Velázquez wins closer than expected District 13 City Council race

Marjorie Velazquez (left) speaks beside Althea Stevens, who were both elected to the City Council. Velazquez will represent District 13, a seat she vied for unsuccessfully in 2017.
Photo Adrian Childress, Bronx Times

One Democrat’s fate wasn’t certain as the election results rolled in Tuesday night, with a Republican challenger getting support from almost half of voters.

The District 13 City Council seat turned out to be closely contested between Democrat Marjorie Velázquez and Republican Aleksander Mici, before Velázquez declared victory.

With 96% of ballots scanned Wednesday afternoon, Velázquez had received 9,427 votes, or 55%, while Mici received 7,603, or 45%. While a 10%-margin won’t require the need for a recount, the competitiveness of the vote stands out in the borough, as the seven other contested City Council races for Bronx seats were landslides. With her win, Velázquez will now replace incumbent Democratic Councilman Mark Gjonaj, who did not seek reelection after one term in office.

The councilwoman-elect, who unsuccessfully challenged Gjonaj for the seat in a 2017 primary, will be the first Latina and woman of color to represent the district, which covers 18 neighborhoods, including Throggs Neck, City Island and Morris Park, to name a few.

“I was born and raised in this borough, and have dedicated my life to working to empower our community,” Velázquez, the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, said. “From serving on Community Board 10 to organizing mutual aid efforts during the pandemic, I have seen the compassion and dedication of our neighbors firsthand, and I’m excited to work together to deliver for our working families.”

Velázquez ran on a platform emphasizing COVID-19 recovery, and has said there should be a millionaires’ tax as “the rich are getting richer on the back of struggling New Yorkers.” She also advocates for paid family leave, hiring locally, expanded unemployment insurance, workforce development, addressing food insecurity and public assistance for undocumented immigrant families.

“Now, it’s time to get to work,” she said following her Tuesday night win. “To ensure that all New Yorkers are included in our recovery, to demand protections and resources for our most vulnerable — our seniors and children, to fight for a fair and just criminal justice system that keeps everyone safe, and bring our economy back for our small businesses and ensure our workers have the training and support they need.”

Mici, who was born and raised in Albania, declined to comment.

The Republican’s online platform mentions public safety, uplifting small businesses, keeping homeowners from foreclosing, education, health disparities and financial literacy. But he largely points to what he calls a “bizarre socialist agenda,” blaming a “perverted view of social justice and the false promises of equality of outcome,” saying the American way of life is “under a mortal threat.”

Marjorie Velázquez said her experiences with a broken healthcare system inspired her to run. Photo Adrian Childress

The rest of the Bronx representation on the City Council will remain in Democratic hands as the party’s candidates cruised to victory.

In District 11, incumbent second-generation Councilman Eric Dinowitz got 79% of votes, with challenger Kevin Pazmino running on the Republican and Conservative lines receiving 20%.

Democrat Pierina Sanchez received 89% of votes in District 14, with Republican challenger Shemeen Chappell getting 11%.

In District 15, Democrat Oswald Feliz, an incumbent following a special election win in March, received 84% of votes, while Republican and Conservative candidate Ariel Rivera-Diaz only managed 16%.

Democrat Althea Stevens won 91% of District 16 votes, replacing Borough President-elect Vanessa Gibson; Kajara Boyd, a Republican, received 9%.

District 17 Democratic incumbent Rafael Salamanca, Jr. got 80% of votes, while Republican challenger Jose Colon received 11%. Lattina Brown garnered 9% on the Black Women Lead party line.

In District 18, Democrat Amanda Faris got 87% of votes, and Republican Lamont Paul received 13%.

In uncontested elections, District 8 Democrat Diana Ayala, whose district is split between the Bronx and Manhattan, took home 99% of votes, while District 12 incumbent Kevin Riley garnered nearly 100%.

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