By Paula Katinas & John Alexander
Nearly 24 hours after the polls closed, a winner still had not been declared in the Democratic primary in the 46th Assembly District because the race was too close to call.
On Friday afternoon, the unofficial results from the New York City Board of Elections showed Mathylde Frontus clinging to a slim lead over fellow Democrat Ethan Lustig-Elgrably in the race.
The primary took place on Thursday, Sept. 13.
With 91.46 percent of the vote in, Frontus had 3,060 votes to Lustig-Elgrably’s 2,990, a razor-thin margin of just 70 votes.
In addition to 11 precincts whose vote totals had not been counted, still to be counted are affidavits and absentee ballots. The two candidates faced the prospect of having to wait at least several days before a winner is officially declared in the contest.
Frontus, an educator and Coney Island civic activist, and Lustig-Elgrably, former chief of staff to Councilmember Mark Treyger, a Democrat representing Coney Island, Gravesend and parts of Bensonhurst, are running for the Democratic Party’s nomination to take on Republican Steve Saperstein in the general election in the 46th A.D. on Nov. 6.
The Assembly district includes Coney Island, Sea Gate, Brighton Beach, Bath Beach, Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge.
Frontus made her run without the support of the Coney Island political machine that includes City Councilmember Mark Treyger and other Democratic community leaders.
She did receive the support of a number of progressive groups including the 504 Democratic Club, New York Progressive Action Network (NYPAN), New York Nurses Association and the young Brooklyn Democrats.
Her primary night reception was held at Applebee’s restaurant on Surf Avenue and West 15th Street in Coney Island. The crowd of approximately 50 supporters was optimistic that their candidate would prevail once all the results were in.
“I’m so proud to be part of this community,” Frontus told this paper. “Right now we are in the lead and we need to win. The momentum in this room is palpable. The people of the 46th district are some of the smartest and kindest people who’ve brought so much to this race. Now we are just here waiting to see how the story ends.”
Her impassioned supporters said that Frontus was a different kind of candidate.
“I’m supporting Mathylde because she’s brilliant and she’s profoundly ethical and she is not afraid to do the right thing for the people in the community and fight the good fight,” supporter Susan Grunberg told this paper.
Pat O’Brien was also impressed with Frontus’ civic work in the community. “My office was next door to hers for 10 years,” O’Brien said. “She’s absolutely the most qualified person I’ve ever seen run for office.”
O’Brien compared Frontus, who has a Ph.D. from the Columbia Business School, to former United States Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, adding “We haven’t had an intellectual like that in office since he passed, and I think we have a real chance that Mathylde is going to be that person.”
Lustig-Elgrably watched the election returns on television with a group of supporters in Tom’s in Coney Island, a popular restaurant on the Riegelmann Boardwalk bear Stillwell Avenue.
As it got deeper into the night, Lustig-Elgrably acknowledged that he was behind in the vote count, but said it was way too early to concede.
“We are not done yet,” he told his supporters, who included Treyger and Dilia Schack, Democratic district leader of the 46th A.D.
“We are not done yet with a number of polling sites. We are going to wait until every vote is counted. We feel good. It’s too close to call,” he said.
The 46th A.D. seat has been tainted by scandal in recent years.
The two previous people who held the assembly seat, Democrats Alec Brook-Krasny and Pamela Harris, were each indicted on criminal charges in unrelated cases.
Brook-Krasny was indicted on fraud and other charges stemming from a medical lab he worked in after he left the New York State Assembly in 2015. He had resigned from his post to work in the private sector.
Harris, who won Brook-Krasny’s seat in 2015, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a litany of criminal charges, including fraud and witness tampering. She resigned from office.
Lustig-Elgrably, who worked for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation after leaving Treyger’s staff, had hoped that his experience in government would impress primary voters and give him the edge over Frontus.
Lustig-Elgrably is a graduate of the Yeshiva of Flatbush and Brandeis University. He studied political science and anthropology at Brandeis.