Falcón’s Rundown: Latinos and the September 13 NYC Primary Election Results
Overall, the impact of the September 13 primaries in New York City was to reinforce the status quo. Latinos lost one seat in the NYS Assembly, most of the Latino incumbents were renominated, and Latinos made no inroads in seeking nominations in existing open seats.
In Manhattan, Adriano Espaillat emerged victorious in his battle for domination of Dominican community leadership over challenger Assemblyman Guillermo Linares. This comeback following his defeat at the hands of Congressman Rangel in the June primary was decisive.
In the Bronx, State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr.’s severely social conservative agenda made some gains, while Assemblyman José Rivera’s political family lost some ground (although he himself was decisively renominated) with the defeat of his daughter, incumbent Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera. And those incumbents outside the established county machine, State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblyman Nelson Castro, scored impressive wins.
In Brooklyn, the Latinos associated with the Brooklyn Democratic machine controlled by disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez held on strongly to their positions despite spirited challenges. The fallout from the Vito Lopez controversy did not attach to them, allowing them to avoid the “Naomi Rivera” effect that we witnessed in the Bronx.
Turnout in the districts that had Latino candidates was very low, as predicted. In the State Senate races, turnout ranged from 6 to 10 percent (not counting absentee ballots). For the State Assembly races it ranged from 6 to 12 percent. Turnout was highest among these in the largely Dominican districts of Northern Manhattan, compared to other parts of the city.
As City & State observed. Hector Figueroa, the head of 32BJ SEIU’s New York operations, who is set to become the union’s president next month, showed the union’s strength in these primries. With a strong get-out-the-vote effort that bolstered a slew of winning candidates, from Sen. Adriano Espaillat to Sen. Gustavo Rivera to Ron Kim, whose primary win positions him well to replace Assemblywoman Grace Meng in November.
New York State Senate
In the State Senate races, in northern Manhattan’s 31st District, incumbent Adriano Espaillat won overwhelmingly over challenger Guillermo Linares with a 2-to-1 margin. This primary was an epic battle between two longtime rivals for the distinction of which one, as one columnist put it, would be the Big Mangú in the Dominican community.
In the last week of this campaign, it got nasty with Espaillat’s mailing denouncing Linares as a traitor to the Latino community for his support of Congressman Charlie Rangel over fellow Dominican Espaillat in the recent Congressional primary. Apparently, denunciations of this negative campaign tactic by Rangel and others did little to lose Espaillat support and probably helped him with Dominican voters.
In the Bronx, efforts by the Bronx Democratic County machine to run a candidate against State Senator Gustavo Rivera in the 33rd District to retaliate for his support of Espaillat over Rangel failed. Rivera beat his challenger, Manuel Tavarez, with an impressive 70 percent of the vote. While some would point to this as a sign of the weakness of the Bronx Democratic machine, some indicate that opposition by the older Puerto Rican politicos to Gustavo Rivera as a young and ernest new voice was only half-hearted.
In Brooklyn, incumbent State Senator Martin Malave Dilan in the 18th District attracted 68 percent of the vote to easily fend off a challenge by newcomer Jason Otaño. Dilan, who is a strong supporter of the scandal-ridden Italian-American Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez was thought to be politically vulnerable because of this association. But Otaño’s lack of name recognition, despite the strong backing of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and others fighting the Vito Lopez machine, proved hard to overcome, although some point out that this run sets him up nicely for another in the future.
In upstate New York, Monica Arias Miranda lost her bid for the Democratic nomination for State Senate in the 46th District. She attracted 14 percent of the vote in a 3-way race that was won by Cecilia Tkaczyk with 52 percent.
New York State Assembly
The continuation of the Espaillat-Linares rivalry into the Assembly race for the 72nd District in Northern Manhattan to replace Linares resulted in another loss for him as his daughter, Mayra Linares, lost to Gabriela Rosa. Rosa won with 44 percent of the vote to Linares’ 34 percent in a four way race.
In the Bronx, the loss of the nomination of Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera to challenger Mark Gjonaj, who beat her with 52 percent of the vote, is a setback for Latino representation in the State Legislature and in other ways. Rivera, the daughter of Assemblyman José Rivera, was overwhelmed with tabloid scandals concerning her love life and potentially illegal activities, which she did not effectively counter. Gjonaj is an Albanian-American and a social conservative who opposes same sex marriage and has supported Republican candidates. He was endorsed by State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. and is now part of Reverend Diaz’s growing political block in the Bronx of social conservatives.
Adding to Ruben Diaz, Sr.’s political allies was the victory of Luis Sepulveda over former Assemblyman Peter Rivera’s chief of staff, Danny Figueroa, in the 87th Assembly District. Sepulveda had challenged Peter Rivera for this seat in the recent past and Figueroa was further disadvantaged by entering the race late as Peter Rivera delayed in deciding whether or not to run for reelection before his appointment by Governor Andrew Cuomo as NYS Labor Commissioner.
Also in the Bronx, two heads of prominent political families, Assemblymembers José Rivera and Carmen Arroyo were renominated. Rivera won with an impressive 78 percent of the vote, and Arroyo with a more modest 53 percent against two challengers.
Along with State Senator Gustavo Rivera’s victory over the Bronx Democratic machine, his close political ally, incumbent Bronx Assemblyman Nelson Castro, beat off a challenge by the second Soto brother to challenge him, garnering an impressive 84 percent of the vote.
In Brooklyn, attempts to unseat the Brooklyn Democratic machine-supported incumbent in the Assembly, Rafael Espinal, failed as it did with State Senator Dilan. Espinal won renomination with 65 percent of the vote to challenger Juan Rodriguez’ 35 percent.
In Queens, attempts by Latino candidates to win Democratic Party nominations for open Assembly seats were unsuccessful. Martha Flores-Vazquez ran in the 40th District against four Asian candidates, attracting only 12 percent of the vote. In this 5-way race, Ron Kim was nominated with 27 percent of the vote. In the 38th District, newcomer and post-racial candidate Etienne Adorno lost to Michael Miller 71 to 29 percent.
On the Republican side in Queens, former Rudy Giuliani appointee, Juan Reyes, lost to Eric Ulrich, 70 to 30 percent, in a race that pitted the Senate (Ulrich) against the county (Reyes) Republicans, and where Reyes’ negative anti-gay campaigning lost him major support, leading Giuliani to publicly disown him.
Reyes also made a big point on his campaign website of letting the voters know that he is “the Irish-Italian guy with the Spanish name.”
There were two judicial races in New York City with Latino candidates. A Latina won one, and lost one. Dominicana Rita Mella beat out Barbra Jaffe 59 to 41 percent to be nominated by the Democrats to the powerful position of Manhattan Surrogate. In the Bronx, Juana Valentin lost to Eddie McShan, 60 to 40 percent, for the position of Civic Court Judge.
Angelo Falcón lives in Brooklyn. He is President and Co-Founder of National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP). Follow him @cabesademojon