Often, they are respected community leaders. They run for office, sometimes over and over. They run campaigns, and some of them even raise a little money.
They never get elected.
This is the fate of a non-Democratic candidates running for office in the Bronx, a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans 11 to 1.
As the city went to the polls, members of the Green, War Veterans, Republican and other parties in the Bronx said that they put their best foot forward in races that were stacked against them from the beginning.
Thought she had a chance
The War Veterans party candidate for Public Advocate, Irene Estrada, thought that she had a good chance of beating Democrat Letitia James.
“I am making a point that I can win this election without money,” Estrada said on the eve of the vote.
But Estrada garnered 0.5 percent of the citywide vote, or 3,942 votes. and lost to the runaway winner, James.
Estrada has long been involved in her North Bronx Community. She sits on Community Board 11, serves as a civilian adviser for the NYPD Explorers and is president of her tenant association. This also wasn’t her first time running for election: In the last 10 years she has run twice for the state Assembly and once for the City Council.
“No one taught me how to run for office but myself,” Estrada said.
But Estrada, herself a Democrat, understands that she will need the help of the Democratic “machine” to break her losing streak. “In getting the support of the politicians, you have to be in their inner circle,” Estrada said.
“They need to take a look at qualified candidates who have the heart of the people,” Estrada said. She recounted several times when she had to defend against challenges from the party machine the petition signatures she collected to run for office.
Despite the lopsided loss, Estrada said she wants to run again for a citywide position. “What affects one community, affects all the communities,” she said.
Running for reform
Green Party Candidate John Reynolds lost the race in Council District 11 (Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Norwood, Woodlawn), but is satisfied with his campaign.
“I think we did a pretty good job,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds captured 2.7 percent of the vote, losing to Democrat Andrew Cohen.
On the eve of the election, he and other non-Democratic candidates began legal proceedings to correct a ballot that they perceived as discriminatory against third-party hopefuls.
Reynolds complained that the third-party candidates were not displayed clearly and as prominently on the ballots as the Republican and Democratic candidates. The formatting of the list of candidates also led some voters to choose more than one third-party candidate, the lawsuit claimed.
“The undersigned believe that the ballot is highly prejudicial to third parties and third-party candidates and is in flagrant violation of NY State election law,” Reynolds wrote in a press release about the legal action.
Reynolds believes that sending the press release out on the eve of the election and beginning legal proceedings was his most effective campaign tool. “If we do nothing else, I think that will accomplish a very important thing,” Reynolds said.
He wants the Board of Elections to include the public in designing the ballot for future elections by having hearings.
With the potential legal action, Reynolds thinks he might be able to accomplish his ultimate goal—social change and a movement within election reform.
Although the election is over, Reynolds said he will continue to push the case through the legal system.
“The primary issues in my campaign are to reform the campaign finance system in city and state elections and to get election law reform to increase ballot access to independent candidates,” Reynolds said. “I will continue in my efforts for these issues.”
Reynolds, 68, said that he will continue his involvement in local and citywide progressive initiatives, but he’s hoping to get behind a younger candidate in the next election.
Devoted to Lhota
Jose Colon, the losing Republican candidate for Council District 17 (Melrose, Longwood, Hunts Point) said he worked so hard for Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota that he didn’t have enough time to campaign for himself. Colon ran against incumbent Maria del Carmen Arroyo, daughter of Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo—both Democrats, of course.
“You cannot run against an incumbent with no money,” Colon said. “I didn’t have a chance to raise enough money through the city. So I decided, let me leave it alone.”
Colon, 79, ran the sound system for the Latino outreach of Lhota’s campaign. He drove a truck throughout the Bronx spouting Lhota campaign messages. Once in awhile he would mention his own name, he said.
Colon, who served as president of the South Bronx Democrats eight years ago, said that his dissatisfaction with the party led him to become a Republican. Although no Republican was elected in the Bronx, Colon sees a bright future for the party under the leadership of new Bronx GOP Chairman John Greaney.
He also hopes that Bronxites will learn that they can vote for anyone in the general election.
“People have to be educated,” Colon said. “If you [vote] in the general election, you can vote for any candidate that you want.”
Shots in the dark
John Wilson, a registered Conservative and Civil Court judge who works in the Brooklyn Criminal Courts, ran for election to the Supreme Court representing the Bronx in the 12th Judicial District.
Wilson won his current position when Bronx Democrats chose to support him in the 2004 primary, his eighth time running for the Civil Court. He didn’t have that support this time, which was his sixth try for a Supreme Court bench.
On the eve of the race, he acknowledged his weak chances.
“These are all shots in the dark, obviously,” Wilson said.
Wilson lost his race, garnering only 3 percent of the vote.