UPDATE: Information about the Pamela Stewart-Martinez campaign for the 32nd Senate District was added after the original article was published.
The date has been set and the candidates picked for the 80th Assembly District and the 32nd Senate District special elections.
In the 80th AD, which encompasses parts of Morris Park, Allerton, Gun Hill, Norwood, Van Nest and Pelham Gardens, the contest will determine Mark Gjonaj’s replacement.
After five years representing the 80th, Gjonaj was elected to the City Council’s 13th District in 2017 .
Vying to fill the vacancy are Nathalia Fernandez, who received the Democratic Party’s nod last week, and Gene DeFrancis who is backed by the Republican Party.
Fernandez was formerly a chief of staff for Assemblyman Gjonaj, and most recently the Bronx representative for Governor Andrew Cuomo.
According to Fernandez, a 30-year-old Latina, her career in politics and her expertise in the borough’s culture since she was a teenager, have all served as an inspiration for her interest in seeking the state position.
“I’m running because I love this community and I know I can and will do what the community asks for,” said Fernandez.
Fernandez explained her campaign platform is based on topics she already advocates for, citing education and supporting public schools, teachers and after school programs as one of her top priorities, along with advocating for seniors and affordable housing.
DeFrancis, 37, who will appear next to her on the ballot, is actually an Independent, born and raised and currently still residing in Allerton.
His background in civic and community engagement, as well as commitment to his hometown and neighbors were the reasons he was persuaded to run.
De Francis is the founder and former president of the Allerton International Merchants Association and also served in the United States Navy for five years.
“It’s not about politics, it’s about the community,” said DeFrancis, who said if elected, he hopes he can bridge the conversation between the two major parties in Albany to make community decisions top priority. “The answer isn’t government, it’s us.”
DeFrancis explained his agenda is prioritized in layers, the first in education and healthcare, like tackling the drug addiction epidemic and advocating for mental health.
The second layer of his agenda is advocating for small businesses and veterans affairs.
The 32nd Senate which encompasses Parkchester, Castle Hill, Soundview, West Farms, Morrisania, Melrose, Concourse Village, Hunts Point, Longwood, Unionport, Crotona Park East and Bronx River, was formerly represented by now Councilman Ruben Diaz, Sr.
The vacancy is officially being chased by Democrat-backed, Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda, Republican-backed, Patrick Delices, and Reform Party-endorsed Pamela Stewart-Martinez.
Sepúlveda’s current 87th Assembly District, which covers Castle Hill, West Farms, Parkchester, Van Nest and Park Stratton, sits mostly within 32nd Senate District, and served as one of the reasons he decided to run for the senate seat, according to the assemblyman, who has represented the area since 2012, having been re-elected three times.
“Judge me on what I do for the community,” said Sepúlveda, who added he has never turned away any constituent, even if they are from outside the borough. “Anyone can tell you we’re one of the hardest working offices.”
Sepúlveda’s planned agenda will be based on his current agenda as an assemblyman, setting a huge priority on education for youth, criminal justice reform, and advocating for middle and working class families.
Also in the running for senate is Patrick Delices, a politician, activist, public intellectual and college professor in the Department of Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies at Hunter College, who just last year ran for the 17th City Council District.
Born and raised in the south Bronx, Delices said he is running for office because he wants to see better representation and service for the people of the area he calls home.
“The Democratic Party has failed you,” said Delices, who mentioned his disapproval of the plans to build a prison in the south Bronx. “Stop settling for less.”
Delices explained he would tackle several issues simultaneaously. One of his top priorities, however, is economic empowerment of the south Bronx through job creation, job training and mentorship among other facets.
Other issues he would like to address are improving the school system, advocating for better public transit, and improving relations between the community and law enforcement.
Pamela Stewart-Martinez, who is also campaigning for the 32nd SD seat, is a native of the borough and raised seven children in the area. Stewart-Martinez said she decided to chase the position to better represent her community.
Education, equal housing opportunities including improvements to NYCHA, unions and small business support are among her top priorities.
Stewart-Martinez was the co-president of the NYC Citywide Council on Special Education and president of the Bronx High School Federation.
In 2016, she challenged Sepúlveda for the 87th AD seat.
The special election for these two positions will be held on Tuesday, April 24.