Democrat Luis Sepúlveda won a special election for a seat on the State Senate in the 32nd senatorial district last night, easily defeating his two challengers. Sepúlveda, who has served on the State Assembly since 2012, received 2,808 votes, or 88.64 percent of the votes cast. Reform candidate Pamela Stewart-Martinez finished with just over seven percent of the votes, while Republican Patrick Delices got 2.34 percent.
The district includes parts of Melrose, Hunts Point and Longwood, as well as Claremont Village, East Tremont, Soundview and Parkchester.
Sepúlveda, a 54-year-old lawyer, will occupy the seat formerly held by former State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., who abandoned it when he won a seat on the City Council. He will serve at least until the fall when another election will be held to fill the seat for the two-year term, which begins next January.
Fewer than two percent of registered voters in the district bothered casting their votes. In all, only 3,168 votes were cast out of a total of 164,917 registered voters.
Despite the anemic turnout and the fact that the winner will be tasked with defending his newly-won seat within a matter of months, Mayor Bill de Blasio called it “an incredible night for the Bronx,” and “a great victory for Democrats who are going to take back now the State Senate once and for all.” He called Sepúlveda “one of the hardest working people I know in public service. He’s fought for criminal justice reform, he’s fought for economic opportunity. This is a guy who is going to make a huge difference in the State Senate.”
In a special election in the 37th senatorial district on Tuesday in Westchester County, Democrat Shelley Mayer defeated Republican Julie P. Killian convincingly. In contrast to the Bronx’s bleak voter turnout, almost 25 percent of registered voters cast their ballots in that contest.
The two triumphs for Democrats mean that Democrats will be in control in Albany, at least numerically. Whether that turns out to be the case in practice depends on whether Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder continues to caucus with the Republicans, which he has warned he will do.
Although Sepúlveda once worked as Diaz Sr.’s chief of staff while cutting his political teeth, he purports not to share his former boss’ famously conservative stances on social issues.