Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato has won the election for Assembly District 23. On Wednesday afternoon, January 4, the final votes that were ordered to be counted in various court cases, were tallied and Pheffer Amato came out on top with 15 votes, making her the winner over Republican challenger Tom Sullivan, nearly two months after election day.
According to Pheffer Amato’s campaign, Stacey will retain the seat she’s held since 2017. As we go to press, the result still has to be certified by the NYC Board of Elections to make it official, but all votes were counted and point to Pheffer Amato as the winner by just 15 votes. And while that may seem close, after the hand recount in mid-December, prior to the ballots that were ordered to be counted in various court cases, Pheffer Amato was leading by only a single vote.
These results, which come just two months shy of when the election was held on Tuesday, November 8, are a flip of where things stood on Election night, after 94% of the votes were counted. On the night of November 8, Tom Sullivan, a Breezy Point resident with 28 years in financial services, 29 years with the U.S. Army and 10 years as a small business owner, was on top by 246 votes.
However, with ballots still needing to be counted in such a close race, neither candidate was able to declare victory on election night. And so began a two-month messy process, that involved absentee and affidavit ballots, court filings and appeals, rejected ballots and recounts, to determine the winner.
After the remaining ballots were counted, by November 22, Sullivan only had a three-vote lead over Amato. But a week prior to that, Amato’s campaign had already filed a lawsuit demanding a recount. As part of that lawsuit, another issue was brought up by Amato regarding 94 ballots that were invalidated by the NYC Board of Elections because they weren’t properly sealed in their election envelopes. In early December, Hon. Joseph Risi of the Queens Supreme Court ordered the BOE to officially count the 94 ballots that had been invalidated. Sullivan appealed this decision in the Brooklyn Appellate Court, with the hopes that this ruling would be overturned. On December 13, four judges of that court decided the 94 ballots should be considered, but in order for them to be counted, they would have to go through the curing process that the BOE failed to do originally.
Meanwhile, Pheffer Amato’s team had filed another lawsuit in the Queens Supreme Court, asking that 14 more ballots that were rejected as “over-votes” because voters had bubbled in a name and then wrote in the same name, be reinstated. Hon. Risi decided on December 23, that those votes should be counted.
The ballots that needed to be cured had to be submitted to the Board of Elections by January 3 to be counted and on Wednesday, January 4, the BOE tallied in those cured ballots and others ordered to be counted in the court decisions.
According to a press release from Pheffer Amato’s campaign, the counting of 74 newly-cured absentee ballots, four affidavit ballots, and 11 ballots with votes cast for the two candidates all added to Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato’s lead, securing her re-election by a final margin of 15 votes.
“I know this has been a long and difficult process for everyone involved,” Pheffer Amato said. “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.
“I want to thank all of my supporters, my family and friends, and my constituents for their patience throughout this process, and I am humbled and honored to once again be selected by the voters to represent this wonderful district,” Pheffer Amato said. “We have important work to do to fight for our community and stand up for our working families. This election is over, and I look forward to continuing this work for my constituents.”
Sullivan did not release a statement regarding the results by press time.