Bronx Councilmember Mark Gjonaj Blames “Current Political Climate” For Not Seeking Re-election


4 months earlier than the June major, Bronx Metropolis Councilmember Mark Gjonaj has introduced he will not be in search of re-election, citing the political local weather that is been vital to his centrist Democratic positions. The choice now paves the way in which for his challenger to win the first and in the end turn into the Democratic nominee for the November election.

Gjonaj (pronounced jo-nigh) introduced his choice Wednesday night. A realtor who entered public life in 2012 after successful the 82nd Meeting District — turning into the state’s first Albanian-American legislator — Gjonaj gained the thirteenth Council District seat in 2017. He at present chairs the Council’s Small Enterprise Committee, the place he pushed to limit charges for third-party supply apps whereas underscoring the dearth of Paycheck Safety Program loans to Bronx companies final 12 months.

“It isn’t a call that I’ve come to evenly and I do know it is going to come as a shock and disappointment to lots of my supporters,” Gjonaj wrote in a two-page assertion. “The present political local weather is just not favorable to a centrist ideology that my constituency, group, and I embrace.”

With out mentioning specifics, he mentioned ethnic smears towards him additionally impressed his choice to go away workplace.

“As a substitute of real debates on concepts and public coverage, all too usually public discourse has devolved into the ‘politics of destruction,'” Gjonaj continued. “I cannot permit myself for use as a weapon to divide the district or be used to tarnish a group or ethnicity.”

The thirteenth Council District had been a Republican stronghold within the Bronx for a few years earlier than it flipped blue within the early 2000s. Although Democrats dominate the district, patches of it remained largely socially conservative, notably in Morris Park, a sleepy neighborhood that held a “back the blue” pro-police rally in September final 12 months. Different sections of the district embrace Nation Membership, a group with extra registered Republicans than some other a part of the district. Gjonaj’s politics had mirrored his group, most notably in his choice to not vote for the Girls’s Rights Act whereas in Albany in 2014. The omnibus invoice would have codified the proper to an abortion in New York State, amongst different issues. (A lot of the laws handed the next 12 months.)

Whereas Gjonaj has pointed to the political local weather for his departure, he had been linked to quite a few scandals all through his tenure. In 2018, he had reportedly earmarked $130,000 to an unregistered nonprofit tied to him. That very same 12 months, a video surfaced displaying Gjonaj aggressively shouting right into a megaphone throughout a protest towards present state Senator Alessandra Biaggi, a left-leaning lawmaker who gained her election that 12 months towards former state Senator Jeff Klein, a robust ally of Gjonaj. Extra embarrassing headlines got here in 2020, when an advisor for Gjonaj helped the infamous Hells Angels open a headquarters in Nation Membership. Gjonaj had reportedly been the topic of a probe by the Bronx District Lawyer, although an consequence hasn’t materialized.

Whilst he represents a district that has principally backed him, Gjonaj’s choice comes amid adjustments to the Bronx political panorama, which has veered additional to the left, with youthful, extra progressive lawmakers coming to the fold, most notably Consultant Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

It additionally comes as acquainted names have left the Bronx political scene, together with Councilmember Andy King, who had been expelled from the Council late final 12 months, and Councilmember Ruben Diaz Sr., who introduced he too will not search re-election. Diaz’s son, at present the Bronx Borough President, is successfully leaving public life after deciding to not run for the Metropolis Council.

A spokesperson for Gjonaj didn’t reply what the lawmaker’s subsequent transfer is when he leaves workplace. However his choice to drop out of the first—after spending tons of of hundreds of {dollars} within the race—now clears a path to victory for his challenger, Marjorie Velazquez. Velazquez, a group organizer and District Chief for the 82nd Meeting District, ran towards Gjonaj within the 2017 major, coming inside a number of hundred votes to Gjonaj, who spent hundreds of thousands of {dollars} within the marketing campaign to win the seat, making it the costliest race in Council historical past.

Velazquez gained a aggressive edge over Gjonaj this week after her marketing campaign acquired $159,494 in matching funds. Repeating his choice in 2017, Gjonaj didn’t take part in this system.