BY SCOTT STIFFLER | The race to replace New York State Assembly Member Richard Gottfried—whose retirement will end a 52-year run as District 75’s voice in Albany—took a decisive turn last Tuesday, June 28, when the New York State Primary Election was held, following June 18-26’s Early Voting period.
On her first assignment, Chelsea Community News’ summer intern, Selah Ilunga-Reed, spoke with a handful of Primary Day voters as they emerged from their polling places, “I Voted” stickers in hand (or on person). Among the hot topics were the polling places themselves: Longtime destinations were off the list, new ones were added, and some voters showing up at facilities practically at their doorstep were redirected to comparatively faraway destinations. As for what was on the minds of those who’d just had a go at the ballot, the Assembly District 75 race loomed large, as did Cuomo successor Kathy Hochul’s desire to serve a full, properly elected term (or more) as governor.
According to still-unofficial stats taken from the New York State Board of Elections website during a visit paid just prior to this article’s publication, Hochul had a decisive win, with 66.49% of the 864,968 votes cast. Her closest competitor, Jumaane D. Williams, had 19.01%. With 10,437 votes cast in the AD75 race, winner Tony Simone earned 34.10%, with closest competitor Layla Law-Gisiko at 24.70%.
With the Primary win going to the person with the most votes (as opposed to declaring a run-off between the top two if nobody ranks at 50% or greater), Hochul and Simone went from hopeful candidate to the Democratic party’s nominee for their respective positions. But what elevated them to this level? Chelsea Community News has some insights, albeit no solid answers. Our exit poll came to be purely because of where we were, when we happened to be there, and who took a few extra minutes out of their day to share their thoughts. Having said that, certain patterns emerged among this small sampling. As for what that means, the reader is encouraged to draw their own conclusions—and to vote in the upcoming August Primary as well as the November general election. For info on those events, click here.
CONVERSATIONS WITH CHELSEA VOTERS Compiled by Selah Ilunga-Reed
Martha voted at Liberty High School Academy for Newcomers (grades 9-12; 250 W. 18th St. btw. 7th/8th Aves.) at around 11am. When asked about her vote for NYS Assembly District 75 rep, Martha chuckled at the higher stakes of the election due to the absence of retiring Richard Gottfried, before saying she voted for Tony Simone. When asked about the reason for her choice, Martha said, “All the people I admire endorsed him.” Martha also noted that she had voted for Gottfried in the past, and was therefore more susceptible to Simone’s heavy campaigning, as she was selecting an entirely new candidate. Of the primary election in general, this longtime Chelsea resident said. “I resent the fact that my polling place changed.” She also noted confusion surrounding district changes, saying, “I’m not sure what my district is… I’ve gotten no information because they were changing districts… and whether I’m in a different one or the same is confusing.” Confused but undaunted, Martha arrived prepared to vote, having thoroughly researched all of her choices.
Lou was another Liberty High School voter on the morning of Primary Day—and though he refused to reveal his NYS Assemblymember choice, Lou said, of the races on the ballot, “It’s a pity that… I didn’t know any of the people.” He also mentioned that he received the most campaign literature from Tony Simone, and though he was unfamiliar with the candidate, Simone’s endorsers were names that he knew. The Chelsea resident related that he had moved into the neighborhood in the 1960. When asked if he’s noticed changes over time, Lou said, “It’s come up, yes. There’s more money in the neighborhood. When I moved here it was all bodegas.” He was adamant that although Chelsea used to be less luxurious, the safety and welcomeness of the neighborhood has remained unchanged and unchangeable, emphasizing that he “was only ever mugged on the East Side.”
Steven was not voting in the primary that sunny Tuesday morning, mostly because he doesn’t believe in elections on any level. He is not registered to vote, and doesn’t plan to. Steven said, “What do I think about voting? I think the winner is already chosen… They’re just doing this to satisfy, like, public need, like to make us feel like we’re involved.” Steven is not from Chelsea, he said he lives Uptown, and he believes that most of his neighbors in his area would agree with his views on voting. He expressed frustration with the mayoral election, using it as an example of an unfit candidate winning office, as though Eric Adams might have been preselected by some higher power, and was not at the mercy of New York City voters at all. About Adams, Steven said, “I’ll probably run into him the club somewhere, not in the subway, I know the subway is bad right now,” emphasizing how even local politicians seem out of touch with the city. Steven holds the belief that every single election is “pre-chosen,” even the presidential election. He said, “Even Biden, he’s pretty cool, but I don’t see what he’s done.”
Sarah voted on West 18th Street at around noon, bringing with her two young children, both proudly bearing “Future Voter” stickers. Sarah said she was “focused on the governor choice.” Regarding her voting experience in general, she noted, “I made a point to thank the election workers. It’s clearly a very important job.” Sarah has been a Chelsea resident for 23 years, and talked enthusiastically about how glad she is to be raising her children in the area.
Bonus Content, from Scott Stiffler’s Primary Day visit to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) voting site
Exiting the polling place and answering Chelsea Community News’ request for an interview in a tone of polite engagement that would have been understandably absent given what just transpired, local voter Jeanne said she had just been told that FIT was no longer her polling place, and to participate she’d have to trek Uptown. At nearly 7pm, with polling places closed in two hours and a litany of other obligations waiting for her at home, Jeanne said she would regrettably miss voting this time. Asked if she verified her assigned location before leaving for FIT, Jeanne admitted she did not, but wondered why the location was so far away, given she resides on the next corner and has been coming to FIT to vote since 2018. Had she participated this time around, Jeanne said Layla Law-Gisiko would have been her choice for AD75. “She’s the only female candidate, and an immigrant,” noted Jeanne, adding that affordable housing and gun laws were two of the issues that motivated her attempted participation in the June Primary.
For information about the upcoming August Primary and November’s general election, click here.
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