By 10:45 p.m. the mood inside Red Hook’s Hometown BBQ was both calm and jubilant, with supporters of Assemblymember Felix Ortiz thrilled at the poll numbers showing him in the lead with over 70 percent of counted votes, but also feeling it was something of a foregone conclusion for the 20-year veteran elected official.
“I have faith and confidence that he’ll continue to provide the services we need,” said Ricardo Bowen, a 30-year resident of Sunset Park, who volunteered to help spread the word about the Ortiz campaign. “I support him because of his record of working for the benefit of the community, especially his track record with children’s education.”
Over at challenger Ceasar Zuniga’s primary night party at Café Zona Sur in Sunset Park, the mood was both somber and exuberant.
“This is just the beginning,” supporters assured Zuniga, 41, as he hugged his parents and thanked staff and volunteers – including Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who endorsed his candidacy – for working “tirelessly for months” on a campaign where “family became volunteers and my volunteers became family.
“I could not have gotten as close as I did without every single one of you,” he said in his concession speech. “I ran because I believed – and still believe – that our community deserves better from our elected representatives in Albany. I hope that a challenge like this will only spur our assemblyman on as he re-enters the service of our district.”
In the meantime, Zuniga added that he “may not have won today, but I will continue to do everything I can to serve our community and fight for our local families.”
Both Ortiz and Zuniga listed childhood education, economic revitalization and affordable housing as among their top priorities, but it is Ortiz, 54, who will likely be the person taking action in Albany on these issues.
Ortiz secured 70.7 percent – 2,190 votes – of the night’s votes to Zuniga’s 29.3 percent – 906 votes.
The primary win and Democratic Party nomination has all but ensured that Ortiz will return to Albany for another term as representative of the 51st A.D., following the November 4 general election.
Ortiz thanked his supporters in Sunset Park and Red Hook for standing by him for over two decades, stating that they “deserve someone who will move this community forward, not just here but in the city and country. I owe you all. Everyone worked together. Let’s go out tomorrow and keep working.”