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Frontus Bests Saperstein in Assembly Race

BY AMANDA GLODOWSKI & PAULA KATINAS

After months of waiting, the 46th Assembly District finally has an assemblymember.

Unrepresented since the resignation of former Assemblymember Pamela Harris, who stepped down in the wake of an 11-count indictment on a slew of corruption charges, the district — which runs from Coney Island to Bay Ridge — on Tues., Nov. 6, chose to send Democrat Mathylde Frontus to Albany as its next representative.

Frontus defeated Republican-Conservative candidate Steve Saperstein, securing 54.1 percent of the vote, and defeating Saperstein by 2,927 votes. In September, Frontus won a narrow victory in the Democratic primary, upsetting establishment-backed Ethan Lustig-Elgrably for the Democratic nomination by a mere 51 votes.

On Election Day, Frontus got 14,750 votes to Saperstein’s 11,823 votes. Lustig-Elgrably, who had previously won the Working Families Party line, got 1.5 percent (370) and Green Party candidate Patrick Dwyer got one percent (284).

“It sure wasn’t 51 votes this time around,” said Frontus’s campaign manager Joe Herrera with a smile.

Frontus beamed at her supporters, who gathered at the Red Door Bar and Grill, 1205 Surf Ave., to celebrate.

“Look what we did, everyone. This is about people power. This is about what we are able to do together as a community of people,” said Frontus. “We’ve been fighting over the idea of who gets to sit at the table in terms of electoral politics. Is there room at the table for everyone? Yes, there’s plenty of room. And when we’re not invited to the table, no problem, we bring our own table. That’s what this race has been about.”

The district is comprised of a hodgepodge of South Brooklyn neighborhoods, encompassing Coney Island, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Seagate, Brighton Beach and Bath Beach.

“This is a beautiful district, look at us. This district includes all of us, we are many, and all the groups you see here are what makes up the beauty of this district,” she said.

Frontus is known for her work within the community, founding both the Urban Neighborhood Services and the Coney Island Anti-Violence Collaborative, where she first met Herrera.

“I was with my sons playing basketball at the Coney Island YMCA, and there was a shooting. I heard it was a kid, and my heart dropped. I ran up the stairs, saw my sons, and thanked God, but left saying ‘Someone has to do something,’” Herrera recounted. “A few days later, I went back to the Y’s community room for an anti-violence meeting. It was packed. Standing at the helm of the room was Mathylde Frontus.”

“I think it’s pretty unusual that Mathylde won the primary with a base of support in Bay Ridge and a base of support in Coney Island. To show up at an event in Bay Ridge and have a bunch of Coney Island residents turn out, and vice versa, to watch those two very different neighborhoods come together and work together, that felt really good,” said co-campaign manager Alison Newell.

Nearly 100 members of the community gathered to celebrate with Frontus, including Mike DeCillis, who lost to Max Rose in the Democratic 11th Congressional District primary back in June.

“This seat in particular has been mired with corruption,” said DeCillis, referring to Harris as well as Alec Brook-Krasny, who left office to take a job in the private sector and was subsequently indicted in connection with a sting operation targeting three Brooklyn medical clinics that investigators allege were “pill mills” which illegally prescribed opioid painkillers while also fraudulently billing Medicare and Medicaid for millions of dollars worth of unnecessary medical tests, physical therapy and psychiatric services.

“Frontus’s transparency is inspiring,” DeCillis proclaimed.

“There’s a saying I like that says, you’re looking for kindness but you’re not being kind. You’re looking for honesty but you’re not being honest. One of the things that maddens me is when people are not transparent as politicians,” Frontus said.

The Coney Island native stood proudly on stage, thanking her supporters for igniting a grass-roots movement grounded in community.

“During the primary, we had so little,” she recalled. “We lacked in green, but guess what? There’s more to life than that.”

Standing with Frontus was coordinator for the Step-up Project, Ronald Stewart, referred to as “Brother Ron” within the community. He recalled a time before the team had even acquired an office.

“We were sitting in Dunkin’ Donuts. All we had was a dream, and a glazed donut,” said Brother Ron. “Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.”

“I couldn’t imagine anyone better for this district,” said volunteer Susan Grundberg. “It’s hard not to have a conversation with her without seeing her potential.”

For his part, Saperstein, who awaited election results in the Bay Ridge Manor, appeared upbeat during the early part of the evening.

And his mood didn’t sour when the race was called for Frontus.

Saperstein walked up to the podium at the front of the ballroom and said his campaign had a lot to be proud of, despite the loss.

“We got over 10,000 votes,” he told supporters.

Saperstein thanked his campaign volunteers for knocking on doors and making phone calls to voters on his behalf.

The tone of his speech left no doubt that Saperstein intends to run for public office again someday.

“We fell short. But I want everyone to know that we have just begun. I don’t want people to leave this room in a bad mood. We didn’t do it this time. But we will be back,” he said.

Saperstein then slowly circled the ballroom shaking hands and hugging supporters.

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