Assembly Member Nathalia Fernandez announces state Senate bid

Fernandez is the latest person to enter the race to replace Alessandra Biaggi in her Bronx district.

Nathalia Fernandez has joined a race for state Senate in the Bronx.

Nathalia Fernandez has joined a race for state Senate in the Bronx. Diane Bondareoff

Assembly Member Nathalia Fernandez is ready to move up the political ladder, announcing her campaign for state Senate in the Bronx. She will seek the newly redrawn 34th District being vacated by state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who is running for Congress. 

“This is a time that my district, that part of the Bronx, needs strong representation,” Fernandez told City & State. The new state Senate lines effectively cut the district in half, keeping only the east side of the borough when it currently spans from river to river. “My community knows I’m there to listen, and put their priorities first.”

Fernandez comes into the race with deep ties to Bronx politics. Before her election to the Assembly, she worked for years for former Assembly Member Mark Gjonaj, starting as a volunteer before eventually becoming his chief of staff. After leaving his office, she served as former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Bronx representative. And when Gjonaj stepped down to serve in the New York City Council, Fernandez won the special election to replace him. 

Now, Fernandez said she expects to have the support of the Bronx Democratic Party when she formally announces her candidacy. “There’s been a lot of support building,” Fernandez said, adding that both party community leaders have encouraged her to take advantage of opportunities that arise. She had the backing of the party in the 2018 special election and worked for Gjonaj, who has deep ties to Bronx Democratic politics, so that support likely doesn’t come as a surprise.

Fernandez’s campaign shakes up the state Senate race that already has two candidates running. Biaggi’s former chief of staff Christian Amato and former Biaggi challenger James Gisondi have already announced they were running in the Aug. 23 primary. Despite the candidates already in the race, Fernandez said that when the candidate she originally intended to back – attorney Miguelina Camilo – could no longer run in the district, she felt she needed to “step in.”

Thanks to the new primary date in August, Fernandez can seek the state Senate seat without first risking giving up her place in the Assembly. She is already set to appear on the general election ballot since she doesn’t face a June 28th primary challenge. Since the Assembly and state Senate primaries are on different days, she can technically still run for both seats, whereas normally would have to choose only one. If she wins the August primary for state Senate, she can simply decline her Democratic nomination for Assembly. 

The time to petition for the Assembly primaries in June has long since passed, meaning that there will be no race for Fernandez’s seat. So if she ultimately declines that nomination to run for Senate, she can effectively hand pick her successor through her committee on vacancies, which picks a new candidate in instances the original nominee can no longer run. Fernandez said she does not have anyone specific in mind at the moment, but that a replacement for her on the ballot for Assembly is something she’s beginning to look into. “The first step to get to that point is to make sure we get on the ballot,” Fernandez said. “So until I’m on the ballot for the Senate race, those conversations are not necessarily on the back burner, but you know, one priority before another.”