Council GOP notches one major win in Bronx election, fails to make net gain

Republican Kristy Marmorato, who looks to have defeated Democratic Council Member Marjorie Velazquez in Council District 13, at her Election Night party in the east Bronx.
Photo by Erin Edwards

Tuesday’s general election brought the quiet 2023 cycle to a close, with Republicans appearing to nab one decisive victory in the east Bronx and defending another seat in Queens, while Democrats fended off the GOP in two crucial southern Brooklyn races.

But even with the likely Bronx win and far-right Council Member Vickie Paladino looking to have successfully defended her eastern Queens district, the Republicans lost a seat in southern Brooklyn and failed to win another in the same area — according to unofficial results from the city Board of Elections (BOE). 

In effect, if the results hold, there will be six Republicans going into the next council, the same number currently in the conference, bucking the hopes of Republicans who sought to grow their presence on the council this cycle. Democratic strategist Trip Yang told amNewYork that with 45 Democrats and six Republicans on the City Council, the Democrats will continue to retain an overwhelming supermajority.

“In terms of overall performance [for Republicans], it was mostly net neutral,” Yang said. “Republicans had six seats at the beginning of the year, they look to have six seats coming out of the city council race.”

New York City Hall.Caroline Rubinstein-Willis/Mayoral Photography Office

Although all 51 council seats were up for re-election this year, most incumbents either had no challengers or easily defeated what opponents they did have. Only about four seats were actually contested and in two of them the Democrats seem to have won by wider-than-expected margins.

The off-year election was yet another low-turnout affair. While 444,511 New Yorkers had cast their ballots by 6 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the latest update from the BOE, that only accounts for about 9.6% of the city’s 4.6 million voters.

Furthermore, less than 2% of New Yorkers took advantage of nine days of early voting this time around.

Republicans did notch one major win with political newcomer Kristy Marmorato appearing to have decisively defeated incumbent Democratic Council Member Marjorie Velazquez in Council District 13 in the east Bronx, which covers the areas of Throggs Neck, Morris Park and City Island. Marmorato finished the night with 52.46% of the vote to Velazquez’s 46.81%, leading the incumbent by 708 votes.

If the unofficial results hold, Marmorato will be the first Republican to win in the Boogie Down in nearly 20 years.

“It was the combination of the right candidate, the right conditions, and the right amount of anger against the status quo,” City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli told amNewYork Metro as to why Marmorato won.

City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island).Credit John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

Borelli said the district voted red over the past three years, all non-presidential year elections. For instance, it went for Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa over now-Mayor Eric Adams in 2021, GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin over Gov. Kathy Hochul last year and now Marmorato over Velazquez. However, 2021 was also the year that Velazquez was first elected.

The minority leader said his conference is already working to make sure it keeps District 13 red when the council is up for reelection yet again in two years.

“We have every intention of holding on to this in two years,” he said. “We have already begun our incumbency plan with Kristy and I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to hold on in 2025.”

However, the GOP looks to have decisively lost Brooklyn District 47, where Republican Council Member Ari Kagan was defeated by his Democratic opponent and colleague, Council Member Justin Brannan — who was up nearly 17% by the end of Election Night. The two competed for a southern Brooklyn district that was reconfigured in last year’s redistricting to include parts of both of their current districts, such as Bay Ridge and Coney Island.

Brannan’s likely victory shows that Kagan’s gambit of switching his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican last December in order to have a shot at holding onto a council seat failed dramatically.

“Last night in southern Brooklyn you saw Justin Brannan running on his record and long history in the district, running against someone who switched parties and switched districts, so it’s no surprise that we saw a decisive victory,” said Council Majority Leader Keith Powers (D-Manhattan).

Justin Brannan has declared victory in the hard-fought race for District 47.Photo by Jada Camille

But Powers said that due to this being an off-year election with low-turnout, it is hard to pull real lessons from it overall. He said the major races were all driven by their own individual dynamics.

Borelli said Kagan took his “best shot” at the seat, but that the district was very hard to predict considering how it was redrawn in redistricting.

“We knew it was always going to be a tough race and there was no way to handicap it, since the district is shaped like a barbell with two completely different neighborhoods as each anchor,” Borelli said. “And Ari gave it his best shot. But the people just know and respect Justin Brannan, and he was able to push out a strong victory.”

While Susan Zhuang appears to have beat Republican Ying Tan in Council District 43 — which covers Sunset Park, Bensonhurst and Bath Beach, Borelli said he does not see it as a loss for his party. That is because Zhuang has taken centrist positions on issues like crime and migrant crisis and committed to join the bipartisan Common Sense Caucus, made up of all council Republicans and two conservative Democrats.

“We have a member who is committed to join the Common Sense Caucus, we’re happy to have more conservative voices in the council,” he said. “And we’re excited to have a member who has been unafraid of swimming against the stream at times.”