Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has represented East Harlem since 2006, returns to private life—for now, anyway—on December 31.

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.

A few weeks ago Data for Progress released a poll about the state of the race in NY-15. The poll made it seem as though the race has become a contest only between two candidates: Councilmembers Ritchie Torres and Ruben Diaz, Sr. Ever since the poll was released, many people who never paid attention to our district before are suddenly experts on our community. They want to bully us into voting for their preferred candidates

We reject their demands. The biggest takeaway from the poll for us was that there were more undecided voters than there were voters loyal to any one candidate.

Melissa Mark-Viverito can still win this race.

NY-15, which is entirely in the Bronx, is the most Democratic district in the entire country. It is also one of the poorest districts in the country, and a majority minority district. This makes us even more skeptical about the Data for Progress poll, which was put together by a group of white progressives, and is now being used to tell the people of color in the Bronx how to vote. 

This is a democracy, and the people of the district can make their own decisions based on who actually represents our values and interests. We do not need to be told which candidates are viable by people who do not live here, and do not understand the priorities of the people in the district.

The poll is very flawed. Data for Progress used a texting to internet program to conduct the poll. But 42 percent of the district doesn’t have Internet access, so to conduct an online poll is ignoring the voices that matter most in the community.

Up until this poll was released none of the national media or establishment figures in Washington, D.C., were paying attention to this race. Now that this one poll showed Diaz winning, they all have an opinion.

We will be clear: Ruben Diaz Sr. is a horrible candidate. He is pro-Trump, and does not represent the values of the Latino voters in our district. Him winning would be a disaster.

But, we also resent the Democratic establishment using Diaz to now try to weasel in their corporate backed candidate Torres. Torres has taken money from the real-estate lobby and Wall Street, and he is far from the most progressive candidate in the race. 

Torres is not the only candidate who can beat Diaz. This district is predominantly women, 61 percent, and majority Latino, 62 percent.

We have an incredibly experienced, incredibly progressive Latino woman, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is by and far the most qualified candidate to knock Diaz out of the race, and fight for us in Washington for years to come.

But, ivy tower writers at the New York Times and white progressve pollsters in Brooklyn have not coronated her, so apparently she should drop out?

Try again, people.

It is time for the people of this district to stand up and advocate for ourselves. We have to elect the person who we think will put the priorities of the people who actually live in this district front and center. 

That’s Melissa. She represented parts of the district as City Councilmember. She shattered a glass and concrete ceiling when she became the first Latina to hold citywide office. Melissa is a fighter, and a leader.

Torres and Diaz represent the Democratic establishment and Trump, respectively. Both of them would represent status-quo politics that have left our district in the shadows for far too long.

We can’t keep electing these same sorts of candidates who answer to the powers that be instead of the people, and expect anything to change. 

Melissa has run a people-powered campaign, and when she wins she will only have the people to answer to. Torres and Diaz cannot say the same.

Ultimately, we have a choice. Are we going to vote based on fear based tactics from white progressives who would never dream of physically stepping into our community, or are we going to vote based on the interests of our community?

If you want a fighter for corporate lobbyists, pick Ritchie Torres. If you want a fighter for Trump, pick Ruben Diaz Sr.

If you want a fighter for the working people of this district, vote for Melissa Mark-Viverito. 

Elizabeth Pacheco and Clarissa Alayeto are district 15 residents and Julio Medina is a criminal justice activist