Pheffer Amato takes lead in Assembly District 23 race

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato has moved ahead of Republican challenger Thomas Sullivan. (QNS file photos)

Incumbent Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato has grabbed the lead in her race against Republican Challenger Thomas Sullivan during an ongoing mandatory hand recount on Tuesday morning, Dec. 6. Pheffer Amato currently leads by seven votes for the first time since election night in her re-election bid for Assembly District 23 in south Queens, which she has represented since 2017.

She also secured a favorable ruling Tuesday after Queens Supreme Court Justice Joseph Risi ordered the New York City Board of Elections to count 94 absentee ballots and four affidavits, which the board had mistakenly declared invalid.

 “Our democracy works when every voter has the opportunity to be heard.,” Pheffer Amato said. “I’m grateful that the court recognizes that voters were disenfranchised. As I’ve said before, we look forward to every vote being counted.”

The order came as a result of a court action brought by Pheffer Amato to “preserve and protect the integrity of the election process by ensuring that every ballot that should be counted would be counted,” according to her campaign spokesman Doug Forand.

The 94 absentee ballots in question were all from voters who were deemed qualified to vote by the Board of Elections when they were initially issued their absentee ballots. Though they were required by law, the board took no action to notify the voters of their ability to vote in a different manner or to cure their ballots, Forand explained. Additionally, under state law, the interpretation of election laws and rules “shall be construed liberally in favor of…protecting the tight if voters to have their ballot cast and counted.”

Due to the close margin, the race is already subject to an ongoing mandatory hand recount which, by midday Tuesday, was nearly 60% complete.

QNS reached out to Sullivan and is awaiting a response.

Sullivan, a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and married father of four from Breezy Point, led by 246 votes on election night.

Forand said the manual recount is on track to conclude Thursday, Dec. 8.

“Voting is the cornerstone of our American democracy,” Forand said. “We will not allow anyone to silence the voices of voters who have exercised their constitutional right to have their votes counted. We are grateful to the courts for following the law and rightfully ruling that these ballots must be counted.”