Pheffer Amato sworn into fourth term in NYS Assembly following protracted election recount

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato gets a warm welcome back to Albany after she was sworn into her 4th term Monday. (Courtesy Pheffer Amato’s office)

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato received a standing ovation from her colleagues Monday, Jan. 9, after she was officially sworn in for her fourth term in the lower chamber.

Speaker Carl Heastie introduced a resolution to seat Pheffer Amato and it was unanimously approved by the full state Assembly.

Pheffer Amato has represented Assembly District 23 in south Queens since 2017, but her race against Republican challenger Thomas Sullivan of Breezy Point took nearly two months to determine. In the end, Pheffer Amato edged Sullivan by just 15 votes after nearly 32,000 were cast in the general election.

“I am honored to return to the Assembly and fight for the people of the 23rd Assembly District,” Pheffer Amato said. “I love my community and am committed to ensuring that their voices will be heard. My sleeves are rolled up and I look forward to continuing to solve problems, bring resources to the people, and pass legislation that helps New Yorkers.”

She will continue to represent the neighborhoods of Howard Beach, Ozone Park and the western end of the Rockaway peninsula.

Her office has resolved well over 6,000 constituent cases since 2017 yet she trailed Sullivan by 246 votes on election night in a race that was too close to call. Sullivan watched as his lead dwindled after Pheffer Amato sued twice to have ballots that had been rejected by the Board of Elections included in the recount.

On Dec. 6, Queens Supreme Court Judge Joseph Risi ruled in Amato’s favor and ordered the New York City Board of Elections to count the 94 absentee ballots and four affidavit ballots that the board had mistakenly declared invalid. Amato grabbed the lead by a single vote.

She won another decision to have an additional nine rejected ballots included in the count. In total, 110 rejected ballots were included in the final recount that was completed on Jan. 4.

“I know this has been a long and difficult process for everyone involved,” Pheffer Amato said following the final result. “The wheels of our American democracy do not always turn as quickly as we’d like, but preserving the integrity of our elections, ensuring the accuracy of the count, and defending the right of every voter’s voice to be heard is more important than expediency.”

Sullivan, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and married father of four, expressed his disappointment in the outcome.

“I’m very, very disappointed in the election process and certainly disappointed in the judicial process, but I am not defeated,” Sullivan told QNS. “My campaign will be back to make sure people have a choice going forward.”

Following the manual recount of all ballots, the Board of Elections determined that Pheffer Amato defeated Sullivan by 16,185 votes to 16,170. Felicia Singh, who was defeated by Councilwoman Joann Ariola in 2021, received two write-in votes in Assembly District 23, while comedian Kevin Hart received one write-in vote.