Photo: Audrey Carleton. Newly elected Assembly members Amanda Septimo and Chantel Jackson in front of Mitchel Houses in Port Morris.

Three new members elected to Assembly in South Bronx districts

The South Bronx will have three new New York State Assembly members representing them as of January. 

Following the Nov. 3 general election, Chantel Jackson will take over for her former boss, Assemblyman Michael Blake, representing Melrose and points north. Amanda Septimo will replace Carmen Arroyo in Mott Haven and Port Morris. Former Ruben Diaz Sr. budget director Kenny Burgos takes over for Marcos Crespo in Hunts Point. All three of the newly-elected are Democrats replacing Democrats.

None of the three races were close. Jackson, 37, won almost 84 percent of her district. Republican Donald Skinner tallied just under 8 percent and Conservative party candidate Dion Powell won two percent.

Septimo received just under 74 percent of the vote in the 79th Assembly district, easily beating out Republican Rosaline Nieves, who got about 10 percent. Carmen E. Arroyo, the 26-year incumbent, running as an independent, received just 3.65 percent of the vote. 

Burgos, 26, received nearly 82 percent of the vote.

In a Zoom with friends and family on the evening of Election Day, Jackson told her supporters that the real work will start when she gets sworn in to lead the 79th Assembly district in January. 

“On so many fronts, I am already immersed in some of the policy I need to see change within the next few months. And it doesn’t even touch what I ran on,” Jackson told The Mott Haven Herald. She emphasized the importance of civic engagement, and of South Bronx residents donating time, money, and skills to help candidates committed to their communities to run—and win. 

“There’s so much happening in our communities that we need to be doing, and the bare minimum that we are all doing is going out to vote. I’m grateful, but that’s just level one,” said Jackson. 

Septimo, 29, was making her second run for the the 84th district seat. The former Hunts Point environmental activist ran for the same seat in 2018, tallying 37 percent of the vote then in the Democratic primary against the popular incumbent and eventual winner, Carmen Arroyo. 

“The South Bronx has long been in a state of emergency,” Septimo said after the votes were in. After voting on Election Day, she spent the rest of the day at NYCHA’s Mitchel Community Center greeting voters, along with Jackson.

“I feel mostly relieved, but really excited to just get to work,” she said shortly after the results had been tallied. Septimo knocked Arroyo off the ballot last spring, after mounting a successful legal challenge showing that the incumbent’s campaign staff had forged petition signatures. 

“Coronavirus has made it so that the issues have felt more emergent than ever. And so we really just couldn’t afford to wait for leadership and wait for change any longer,” said Septimo. “I think that comes with years of having elected leadership that is just not responsive or connected to issues on the ground. People just unplug from the political process because they think there’s nothing to be found for them in engaging in the process.”

The election of Joe Biden to the presidency allows Bronxites to “rebuild meaningfully in the right direction,” said Septimo. 

Burgos spent election day working on voter turnout. His biggest concern, he said, was the outcome of the Presidential election.

“It feels good to be essentially done with the campaign. It’s been a lot of work. And a lot of months door knocking and canvassing,” said Burgos, who paused from celebrating while waiting for the results of the presidential race.

“I stayed up very early last night until about three in the morning and woke up this morning at 7 a.m., and I’ve just been watching every news channel,” he said.

Burgos said his focus was on getting the vote out in the 85th district, regardless of who voters opted for. He had hoped Democrats would be able to achieve a supermajority in Albany so they could push for progressive policies affecting transportation and housing, and to legalize marijuana (they didn’t, as Republicans made gains). Additionally, he said he plans to push for bills to help speed up New York State’s economic recovery from the slowdown brought about by COVID-19.

“We’re gonna have to really buckle down and see how we’re going to come out of this fiscal crisis and make sure New Yorkers are much better off than they are this year,” he said. “I didn’t run for office with the expectation of it being smooth sailing and being something easy to do. It’s going to be challenging, but I like to believe that I do best under pressure.”

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