Ortiz claims victory in re-election bid; absentee ballots not yet counted

June 24, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Ortiz claims victory in re-election bid; absentee ballots not yet counted
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Despite COVID-19 complications and absentee ballots not yet being counted yet, incumbent Assemblymember Felix Ortiz was comfortable enough with the ballots to declare himself the winner of the 51st Assembly Democratic primary.

As of 2:15 a.m. on Wednesday, June 24, Ortiz had the lead in the four-person race. According to the Board of Elections in the City of New York, Ortiz had 38.17 percent and 2,305 votes. Marcela Mitaynes, who was endorsed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was in second place with 31.11 percent (1,927 votes). Katherine Walsh was in third with 20.70 percent (1,282) and Genesis Aquino was in fourth with 9.27 percent (547).

The Associated Press gives Ortiz a slightly bigger lead with 2,391 votes (38.7 percent) compared to Mitaynes and her 1,927 votes (31.2 percent).

Counting absentee ballots is expected to take days and an official winner won’t be known until then. However, based on the ballots, Ortiz told this paper that he is confident after declaring victory on his Facebook page.

“I think the people in the district on the polling site have spoken and they understand that the avenue of dirty politics doesn’t work,” he said. “People in my district are tired of all that stuff so the message was clear that I did my work and my work is visible. I’m always in the community. The people that came out gave me the opportunity to be where I am tonight and I’m looking forward to continuing to serve the people of the 51st District.”

However, Walsh said the wait for a winner could take a while.

“Given the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on New York and our district in particular, we put community health first,” she said. “We wanted voters to have the right to vote safely and so our campaign strongly encouraged the absentee ballot process. There were 8,841 absentee ballots requested in A.D. 51. Those ballots don’t start to get counted until July 1. Let’s give voters in our district the chance for their voices to be heard before drawing conclusions about the results of the race.”

Courtesy of New York City Board of Elections

Ortiz, who has held the seat since 1995, said COVID-19 made this election far more difficult than past ones.

“I had to pay attention to 231 dead and 53 people we helped with funeral arrangements to make sure the government would be able to pay for them,” he said. “Also having 2,300 people unemployed. Who wants to talk about politics when you have thousands of people calling your office about unemployment?”

He also added that he fought to bring six coronavirus testing sites to the district, which includes Sunset Park, Bay Ridge and Red Hook.

“You work with [Governor] Cuomo and the mayor to listen to them when there are agreements and disagreements,” he said. “When there were disagreements, I had to make sure that things would come to fruition to get testing sites in my district. That wasn’t easy to do. That took a lot of leadership and conversation. Finally I got my sites in Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Chinatown and Red Hook.”

He also discussed the thousands of masks and PPE donated to NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, and food donated to community organizations, such the Yemen Association in Bay Ridge.

“All this stuff took a lot of time away from my campaign trail. I wasn’t campaigning at all. I was helping my people,” he said.

He concluded that it could take a while to be declared the official winner.

“This is going to be a little longer,” he said. “It’s going to be a long time before we can really see real numbers.”

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