Bronx Republican Kristy Marmorato is headed to the Council: ‘People don’t want the extreme’

Kristy Marmorato, the Republican who has captured a City Council seat in the Democratic-dominated east Bronx, said her historic victory signaled that her neighbors want moderation in their elected officials.

“We all are similar and like-minded, whether you’re Democrat, Republican,” Marmorato, 45, said of members of her community on Wednesday, one day after she beat Councilwoman Marjorie Velázquez. “I feel like being too extreme is just too much. People don’t want the extreme.”

That argument, which Marmorato preached prior to her win, is not the only lesson political observers have been drawing after the Republican X-ray technician ended a four-decade drought for her party in Council races in the Bronx.

There has been talk that Velázquez — who is hardly the most progressive members of the left-leaning Council — sealed her loss by changing her position to support an upzoning plan for Bruckner Blvd. aimed at building more housing. The shift by Velázquez, who opposed rezoning the area for months before pivoting, raised concerns from voters who saw her as a flip-flopper.

“There was always something in the air after the upzone vote,” said John Doyle, a Democratic district leader in the area who previously ran for the seat, noting that Velázquez limited her public appearances after the reversal. “It became an issue of trust.”

Doyle agreed the area is moderate, but he suggested Democrats can still run up wide margins there, saying that President Biden won by 33 points in the district.

Democrats won in other purple areas of the city in this year’s Council races. Doyle said elements of Marmorato’s biography — she is a health care worker in an area with plenty of nurses — worked to her advantage.

Marmorato appeared to succeed in part by localizing the race, making it about a handful of resonant issues, including her opposition to a plan to house former prison inmates on the Jacobi Medical Center campus and to a controversial bid to put a casino in the district.

Now, Marmorato is set to step into the Council as one of six Republicans in the 51-member chamber. She has vowed to work across the aisle.

“We all have won one common goal, and it’s to take care of our constituents,” she said. “People have to be able to work across party lines in order to get things done.”

She has been dogged by an endorsement she received from a supporter tied to the far-right Proud Boys group. In a heated BronxNet debate with Velázquez during the campaign, she downplayed the supporter’s ties to the Proud Boys.

“I do not affiliate with Proud Boys, insurrectionists,” she said in the debate. “People that break the law need to go to jail.”

Marmorato’s campaign platform lacked references to hot-button social issues — it highlighted her positions on housing, education, jobs, economic development and public safety.

Michael Rendino, Marmorato’s brother and the chair of the Bronx Republican Party, said the guiding theory of his sister’s campaign was that “all politics is local.” One of his toughest challenges, he said, is to separate local Republicans from perceptions voters have about the national GOP.

“It was a local race and local issues,” Rendino said of Marmorato’s victory. “I think people were fed up with the Democratic Party taking them for granted.”