Tuesday’s primary pits incumbent against upstart

Longtime Democratic incumbent Jose E. Serrano will try to fend off a challenge from a political newcomer in Tuesday’s primary in New York’s 15th Congressional District.

Leonel Baez

Tuesday is Election Day in the South Bronx. Longtime Democratic incumbent Jose E. Serrano will try to fend off a challenge from a political newcomer in New York’s 15th Congressional District, which includes Hunts Point and Mott Haven.

Jose E. Serrano

Serrano, 72, is seeking his 14th consecutive term representing the district. He was first elected in a special election in 1990 and now serves on the House Appropriations Committee and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Recent issues he has championed include support for the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, which calls for helping the island to “restructure all of its debts in an orderly manner,” and to “start tackling the fiscal crisis.”

Last week, he joined House Democrats from the New York City delegation in a sit-in to press their Republican colleagues for stricter gun control legislation in the aftermath of the mass murder in Orlando.

Serrano’s challenger, 38 year old Leonel Baez, says he decided to run against the incumbent because age-old issues facing the area remain the same as they have for decades. He cited unemployment, crime and access to health care as key among those concerns.

Baez, a resident of Kingsbridge Heights, worked as a national manager for Credit Suisse for 10 years but now operates a small nonprofit helping to provide micro financing out of his home.

“I don’t consider myself a politician,” said Baez, adding that he has raised “not much” money for his campaign. “It makes it difficult to get donations when you’re running against someone like Serrano.” He added he has urged Bronx media outlets to broadcast a debate between him and the incumbent to underscore their differences, but none took him up on it.

Still, Baez says, he and his team have been peppering the district with flyers and he is looking forward to pulling a surprise at the polls.

The winner of the Democratic primary will go on to face the Republican candidate Alejandro Vega and independent Eduardo Ramirez in November’s general election.

The polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. Click on the Board of Elections website for a list of polling sites.

The attorney general’s office has created a hotline to help troubleshoot and problems voters run into at the polls. It will be staffed by attorneys and staff in the office’s Civil Rights Bureau.  Voters who encounter problems are urged to call 800-771-7755 or email civil.rights@ag.ny.gov today between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

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