O’Donnell remains — Assembly District 69 results

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.


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.

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.”

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.

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.

Appel faces uphill battle to win Assembly seat


Democrat Steven Appel hopes to take over Assembly District 69 seat from longtime incumbent Daniel O’Donnell. Credit: Steven Appel

By Abigail Morris

Steven Appel, 31, is fighting to represent District 69 in the State Assembly. He is going up against incumbent Democrat Daniel O’Donnell, who has only faced competition once before since his election in 2002.

A longtime resident of the Upper West Side, Appel is senior manager of communications and events at Working in Support of Education, a nonprofit that provides low- to moderate-income communities with financial literacy programs.

He credits his Jewish upbringing for his commitment to equality, which he channeled into co-founding the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding at his alma mater, Queens College. He also he worked at the Center as assistant director for five years. During that time, he developed the Lunchtime 2.0 Program, which reinvented cafeteria space to encourage intercultural dialogue.  

Appel was valedictorian of his class and editor-in-chief of his college newspaper. He holds an MBA in management and sustainability from Baruch College. He has volunteered with survivors of domestic violence and their children.

He has received $10,972 in contributions in 2016, according to the state Board of Elections. He said in an interview he has received an additional $4,400.

“I feel strongly that the purpose of government is to unify people and help us reach our deepest potential,” he said. “There are two bottlenecks to achieving that – the ethical context in which we govern and the social context. I think there’s tremendous room to transform, not only the ethics in Albany, but the way in which diverse members in our community engage with each other.”

Campaign platform:

  • Hold a semi-annual Innovation Summit to bring together community members to network and look at issues.
  • Improve the public school system.
  • Increase affordable housing and strengthening rent laws.
  • Support environmental sustainability.
  • Institute ethics reform modeled after the New York City Council.