Progressive challenger Mamdani knocks off incumbent Simotas in Astoria Assembly race

File photo courtesy of Zohran for State Assembly

Though the results aren’t official, progressive challenger Zohran Mamdani claimed victory over incumbent Aravella Simotas on July 22 in the Democratic primary for Assembly District 36 in Astoria.

The five-term assemblywoman took to social media to concede the race to her challenger, the first she’s faced in a primary since 2010.

“I congratulate [Mamdani] for his win and a well-run election,” Simotas said on Twitter. “I wish you the best as you begin your legislative career and fight for the 36th AD.”

According to Mamdani, the Democratic Socialists of America backed candidate was up by over 300 votes after absentee ballots were tallied by the city’s Board of Elections this week.

“We’re still at the BoE waiting for them to officially scan the ballots, but the absentee count in our race is over,” Mamdani said on Twitter. “Based on our internal tally, we finished ahead by over 300 votes — more than enough to avoid a recount & ensure our victory. Socialism won.”

If the count holds, the 300-vote lead would be less than the lead Mamdani held after in-person voting on June 23, when he ended the day ahead by over 600 votes. Board of Elections workers counted an unprecedented number of absentee ballots in the district and throughout the city over the past couple days. Voters in the 36th Assembly District requested over 16,000 ballots, more than any other district in the borough, though only one-fourth of those ballots were returned to the BOE by June 23, according to the election agency.

“We’re really proud of the race we ran,” said Matthew Thomas, a spokesperson for Mamdani’s campaign. “It took the investment of a lot of grassroots groups that believed in us. At the end of the day, that was enough to over come the establishment powers against us.”

Tiffany Cabán, the progressive public defender who nearly beat Melinda Katz in the Democratic primary for Queens district attorney a year ago, congratulated her former campaign worker on Twitter.

“My new Assemblymember, [Zohran Mamdani]. Congrats, homie!” Caban said.

Mamdani is one of several progressive challengers to beat out longtime incumbents in the state Assembly this month. Jessica González-Rojas beat out six-term incumbent Michael DenDekker in Assembly District 34, and progressive challenger Jenifer Rajkumar held a strong lead over incumbent Mike Miller in Assembly District 38 following in-person voting.

Mamdani, the only candidate endorsed by the Queens chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, envisions a “New York for the many and not for the few.” On his agenda: A homes guarantee, a push for publicly owned utilities and an end to mass incarcerations in the state.

“We began this campaign with the idea that all New Yorkers deserve so much more than they’ve been offered by the status quo. They deserve guaranteed housing as a human right. They deserve lower energy prices from publicly owned utilities. They deserve to live in safe and stable neighborhoods, free from police abuse and the violence of mass incarceration,” Mamdani said in a statement. “And in particular, those New Yorkers who have long been excluded from our politics — including the vibrant Muslim and South Asian communities here in Astoria — deserve representation that speaks to their unique experience. They deserve someone who not only knows the challenges they face, because they come from that community, but someone who’s willing to stand up for them in Albany, too.”

Mamdani, who ran a grassroots campaign, spoke often of his outsider status and the challenges of running against a legislator already established inside the state’s Democratic party.

“[The Democratic establishment] saw the movement we were building in Astoria, and they pulled out all the stops to try and defeat us,” Mamdani said. “They had money, but we had people. They had a machine, but we had a movement. And that’s why today, we won.”

The results of the primary have not been confirmed by the Board of Elections.

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