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Assembly Member Nathalia Fernandez and the Importance of Representation in Government

As a young girl she would walk around the neighborhood and supermarket with her mother introducing herself to people saying, “Hi my name’s Nati.” Today she does the same except she says, “Hi I am Nathalia Fernandez, I’m running for state senate.” 

Nathalia Fernandez, Democrat, serves as the New York State Assemblymember for the 80th Assembly District in the Bronx consisting of areas including Allerton, Pelham Gardens, Morris Park and others. While in this role, Fernandez has provided $125,000 in funding to Bronx Community College students, passed criminal justice and police reform bills, and most recently she has proposed a new bill called the 21st Century Anti-Stalking Act alongside New York State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D22-Brooklyn). With this bill, victims of online and digital harassment and stalking would be able to obtain a restraining order more easily. 

“I have been a present, reliable, and responsive public servant. I don’t even like to say elected official, we are here to do a service and it’s important that we go to the people to hear what service is needed so we can properly deliver it.” Fernandez said. 

Fernandez, 34, is also currently running for New York State Senate District 34, currently represented by Sen. Alessandra Biaggi in the upcoming primary. The Senate District covers parts of both The Bronx and Westchester County, and as reported, Biaggi has announced that she is now running for Congress in New York’s 17th congressional district.

Fernandez is excited to continue advocating for issues such as reproductive rights, climate resilience, reducing gas emissions, increasing transportation access and improving infrastructure such as potholes. With the primaries scheduled for August 23rd, she is most excited to connect with the people of this district and to continue raising awareness of the issues they face.

“Everybody deserves to be seen and heard,” Fernandez said. “So, in me recognizing and speaking and learning from the diverse communities within my community, it only helps me to push for legislation that would not only affect the loudest constituents, but even the quietest constituents. This is me inserting myself. I’m coming to meet you where you are and to learn from you directly.” 

Additionally, as a daughter of immigrant parents from Cuba and Colombia, Fernandez takes pride in where she comes from and strives for continued representation in positions of government for women of color. 

“Growing up it’s always been scarce to see leaders like me, not even just the color of my skin but even the texture of my hair. Its been very rare to see leaders like me,” Fernandez said. 

Also understanding this, is Emma Hernando, who self identifies as Cuban and is originally from Miami, Florida.  She currently works at New Deal Strategies, a consulting firm that focuses on working on campaigns, causes, and electing “better Democrats.” As a press and digital associate, Hernando, 23, has worked closely with Fernandez on her campaign for District 34 state senate. Through this, she has learned about the “many shades of Democrat there are,” which has helped her to better understand the dynamics between this political party and its members.  

In addition to that, Hernando is glad to work for a company that is woman-owned and consists of a team that is bilingual and majority women. She also takes pride in working alongside Fernandez and looks up to her as representation for women of color within government. 

Throughout their work together, Fernandez has provided Hernando with thoughtful conversations and mentorship regarding being a woman of color within politics and how to overcome impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is  “also called perceived fraudulence, refers to an internal experience of self-doubt and believing you are not as competent as others perceive you to be” according to Simply Psychology.  

“You never need to let yourself feel small in a room. You belong there, you deserve to be there,” Hernando said. “I feel like I’ve been treated as a professional and as someone who’s respected in my ability to get things done…It’s been really cool to be in that space where I’m seeing her (Fernandez) do these things and it’s like, anyone can do this, regardless of their background. 

With the month of August just beginning and the primaries approaching, Fernandez has continued to secure endorsement from officials such as Bronx Borough President Vanessa L.Gibson, Senator Jamaal Bailey and Assemblywoman Karines Reyes  who have remarked her as a “fearless voice” and “passionate fighter for criminal justice reform.” In addition, Pelham NY Democrats, and New York State Nurses Association are among a few groups who have also endorsed her campaign.

“I really have to be thankful for the support systems out there as women, as women of color, that have come to me to give me this encouragement,” Fernandez said. “In the years that I’ve been in this world, and doing this work, it’s been so encouraging and motivating to see women before me and women behind me, just say ‘thank you because you said something…thank you for being a face for us”  

Fernandez will face Christian Amato and John Perez in the August 23 Democratic Primary. Winner of the Democratic Primary will face Republican Hasmine Zerka in the November 8 General Election.

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About Olivia Barrios-Johnson (5 Articles)
Olivia Barrios-Johnson is a current intern and writer for the Black Westchester Magazine. She is a student at Quinnipiac University majoring in Journalism and is set to graduate in the Spring of 2023. She hopes to become an on air journalist in the future and write for print. Olivia is also passionate about musical theater, singing and taking care of her dog Rocky! Olivia has produced content for the Quinnipiac YouTube channel and was the previous podcast co-host of "Chronversations" at Quinnipiac University.

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