State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. is one of a kind. With his cowboy hat and minister’s fervor, he’s championed everything from truck safety to traditional marriage. A member of the Four Amigos who briefly threw New York into political crisis six years ago, Democrat Diaz this year has backed the Republican candidate for governor and attacked the Democratic attorney general as “overly insensitive.” As his son, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., quipped years ago: “Papi don’t play.”
Indeed, Diaz is a force to be reckoned with—or more accurately, a force almost no one bothers attempting to reckon with.
Next Tuesday, for the fifth time in the last six election cycles, he will face no major-party opponent. His only challenger in the 32nd Senate District, which covers a swath of the central and south Bronx from West Farms down to Hunts Point and Morrisania to Parkchester, is Jasmine Marte, a Conservative candidate who has reported no campaign donations or spending to the state Board of Elections.
Nor has Diaz seen much competition from within his own party, which holds a 20:1 registration advantage in the district: From the 2004 campaign until now, Diaz has faced a primary challenge only twice. A would-be challenger in this year’s primary, Elliot Quinones, was thrown off the ballot for lacking enough valid petition signatures; his allies have filed a lawsuit alleging that the move violated the Constitution.
While many legislative districts will see no election next week—a topic explored in a Gotham Gazette–City Limits report out today—many others will feature a contest in name only, one where a candidate faces only third-party opposition, or totally overmatches a major-party opponent. It is not unusual for New York legislative elections to produce winners with 80 percent or even 90 percent of the vote.
As the charts at bottom demonstrate, Diaz’s district is likely to be such a case. Among 16 districts in the Bronx between the Assembly and Senate, only Diaz, Sr. and West Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz face no Republican competition.
But interviews with Diaz’s constituents last week revealed little awareness that there was an election coming up, and no consensus of concern over the lack of competition for their votes.
Wanda Rodriguez said she is a fan of the senator’s, “so it doesn’t really bother me.” But she added: “I think it does hinder the choice of those who don’t like Diaz because they don’t really have anyone else to vote for.”
A Diaz detractor, who asked not to be named, agreed. “Of course I feel like this deprives me,” he said. “I don’t really like Sen. Diaz’s policies so I really was hoping that there would be another candidate for me to choose.”
But Isadora Garcia, who admitted not being much interested in politics, said she simply votes for whoever the Democrat is. And for another voter who identified himself only as Harold, “It doesn’t bother me because he’s the only one who has advocated for the Bronx and I would vote for him regardless of who his opposition was.”
-With reporting by Danielle Cruz
Easy Triumphs: General Election Results from the 32nd Senatorial District