O’Donnell remains — Assembly District 69 results

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Source: New York State Board of Elections. Credit: Sangsuk Sylvia Kang/The North Polls

By Abigail Morris

Assemblymen Daniel O’Donnell, 55, fended off competition tonight from political newcomer Steven Appel, 31, and held on to his District 69 seat in Albany.

O’Donnell, who has been in office since he was elected in 2002, received 73.3 percent of the vote, according to the New York State Board of Elections.

O’Donnell had not responded to a request to comment by the time of publication.

His competitor Steven Appel received 19.9 percent of the vote. Appel said, “I am deeply grateful to my beloved family and friends for their extraordinary support over the course of this campaign.

“I am very proud of the campaign we ran and I could not have done it without them. I am also honored to have earned the votes of so many members of our community here in the 69th Assembly District. We will continue to fight for a more innovative and unifying politics.”

Almost 6 percent of votes were left blank and of the almost 60,000 active enrolled Democrats in the district, only 9,501 voted in the primary.

O’Donnell will next be on the ballot for the general election on Nov. 8. He will face Republican Stephen Garrin, who ran unopposed in the primaries.

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Appel’s campaigning reflects his vision for AD 69

By Abigail Morris

Challenging a longstanding incumbent is a bold move, especially when they have as many ties to the community as District 69 Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell. But that’s exactly what challenger Steven Appel hopes to do.

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Steven Appel meets a young voter on 104th Street

Appel believes that O’Donnell’s long term has made him complacent and some parts of the community feel ignored. These are the potential voters that Appel’s platform intends to help.

“How do we make a more proactive constituent services model, [one] that doesn’t wait for people to come to our office but instead goes out into the community and asks people what they need?” he said. 

This is reflected in his campaigning –  his strategy today avoided the O’Donnell stronghold at PS 165 in Morningside Heights and instead travelled around the rest of the district. He said, “It’s going really well, we’re very encouraged by the reception in the community.”

“I think a lot of people realize that parts of the district have been ignored and ready for someone to step in and listen to all corners of the community.”

But O’Donnell’s  many supporters feel Appel does not have the same rapport with the community. Luis Roman, public defender at Legal Aid Society,  “O’Donnell’s records in the past 14 years has been incredibly impressive,” he said,  “He’s active in the issues that affect our community.”

Some residents weren’t impressed with politics in general. Doralynn Pines, long-time resident in Morningside Heights, expected to see more campaigns about the candidates beyond the leaflets she received.

“Many of our officials seem kind of sleepy,” she said. “At 80, I have been saddled with disappointment at the local level of politicians.”

Jackson and Espaillat: rivals cross paths on primary day

By Summer Meza

After casting a vote for himself in Washington Heights, State Senate candidate Robert Jackson claimed that he is more “for the people” than his competitor Marisol Alcantara, who has run a campaign on her grassroots background.

“I feel the way I do when I’m finishing a marathon,” said Jackson. “Tired, but excited that I’m so close. My main competition today is apathy from voters.”

Minutes after Jackson left the Fort Washington Collegiate Church polling station, the man who defeated him for the same Senate seat two years ago,  Adriano Espaillat, cast his vote. Espaillat, who is now the Democratic candidate to replace U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel, is backing fellow Dominican Alcantara as his successor.

“I am very optimistic,” said Espaillat after casting his vote. “I think we’re gonna come out in big numbers today. God is with us.”

Despite support from the incumbent for Alcantara, there is still a sense that Jackson’s history with the neighborhood could help him.  He served twelve years as a City Council member before resigning because of term limits.

“I’ve seen him around for 20 years, he seems to know the people and the neighborhood,” said Lazaro Rodriguez, a voter and Washington Heights resident. “I’ve never heard anyone talk bad about him. He’s of the people, that’s all I’ve ever heard.”

Candidates out and about on election day

By Louis Baudoin-Laarman, Summer Meza, Danielle Prager, Somayeh Malekian, Allana Haynes, Abigail Morris

Above: Democrat incumbent O’Donnell of AD69 is campaigning for the primary by greeting people outside PS165. Credit: Somayeh Malekian/The North Polls

Above: Steven Appel’s message to residents after casting his vote at Grace United Methodist Church in AD69. Credit: Abigail Morris/The North Polls

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De La Rosa shares platform with members of the community. Credit: Allana Haynes/The North Polls
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De La Rosa hands out campaign fliers to passersby on Sherman Avenue. Credit: Allana Haynes/The North Polls
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De La Rosa encourages the community to vote on election day. Credit: Allana Haynes/The North Polls
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De La Rosa receives support from her biggest fan, her father. Credit: Allana Haynes/The North Polls

As a felon he couldn’t vote. Today George Fernandez votes for himself.

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Fernandez votes for the first time in six years, for himself. Credit: Danielle Prager/The North Polls

By Danielle Prager

For six years, while he was serving time in various New York State prisons, George Fernandez could not vote. Today he voted in the Democratic race for the 72nd District’s State Assembly primary. For himself.

Fernandez was released from his second prison term in 2002: a five-year stint at Sing Sing Correctional Facility on charges of robbery. Five years earlier, he was arrested for holding up a grocery store at gunpoint.

“Today, aside from the births of my children, is the most important day of my life,” said Fernandez. “I’ve reached the ultimate goal, casting my vote.”

New York State law prohibits convicted felons from voting while incarcerated or on parole. In order to regain voting rights, convicted felons must re-register with the state. Fernandez, who served three terms as chair of Community Board 12,  cast his vote at Washington Heights Academy in Inwood.

“Everyone has their bottom, I hit mine and it’s what led me to the decision that I need to live life better: For God, for myself, for my family and for my community,” Fernandez said. “For my life story, I’ve won already because I took it all the way to the finish line. I’m here to the end and that speaks volumes.”

Sun Rises. People Vote.

By Abigail Morris

Who’s out on the streets at 6am in Morningside Heights? The dedicated jogger, a crew of garbagemen and the early bird voters in the state primary elections.

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Polling station PS 165 on West 109th Street

Irene Pavitt, 71, is the first person to cast her vote this morning because “it’s less crowded and I’m sure to do it even if things alter the day.”

35-year-old Rebecca Fondren agreed, “I go to the gym and to work and I don’t like long queues.”

While the majority of legislative seats are held by longstanding incumbents with no challengers, Morningside Heights residents can vote today in two contested races: the Democratic primaries  for Assembly District 69 and Senate District 31.

For residents like lawyer Brett Clements, 32, voting early is a habit, “When I was growing up my parents always voted before they took me to school.”

At 6:30am, the sun is rising and more voters start trickling in. Many with full time jobs feel that if they don’t vote now, they won’t be able to vote at all.  “I wanted to do it before I go to work,” said attorney Mark Lehrman, 54, “so if I get held up, I don’t risk missing the opportunity to vote.”

Policy Analyst, David Saltonstall, 56, echoed this. “I think my day’s only going to get busier.”

By 7am there’s a steady stream of residents. Most are heading off to work, but Prudence Brown, 68, a consultant in urban poverty, is carrying a suitcase because she’s heading off to Milwaukee. She was joined by Paul Stetzer, 71, a retired teacher who might not have come so early. “She woke me up,” he explained.

The most loyal campaigners–Mom and Dad

By Elizabeth Haq, Allana Haynes