Democratic incumbent Mathylde Frontus has surged ahead in the contentious race for the Coney Island state Assembly seat, leaving her poised to defeat Republican challenger Mark Szuszkiewicz.
With almost all the absentee ballots counted, Frontus is 480 votes ahead of Szuszkiewicz in the contentious race, according to a Wednesday night scan of the ballots by the Board of Elections. The only ballots left to count are a few hundred affidavit ballots, which will most likely be processed sometime before Nov. 20, according to both campaigns.
Szuszkiewicz’s camp, however, was challenging about 400 of ballots for disqualifying errors as of the night of Nov. 17. The challenges slow down the official counting process, but are unlikely to significantly sway the vote.
The race of the 46th Assembly district — which encompasses Coney Island, west Brighton Beach, Sea Gate, and parts of Gravesend and Bay Ridge — made national headlines as the virtually unknown Republican candidate swept the race on election night with 17,852 votes, about 2,300 more votes than Frontus.
If elected, Szuszkiewicz would be the first Republican to serve Coney Island in more than 80 years.
On the last day of processing ballots on Nov. 17, Frontus’ campaign manager, Joe Herrera, said he was cautiously hopeful that Frontus would win.
“I’m optimistic,” said Joe Herrera, who also ran Frontus’ 2018 campaign. “Mathylde won by a slim margin in 2018, we’ve been here before. She has always been a people-powered candidate, and prevails because she takes her orders directly from the people of the 46th district.”
However, Szuszkiewicz’s campaign emphasized that between the challenges and the affidavit ballots, the race is still anyone’s game.
“This is by no means over. We’re going to count every vote, and we’re going to make sure we don’t leave any stone unturned,” said Liam McCabe.
If the final tally narrows Frontus’ lead to less than one percent of all the votes — which, in this case, is about 400 votes — elections officials will have to recount all the ballots in the race by hand, according to New York City election rules.
Szuszkiewicz has come under scrutiny for his social media posts supporting the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon, which claims that a group of Democratic pedophiles are running a global child sex-trafficking ring and conspiring against President Donald Trump.
In one post, Szuszkiewicz falsely suggested that actor Tom Hanks became a Greek citizen after Greece declared pedophilia a disability — which Greece never did.
The Republican candidate also uploaded Instagram posts questioning the severity of COVID-19 and claiming that face masks spread diseases. He has faced a felony charge for allegedly stalking a former work associate in 2008.
Szuszkiewicz’s relative success in the election came as a “red wave” swept southern Brooklyn — electing Nicole Malliotakis to the Staten Island and southern Brooklyn congressional seat, and threatening the campaign of Bay Ridge’s Democratic state senator, Andrew Gounardes. Pockets of Frontus’ Assembly district also voted for President Donald Trump’s re-election, according to a map of in-person votes.
One politico speculated that the pro-Trump surge came as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns and anti-police protests this summer.
“Some people were upset with ‘defund the police’ and COVID, and the red zone. People were angry,” said Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, who leads the Brooklyn Democratic Party. “I think some of the electeds themselves weren’t expecting the outcome.”
A Republican party operative in southern Brooklyn refuted the narrative that Szuszkiewicz was only elected because local Trump supporters voted down the party line, arguing that Republicans worked hard for his campaign.
“We were working very hard on the ground, as was our candidate,” Fran Vella-Marrone, the president of the Brooklyn Conservative Party, told Brooklyn Paper. “He was using a lot of shoe leather, and he was out there being inventive, out there meeting the voters.”
Vella-Marrone added that an increase in shootings throughout the city swayed many southern Brooklyn voters.
“I think a lot of it too was what the opposition was espousing. With ‘defund the police’ and no cash bail,” she said.
Vella-Marrone declined to comment on Szuszkiewicz’s social media posts supporting QAnon.
McCabe, however, said that the posts were simply reposts from other accounts meant to stir conversation, rather than endorse QAnon’s conspiracy theories.
“The truth is these are reposts to start a conversation,” he said. “And I can tell you in 20 years of knowing him, we’ve never spoken about [QAnon]. That was banter on the internet, and it doesn’t represent what he believes or what his supporters believe.”
The certified Board of Elections results will most likely not be released for several weeks, until all the races are counted.