini’s 36 percent.

Gjonaj is the first Albanian-American to win a City Council seat.

John Doyle, Marjorie Velazquez and Alex Gomez split the remaining 15 percent of the vote.

The race pitted the reigning 80th Assembly District assemblyman, Gjonaj, against, Cerini, a newcomer to politics.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was re-elected with 88 percent of the vote in a race against Camella Price, running on the Reform line, as well as Republican Steven DeMartis and Conservative Antonio Vitello.

Diaz made his priority to attract positive development, create educational equality and take care of health disparities, his campaign’s central message.

In the 14th Council District, Councilman Fernando Cabrera swept to victory with 84 percent of the vote against Working Families candidate Randy Abreau, an attorney who had worked in the Obama administration and had earlier challenged him in the Democratic primary.

In the 18th Council District, Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. won 79 percent of the vote to replace term-limited Councilwoman Annabel Palma, who will take a post in the second term of Mayor de Blasio’s administration.

Diaz said his decision to relinguish his state position was prompted by his frustration with trying to pass bills in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“In the council, I can deliver both more funding for local programs, work on increasing the charter school cap, support more affordable housing and funding for senior programs — including housing, as well work to improve public safety,” Diaz said.

Gjonaj told his excited supporters that “It can no longer be the Tale of Two Boroughs. We must have a city government that is equally responsive to all New Yorkers, no matter what borough they happen to live in.”

Throughout his campaign, Gjonaj advanced a pro-Bronx agenda that centered around ways to make City Hall more responsive to the borough’s needs.

“The Bronx is an amazing place,” Gjonaj said. “And I couldn’t imagine raising my family anywhere else. But there are issues that we must confront and solve.”

While $4.4 billion is allocated to the Second Avenue subway line and over $2 billion for a proposed Brooklyn-Queens trolley, it is inconceivable that there are still transit-starved areas of the Bronx where mass transportation is nonexistent, according to Gjonaj.

Gjonaj, who often spoke out about the disproportionate level of supportive housing developments placed in the Bronx, spoke to the need to find a city-wide solution,

“And we must work towards common sense solutions to solve the city’s affordable housing and homeless crisis, but that can’t be done on the back of one borough or a few communities,” Gjonaj said. “It is a crisis that will require everyone to pitch in to help bring about a solution.”

Gjonaj told supporters that he was honored by the trust they put in him, and all the work they have devoted to make tonight special.

“We will take a short break and enjoy this win, but now the real work begins and I need each of you to continue to help,” Gjonaj said.

Reach Reporter Bob Guiliano at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at bguiliano@cnglocal.com.

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