District 15 Council District Special Election


Election Day for the Bronx 15th Council District Special Election was Tuesday, March 23. The election was one of the first elections in New York City history to use ranked-choice voting. 

As of the afternoon of March 25, the election has not yet been called, as only 96.55% of the total votes have been recorded. Oswald Feliz is in the lead with 973 first-choice votes out of total 3,431 counted votes. Ischia Bravo is in second place with 738 first-choice votes, and John Sanchez is third with 693. 

Once 100% of the votes have been reported, the lowest voted-for candidate will be dropped from the vote count. The second-choice vote of those who placed the dropped candidate as their first choice will then be considered. The process will repeat until one candidate emerges with at least 50% of the total votes. 

Discounting write-in votes, Ariel Rivera-Diaz has the lowest amount of votes with only 41 first-choice votes. 

With 28% of the votes, Oswald Feliz is the winner of the first round of votes. However, vote counting is at a pause until all votes, including absentee ballots, have been returned. This won’t happen until April 7, at the earliest, according to New York 1.

Oswald Feliz is running on a platform that prioritizes the working people of the Bronx community: building affordable housing, improving public education and protecting workers’ rights, which includes an increase to minimum wage. 

Since childhood, Feliz has been a Bronx resident. Currently, he serves as both a tenant lawyer and an adjunct professor at Hostos Community College. His working-class background, having two blue-collar parents, “instilled in him the value of hard work,” according to his profile on the campaign’s website. 

His profile also details Feliz’s history of activism, which can be traced back to his high school graduation, after which he began to fight for better public education. Recently, Feliz has spent his time organizing and providing free meals to low-income Bronx residents as well as holding workshops to educate tenants about their rights during the pandemic.

While Feliz holding the first-round lead for the Special Election would guarantee him a victory in traditional, first-past-the-post elections, the use of ranked-choice voting cannot make the same guarantee. There is no certainty as to who will win until the ranked-choice process is complete.

The 15th District, along with the 24th, 31st, and 11th, have all held special elections between February and March. The 15th District covers a significant area of the Bronx, encompassing neighborhoods such as Fordham, Belmont, Tremont, Allerton and Bedford Park. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio called the 15th District Special Election to fill the City Council vacancy left behind by Ritchie Torres. Torres was elected as the 15th District’s City Councilman in 2013 but left the position behind this past January after winning a seat in the House of Representatives in November. 

A large selection of candidates ran to fill New York City Council. Candidates included John Sanchez, Elisa Crespo, Ischia Bravo, Kenny Agosto, Troy Blackwell, Oswald Feliz, Bernadette Ferrara, Latchmi Gopal, Lilithe Lozano and Altagracia Soldevilla. Many of the candidates already have substantial political experience within the Bronx. 

John Sanchez, for example, is known for his position as the district manager for Bronx Community Board 6. Elisa Crespo has served as the education liaison for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Ischia Bravo also served as the district manager for Bronx Community Board 7 and was formerly the Bronx Democratic County Committee’s executive director. Bernadette Ferrara has also served on the Bronx Community Board 11. 

The 15th District Council Special Election is the only election in which the Bronx Democratic Party has not endorsed a candidate. The party has endorsed candidates for other upcoming elections in the other nine Bronx districts. 

The winner of the 15th District Special Election will only serve as a City Council member through the end of the 2021 calendar year. Beyond that, the candidate who gets to serve a regular, four-year term beginning in January 2022 will be decided in the upcoming general election in November, with a primary election to be held in June. 

As Fordham University is a part of the Bronx’s 15th District, some university students were able to participate in local politics by voting in the election. Many issues discussed by the candidates in the Special Election will affect the lives of Fordham students. 

Jake Miller, FCRH ’24, said issues of “criminal justice and transportation” mattered the most to him in this election.

Jack McClatchy, FCRH ’21, said his top three issues were “defunding the NYPD, fighting for affordable housing and ensuring equity in public education.” 

“I’d encourage Fordham students to get involved with local politics,” McClatchy said. “The city has a lot of power over everyday things in our city (like public transit, policing and housing) that affect us.” 

As members of the City Council, those who are elected have a tremendous amount of power over the quality of life in New York City.

New York City Council’s primary responsibility is to introduce and vote on legislation that affects all of New York City. Additionally, the City Council has input on the city’s budget. The body negotiates with the mayor on the budget and has final approval. The New York City Council is also involved in a system of checks and balances with other city agencies like the Department of Education and the City of New York Police Department.

While the New York City Council operates autonomously from the mayor’s administration, both political bodies are equally important in maintaining life in New York City. On the City Council webpage, the council refers to itself as a smaller, localized version of federal congress, acting as the primary legislative body for New York City. 

The winner of the 15th District’s Special Election will represent the Bronx district in the City Council until January 2022.