In upset, Ortiz falls after 26 years in Assembly seat
In the latest of several unexpected wins by younger candidates from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party who mounted primary runs against experienced lawmakers, Marcela Mitaynes has won the Democratic primary in the 51st Assembly District against Felix Ortiz, who was elected in 1994.
With all absentee ballots finally counted by the Board of Elections, longtime incumbent Felix Ortiz conceded on Thursday. The primary race was significant because Ortiz was not only the assemblymember for the 51st District, which includes Red Hook and Sunset Park, he was also the assistant speaker of the Assembly.
As recently as June 24, Ortiz led the race with 38.17 percent and 2,305 votes. Mitaynes was second with 31.11 percent and 1,927 votes. But 5,053 absentee ballots had yet to be counted, an unusually high number due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mitaynes, a democratic socialist who was endorsed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, says she has worked across the state, from Sunset Park to Albany, building coalitions and bringing the power of knowledge and collective action to tenants throughout New York.
Upon hearing of her victory, Mitaynes said, “We won! Together, we’re building a movement. I’m humbled by the thousand working-class people that built and ran this campaign. Despite the challenges of campaigning during a pandemic, we showed the political establishment that we’re organized and ready to fight for a better world.”
Ortiz congratulated Mitaynes and said, “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of my community in the New York State Assembly for 26 years. I’m proud of my record and the accomplishments we’ve achieved together for our community and our state. To those who have relied on the services of my staff and my offices for many years, I thank you for trusting us to help you. We did our best and will continue to keep you in our prayers.”
Carlos Menchaca, who represents the same area in the City Council, commented, “Felicidades, Marcela, for an incredible campaign. The people have spoken. You have made your voice heard, demanding transformational transparency and hope for immigrants, young people, and all who have been left behind by government … Marcela will be the first Peruvian in the state legislature.”
Ortiz was perhaps best known for successfully pushing for the nation’s first law banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving a motor vehicle. He also enacted a law requiring schools to purchase locally grown produce and led the fight to create the state’s first childhood obesity education programs in the schools. However, when he introduced a bill to ban salt in the preparation and cooking of restaurant food, he was not so well received, and then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the bill “ridiculous.”
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