Vernikov Wins 48th NYC Council District Seat, One of Several Flipped by GOP

inna vernikov
Voters cast their ballots at P.S. 11 in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, Tuesday. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Republican Inna Vernikov won the New York City Council’s 48th District seat on Tuesday, flipping the seat to the GOP in one of the city’s few conservative districts.

“This victory sends a loud message that this district is fed up with the progressive policies that have been destroying our city and our district,” Vernikov told Hamodia Tuesday night. “I think this will open up a lot of doors for Republicans, and will also restore the faith of the people in our election process.”

With 96% of the vote tallied early Wednesday morning, Vernikov, who also ran on the Conservative line, led her Democratic opponent, Steven Saperstein, 64% to 36%, a margin that shocked political observers.

“While everyone knew Vernikov had a real chance, this seemed like it would be a close race,” a local Democratic official told Hamodia, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Nobody I spoke with, no matter their political affiliation or whom they were supporting, predicted this margin of victory. Apparently, despite the support of many leaders and organizations, Vernikov was one of a number of Republican candidates who swept to victory in New York and elsewhere.”

Saperstein, a special-education teacher, is a conservative Democrat who had previously run as a Republican for the same Council seat in 2017 and an Assembly seat in 2018. Vernikov, an attorney, was running in her first political race.

The Brooklyn district (Midwood, Madison, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach) is mostly comprised of Russian Jews and Orthodox Jews, and had typically elected conservative or moderate Democrats. But it has been trending even further rightward in recent years, which some attribute to the popularity of Republican former President Donald Trump, who won 65% of the district in the 2020 election.

Saperstein had the endorsements of the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition, the Sephardic Community Federation and the city police unions. Vernikov had endorsements from Chaim Deutsch, a Democrat who previously held the seat, and Dov Hikind, a Democrat who served in the state Assembly for 36 years, and for whom Vernikov had previously worked as an aide.

“Tonight’s results in our district reflect the changing landscape of New York City — residents are fed up with the status quo,” Deutsch told Hamodia. “They voted for the candidate that will fight for them, not for the special interests. I’m proud to have supported Inna, and I look forward to continuing to support her as she takes the City Council by storm.”

Tuesday was a relatively good day for Republican Council candidates in an overwhelmingly Democratic city in which the GOP had held just three of 51 Council seats.

In addition to the 48th District, Republicans flipped at least one other Council seat: In the 19th District of Queens (Auburndale, Whitestone, Flushing, Bayside), Republican Vickie Paladino defeated Democrat Tony Avella 50% to 43%, for the seat being vacated by the term-limited Democrat Paul Vallone.

The Republicans maintained control of the three Council seats they held: In the 32nd District in Queens (Belle Harbor, Rockaway Park, Breezy Point, Woodhaven), Joann Ariola, chairwoman of the Queens County GOP, crushed progressive Democrat Felicia Singh by 36 points, for the seat held by term-limited Eric Ulrich. In the 50th Council District (Mid-Island Staten Island), Republican David Carr won by more than 29 points over Democrat Sal Albanese, for the seat being vacated by term-limited Steven Matteo. And in the 51st District (South Shore of Staten Island), incumbent Republican Joe Borelli cruised to re-election, defeating Democrat Olivia Drabczyk 85% to 15%.

The GOP will hold five seats in the next City Council, and possibly more: In Brooklyn’s 43rd District (Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge and Bath Beach), incumbent Democrat Justin Brannan trails Republican challenger Brian Fox by 255 votes, or 1.05 percent, with 98.25% of scanners reporting. And in Brooklyn’s 47th District (Coney Island, Sea Gate, Gravesend, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach), Democrat Ari Kagan led Republican Mark Szuszkiewicz by 2.19 percentage points, with 97.12% of scanners reporting.

Both those races will come down to absentee ballots, which must have been postmarked by Election Day and received by November 9.


The GOP’s relative success extended further: Kalman Yeger, a registered Democrat who ran unopposed in his bid for reelection in Brooklyn’s 44th District (Boro Park, Midwood, Bensonhurst) by also garnering the Republican and Conservative lines, did better as a Republican than a Democrat: 55.55% of voters in his heavily conservative district filled in his bubble on the Republican column, compared to 34.55% who voted for him on the Democratic line.

The winners of the 2021 Council races won’t have much time to legislate before heading back on the campaign trail: Due to the upcoming redistricting of Council boundaries, the next Council election will be held in two years, instead of the usual four.

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