Just over a week after the midterm elections left several too-close-to-call races in limbo in southern Brooklyn, the winners have been declared in all but one contentious contest.
Hours after the polls closed on Nov. 8, it became clear that a “Red Wave” had swept through the southern part of the borough, unseating at least one longtime Democratic state Assemblymember and leaving the political futures of two others in jeopardy. Republican candidates Alec Brook-Krasny and Lester Chang were leading in Assembly districts 46 and 49, and Iwen Chu, the Democratic candidate in state Senate District 17, had a lead of just 215 votes.
On Wednesday night, Chu declared victory in the race as absentee ballots were counted in southern Brooklyn. Hours later, Mathylde Frontus, the Democratic incumbent in AD46, officially conceded to Brook-Krasny — and on Thursday afternoon, the Brooklyn Democratic Party announced in an email that 35-year incumbent Peter J. Abbate Jr. had lost in AD49.
By the numbers
“We won!” Chu tweeted on Wednesday night. “Thank you to the voters of Kensington, Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, and Bath Beach in the new 17th Senate District for their faith in me. I promise every day to fight for a better New York – safer, cleaner, and more affordable for our families and to be a voice for all our communities. I am here to serve all in SD17 as we are a community, first and foremost. I want to thank all my supporters, volunteers, and team for the effort and dedication put into this campaign.”
LaBella, who could not be reached for comment, tweeted last week that he would not give up until “all the votes” were counted.
“Friends, I just want to give you an update,” LaBella tweeted on Nov. 9. “I’m not giving up until all the votes are counted, however long that takes … We just have to wait till the BOE finishes their job. Irrespective of the outcome, I am proud of the work we’ve done. Thank you all again.”
In AD49, Republican Lester Chang celebrated his win over 35-year incumbent Peter J. Abbate, Jr. With over 98.7% of all votes counted as of Nov. 16, Chang led Abbate by 668 votes, having secured more than half of all votes cast in the district. His victory was made official on Nov. 17.
Chang and Abbate did not return requests for comment by press time.
Republicans are also celebrating in AD46, where, on Election Day, Brook-Krasny had earned just 806 more votes than Democratic incumbent Mathylde Frontus, who has held the seat since 2018. Two years ago on Election Night, Frontus was down by 3,000 votes — but she remained “cool as a cucumber,” she told Brooklyn Paper on Wednesday night, because she knew there were thousands of absentee ballots yet to count — and those votes eventually put her on the path to victory.
This year, she said, there were far fewer outstanding votes. By Thursday morning, the canvass of absentee and affadavit ballots as completed — and though Frontus did win the absentees, according to a source familiar with the count, Brook-Krasny maintained a lead of about 1,300 votes.
“It’s done and over,” Brook-Krasny’s campaign manager Lucretia Regina-Potter told Brooklyn Paper. “Alec won fair and square.”
It was a “hard-fought” victory, she said, but everyone involved with the campaign believed in his message, and it was enough to win voters over, too.
“He doesn’t discuss things, he gets things done,” Regina-Potter said. “That’s what people voted for, getting the job done.”
“Now that all the ballots in my race have been counted, it appears that the elections results didn’t go as many of us hoped,” the Assemblymember said in a statement early on Nov. 17. “While the margins continue to be quite close, the math still does not add up in my favor.”
She congratulated Brook-Krasny, who has previously represented the district in the Assembly as a Democrat but switched parties before he declared his run earlier this year.
“I am extremely pleased to announce that I am the Assemblyman-Elect for the 46th Assembly District,” Brook-Krasny wrote on Facebook on Thursday. “This is a great privilege and honor … I look forward to representing ALL of my constituents, whether they voted for me or not, and to serve our community with pride.”
Congressmember Nicole Malliotakis, the most notable Republican in New York City politics, congratulated Chang and Brook-Krasny on their wins on Twitter the day after the election.
“Two years ago I was the ONLY Republican representing Brooklyn,” the rep, who easily defeated her Democratic opponent Max Rose, wrote. “Come January, they’ll be at least six.”
Representatives of the Brooklyn GOP and the Brooklyn Conservative Party did not immediately return requests for comment.
Brooklyn Democratic Party chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn congratulated Chu and another winning Democrat, Jessica Scarcella-Spanton, on their successful races in a Nov. 17 statement. Scarcella-Spanton will become the state Senator in SD23 — the former district of her old boss, state Sen. Diane Savino.
“Additionally, we laud Steven Cymbrowitz (Assembly District 45) Mathylde Frontus (Assembly District 46), and Peter Abbate (Assembly District 49) — who fell short in their tight NYS Assembly races for reelection in Southern Brooklyn — for their dedicated years of public service to our community,” Bichotte Hermelyn said. “Although these hard-fought races fell short by a slim margin, your innumerable contributions will carry on a legacy that will better Brooklynites’ lives into the future, and we look forward to seeing what great achievements you accomplish next as we focus on winning these seats back in 2024.”
The writing on the wall in southern Brooklyn
As she awaited election results on Wednesday night, Frontus told Brooklyn Paper southern Brooklyn is changing — and has been for some time.
“We’ve had the writing on the wall for a long time,” she said. “Two years ago, many electeds, including myself, won our races by the skin of our teeth. I won by 800 votes, Ari Kagan won by fewer than that to my former opponent who was a QAnon insurrectionist who was in the Capitol on [January 6th].”
The Republican party has a strong base of loyal voters in southern Brooklyn, Frontus said, who often vote based on the candidate on top of the ticket — in 2020, that candidate was Donald Trump. Last week, it was gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin.
Some Brooklyn voters cited crime as the reason they voted Republican in the midterms, and Frontus said she believes many more were voting against Democratic principles — not necessarily in favor of Republican ones.
“I have been saying all along that Democrats have not been doing enough, but I’m only one person,” she said. “The party itself has to have a moment of clarity … if Democrats are serious about making inroads with voters, they have to see things as they are, not as they want things to be.”
Many local civic organizations and Democratic politicians have criticized the state and county parties for not doing enough to boost Democratic candidates in southern Brooklyn.
In a Nov. 11 statement, the Bay Ridge Democrats said Republicans in southern Brooklyn “echo national extremist talking points while cozying up to insurrectionists, Proud Boys and international fascist organizations.”
The group called for the immediate removal of the head of the state Democratic Party, Jay Jacobs.
“With the three closest of these races separated by an average of just 500+ votes, it is painfully clear how disastrous the lack of support from the State Democratic Party has been in Southern Brooklyn, where a few additional votes per election district could have completely changed the complexion of these races.”
Frontus told Brooklyn Paper on Wednesday that she knew this race would be her last, regardless of outcome. Facing a loss, she said she knew she would continue her work helping the community in some way or another — she never gave up teaching and has a long history of civic service outside of government.
“There is a sense of loss, I feel sad really, because I know [my constituents] are probably not going to get the same tender loving care and the spirit of activism that I brought, because not all politicians are cut from the same cloth,” Frontus said. “It’ll be the communities that have to deal with their decision, and hopefully in the future, they’ll be more mindful, I suppose.”
Update Nov. 17, 2022, 3:52pm: This story has been updated with comment from the Brooklyn Democratic Party and information on the race in Assembly District 49.