UPDATED: Voters focused on heated Council District 13 race as more than 34K Bronxites have already cast ballots

Voters turn out to the Bronx House Inc. poll site in Pelham Parkway on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.
Voters turn out to the Bronx House Inc. poll site in Pelham Parkway on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.
Photo Emily Swanson

Check back all day for the latest updates on Election Day. This story was last updated at 5 p.m.on Tuesday. 

There are only about four hours left for Bronxites to hit the polls this Election Day.  

While most of today’s local races are expected to be blowouts — many around New York City have their eyes on one race to watch in the Bronx: the Council District (CD) 13 race in the East Bronx between incumbent Democrat Marjorie Velázquez and her Republican challenger Kristy Marmorato. CD-13 includes the neighborhoods of Throggs Neck, Allerton, Morris Park, City Island and Pelham Parkway. 

Edmond Suluku, a Democrat who has been living in CD-13 for about five and a half years now, told the Bronx Times on Tuesday that he voted for Velázquez. The issues that motivated him to hit the polls, he said, are crime, gun control and general quality of life. 

“We want to see a lot of investment in the community,” he said. “I have three kids so (I) want to see a lot done for schools.”

Even though he said it would take a lot for him not to vote for a Democrat — Suluku said Velázquez’s outreach helped her campaign as far as he’s concerned. According to Suluku, he got two calls from team Velázquez and had one person knock on his door. 

“I have a busy job but always take the time to vote,” he told the Bronx Times. 

JT Ennis, Velázquez’s campaign manager, said the incumbent and about 50 volunteers are “criss crossing the district” today chatting with voters at poll sites, train stations and commercial corridors. According to Ennis, team Velázquez aims to knock on around 4,000 doors today.        

Harry Estevez, a taxi driver who has lived in the district for 15 years, told the Bronx Times he also voted for Velázquez. Estevez said he hopes Velázquez “do(es) something good” for Latinx people like himself. 

Voter turnout in the Bronx

In an off-year election, voter turnout at the Bronx House Inc. poll site in Pelham Parkway, located in CD-13, has been “average” and “as expected” this morning, according to a poll worker who requested anonymity. But come evening time after people are off work, he said he and his colleagues are expecting a bigger, “all hands on deck” turnout at the site. 

The Bronx House Inc. poll worker, who said he has three years of experience at this particular location, said he wishes people understood that “local elections matter just as much” as national election years. 

According to information from the New York City Board of Elections (BOE), as of 3 p.m. there had been 34,848 total voter check-ins in the Bronx — including the more than 9,000 who cast their ballots during the early voting period from Oct. 28 to Nov. 5. Those 34,848 check-ins, however, account for just 4.4% of the total voter enrollment in the county.  

Voter turnout is usually low in the Bronx compared to other boroughs, likely due to an array of reasons including education and socioeconomic levels, as well as language barriers. According to data from the Furman Center, in 2021 the median household income in the Bronx was $45,640 – about 37% less than the citywide household income average of $72,150. The Bronx also had a 26.4% poverty rate that year, higher than the 18% citywide average. 

As of noon on Tuesday, at least three people had already been turned away from the Bronx House Inc. polling location because they were at the wrong site.  

Velázquez and Marmorato have a four-year term at stake for the CD-13 post — a position that pays a base salary of $148,500 annually, according to SeeThroughNY. The incumbent has outraised her opponent with a total of $387,263 — $178,157 of it still unspent and on hand as of Oct. 23. Marmorato trailed — bringing in $235,836 with $34,474 still on hand. 

“When it’s all said and done, our campaign is confident that the faith over fear message we’ve delivered to voters will get us across the finish line,” Ennis told the Bronx Times on Monday night. “Results speak louder than empty rhetoric.” 

CD-13 incumbent Marjorie Velázquez campaigns for re-election on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.
CD-13 incumbent Marjorie Velázquez campaigns for re-election on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. Photo Emily Swanson

The campaign trail

Velázquez, 42, was able to easily scoot past her Democratic challengers in the June primary — securing 67% of the total vote and the win in the first round of ranked-choice voting. She also has the backing of many prominent Bronx Democrats and state politicians, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James and Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson. 

The road to the general election hasn’t been as cut-and-dry for her Republican challenger, however. Marmorato — a radiologic technologist at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut who is seeking her first term in public office — ran on both the Republican and Conservative lines in the primary and just narrowly eclipsed her opponent George Havranek on the third round of ranked-choice voting. 

Marmorato has secured the endorsements of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) — who ran a close race against Hochul for the governor’s chair last election — as well as 2021 Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa and the City Council’s Republican minority leader Joseph Borelli.     

“I’m very excited by the support that my community has shown,” Marmorato, 45, told the Bronx Times on Monday evening. “In the next 24 hours I’m going to hit as many doors and have contact with as many people as possible.”

Marmorato and Velázquez are coming off about a month of head-to-head public forums and debates, the most recent on BronxNet TV — which aired a week ago and escalated to heights never before seen by the network. The two went after each other’s political credibility and party ties during the televised debate — an ongoing theme throughout the race. 

During her closing statement on BronxNet, Velázquez criticized Marmorato for accepting donations from employees of the BOE, where the challenger’s husband Gino Marmorato works as a GOP commissioner. Velázquez was referencing an October Daily News article where she alluded to the possibility that Marmorato’s husband peddled his influence at the BOE to encourage subordinates to donate to his wife’s campaign. 

Marmorato’s connections to the Republican Party and Board of Elections have been dissected throughout the duration of her campaign. Apart from her husband at the BOE — critics, including Velázquez, have chastised her endorsement from the Bronx GOP,where her brother Michael Rendino serves as the county chair. 

The challenger has also been criticized for launching her council bid with Nancy Marks as treasurer — the former campaign manager for the twice-indicted U.S. Rep. George Santos who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in federal court last month. 

CD-13 Republican candidate Kristy Marmorato is running for her first term in office.
CD-13 Republican candidate Kristy Marmorato is running for her first term in office. Photo courtesy @KristyforNY on Twitter/X

But Velázquez has also faced scrutiny over her political connections from Marmorato as well. That’s been primarily through the incumbent’s husband Jeff Lynch — who used to be a first deputy commission for the NYC Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit from 2017-2018 under Bill de Blasio, and the director for the NYC Mayor’s Office of City Legislative Affairs from 2018-2020. Lynch was also a longtime chief of staff and strategist of former CD-13 Council Member Jimmy Vacca, who term-limited out in 2017  — the same election cycle Velázquez lost her first bid for the East Bronx seat. 

Velázquez has also faced a lot of heat since being elected to the seat in 2021 from low-density housing proponents over her about-face on the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning project a year ago. The plan, which is set to bring 348 new apartments to Throggs Neck, including units set aside for seniors and veterans, passed the full City Council in October 2022 after Velázquez’s unexpected decision to back the project. 

The incumbent has defended her final “yes” vote — saying the original Bruckner proposal and the one she landed on were “vastly different.” Marmorato has slammed Velázquez’s Bruckner position on the project, and maintains she would have opposed the proposal had she been on the council at the time of the vote.   

Also on the CD-13 ballot are uncontested elections for Bronx District Attorney, judge of Bronx County Civil Court, judge of the Civil Court, and justices of the Bronx Supreme Court. 

Bronxites also have the opportunity to vote for two proposals today. Proposal No. 1 removes the special constitutional debt limitation placed on small city school districts. Proposal No. 2 extends the authority of counties, cities, towns and villages to remove their constitutional debt limits for 10 years for the construction of sewage facilities.  

A Republican has not been elected to public office in the Bronx since 2004. 

Other City Council incumbents facing challengers today include (District 12) Kevin Riley, (District 15) Oswald Feliz, (District 16) Althea Stevens, (District 17) Rafael Salamanca Jr., and (District 18) Amanda Farías. 

Polls are open until 9 p.m. tonight. To find out where to vote, visit the New York City Board of Election poll site locator at findmypollsite.vote.nyc.

– Emily Swanson contributed to this report

Reach Camille Botello at cbotello@schnepsmedia.com. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes