Challenger Beats Rivera
Tracy Towers Decided the 80th A.D. Race
By Robert Press
BRONX, NEW YORK, September 15- It was not until after 12:30 a.m. that the 80th A.D. race was over, and Mark Gjonaj declared the winner, besting incumbent Naomi Rivera and damaging the Rivera political dynasty.
In early returns challenger Mark Gjonaj was ahead by almost 20 points, and by 10 p.m. incumbent Naomi Rivera was already on television thanking those who had worked on her campaign. A rousing roar came from the large crowd that had gathered at the Gjonaj party thinking it was a concession speech, but it was going to be a long night. As more results came in the lead narrowed, and the 20-point lead shrunk to a single digit lead at one point.
The same problem that occurred in the June congressional election happened in this election as voters found that their name did not appear in the registration books. Others found out that their Election District had changed, and that they were at the wrong table while some found that their poll site had changed. I was at one poll site where a woman claimed she voted for many years at this poll site, but her name was not in the book. She even went as far to say that her sister's name (who lives at the same address) was in the book pointing to it.
It was because of situations like that where there was a question of a voter’s status that the voter is then given an “Affidavit Ballot” to fill out which did not get scanned, but was put into an envelope at each desk to be verified by the Board of Elections at a later date after the election. There had to be about 200 of these type of ballots used during the day so any victory by either candidate would have to be even greater than the number of Affidavit ballots. Each side would claim that they had the majority of such ballots in question, and or would question the registration of the person who filled out the ballot. That is what happened in a very close special election for a Brooklyn State Senate seat which took the Board of Elections (and courts) months to decide a winner.
So any win in the 80th A.D. had to be greater than the amount of any outstanding ballots or it could take weeks to get a winner. At 11 p.m. Mark Gjonaj's lead was down to about 150 votes that was not large enough to declare victory yet. People were wondering why it was taking so long to get the full results in, and where was the Tracy Towers’ vote that was thought Gjonaj had won big. Tracy Towers residents had a big problem on their hands with a huge rent increase looming, and when it was said that Naomi Rivera could not help. Mark Gjonaj hired a lawyer to help the tenants stop the rent increase.
By 11:30 p.m. the Gjonaj lead started to grow again not to a safe margin of victory yet, but one could tell it would be a Gjonaj victory. A short time after midnight his lead had grown to over 500 votes (52 - 41 percent) clearly enough to declare victory as 99 percent of the vote was in. It was said that the Tracy Towers poll site (which has been historically late in getting in results) had just come in, and provided the winning margin of victory. Mark then arrived, congratulated everyone in the room, thanked everyone who was a part of his winning campaign, gave a brief speech, and then went around the room to shake everyone's hand.
With his victory decided some time before Democratic primary winner in the 87th A.D., Mr. Luis Sepulveda came in to the ballroom at Maestro's to congratulate Mark Gjonaj on his victory.
Finally let me say I do not know how the poll workers were able to endure a 16-hour workday, with many putting in even more time. I traveled through-out the 80th A.D. yesterday stopping by almost everyone of the polling sites, and I tried to talk to as many people as I could which included the poll workers.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council who are fighting for other workers right to fair pay needs to look into this as the $200 pay if overtime after 8 hours of work is factored in comes out to only $10.00 dollars an hour, without benefits is lower than the recent living wage bill passed by the city council.
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