The most contested primary race in New York City this year is in the 15th Congressional district in the Bronx, where 12 people are vying for the Democratic nomination to replace the retiring Rep. José Serrano. If submitted, City Limits will publish one op-ed supporting each candidate.
I am endorsing Councilmember Ritchie Torres to be the next Congressman for New York’s 15th Congressional district. There are 12 candidates running for this seat, but every indicator says that the race has narrowed and either Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. or Torres will win. I, along with others, ran against Rev. Diaz for City Council in 2017. Unfortunately, he won with a plurality of the vote even though a large majority of the district preferred someone else. We cannot repeat the mistake of 2017 and allow him to now represent the South Bronx in Congress — not at this moment, when New York needs fierce advocates for its most vulnerable in the halls of power.
“What kind of a man goes after school children?” was the question I proposed to Diaz Sr. at the only debate he had the courage to attend when I was running against him in a crowded field for City Council in 2017. Diaz refused to entertain a response to why he filed a frivolous lawsuit, targeting the legitimacy of Harvey Milk School, the only New York City public school designed to support LGBTQ youth in getting their diplomas. After the primary, I wrote an op-ed, highlighting the tragedy behind progressives unable to unite against Diaz, cautiously hoping now Councilmember Diaz would humble himself once in office and rise to the moment. But like Donald Trump, who Diaz openly admires, he remains stuck in his arrogance towards marginalized groups, stating the Council was controlled by homosexuals and minimizing the impact sexual harassment has on women.
But now, Ruben Diaz, Sr. is at the weakest point of his political career. His son, Ruben Diaz, Jr., the Bronx Borough President, in an interview announcing his departure from the 2021 mayoral race, left open for the public to decide whether his controversial father was an asset or a liability to his citywide political ambitions. State Senator Luis Sepulveda, who essentially ran Ruben Diaz Sr’s race for City Council, has since distanced himself from the toxic politico and is now backing Torres.
Some call NY-15 the poorest congressional district in the country, but the fact that communities like mine find a way to persevere through these hardships also makes NY-15 the home to the most resilient people you will ever meet. Torres embodies the same resilience of the neighbors he already represents on the City Council and the broader community he seeks to represent in Congress. He grew up in a mold-filled public housing unit: Years later, he would go on to breathe new life into the fight to invest in, repair and improve NYCHA housing. Ritchie is an Afro-Latino trailblazer, who is not only progressive, but understands public policy in detail.
Building the most diverse coalition of support across labor with the Hotel Trades Council (HTC), rising star progressive Congresswoman Katie Porter and veteran gay Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, along with the support of prominent Black women leaders across both government and the grassroots including both Council Member Vanessa Gibson and District Leader Cynthia Cox, and most recently former Mayor David Dinkins, represents a rainbow coalition true to its name. As a Dominican, it meant a lot to me when I learned in the wake of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz fatal stabbing that Torres was there when the family needed him. To then get a message from Junior’s mother, Leandra Feliz, asking voters to support Torres, reinforced my confidence that he cares about all people.
In 2017, Diaz Sr. was elected to the City Council in the Democratic Primary because three independent and more progressive candidates, including myself, split the vote, and he walked into office without a majority of the votes. Voters in the South Bronx cannot let Diaz Sr. waltz into the halls of Congress by splitting their votes amongst candidates who have no chance to win. Torres is the best candidate in this race, and I strongly urge everyone who cares about the future of the South Bronx to unite behind him and reject the failed politics of the past that Ruben Diaz Sr. represents.
Elvin García, a resident of NY-15, is a former 2017 Democratic Candidate for City Council in District 18 and was previously the Bronx Borough Director at the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit.