Ritchie Torres. Source: Bronxnet

Torres jumps to early lead in congressional race

City Councilman Ritchie Torres has taken a commanding lead in the crowded race to replace Rep. Jose E. Serrano in Congress.

With all 490 districts counted in the 15th Congressional District late Tuesday, Torres had nearly 30% of the vote in the Democratic primary. The district includes Hunts Point, Longwood, Mott Haven, Melrose Port Morris, as well as other Bronx neighborhoods to the north, and is often referred to as the most Democratic district in the country.

The results are far from final, however. A majority of voters citywide have opted to vote via absentee ballot to avoid possible exposure to Covid-19 from other voters at poll sites.

The final result will not be known for at least a week. The city’s Board of Elections will begin counting the absentee ballots on June 30.

Twelve candidates are running for the right to succeed Serrano. Behind Torres, Assemblyman Michael Blake, who relinquished his seat representing Melrose and other Bronx neighborhoods in the Assembly to run for Congress, received the second most votes on Tuesday, with 18% of the total.

Ruben Diaz Sr., who some had projected could win the race based on name recognition alone, is third with 14%. The controversial councilman has made wave after wave in recent years with his outspoken stances against gay marriage and abortion rights, among other issues polls show most New Yorkers support. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsee Samelys Lopez tallied 13%.

Former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has just 4% of the vote. 

In the 79th Assembly District, where Blake is stepping down, social worker Chantel Jackson has a razor-thin lead of just 240 votes over the district’s Female District Leader Cynthia Cox. The district includes Melrose.

In the 85th Assembly District, of which Hunts Point is part, Diaz Sr. staffer Kenneth Burgos has 51% of the vote, to former Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer staffer William Moore’s 35%.

In State Senate primaries, incumbent Luis Sepulveda holds a 3,400 vote lead on Pamela Stewart-Martinez, and Alessandra Biaggi, whose district includes Riverdale and a tiny segment of Hunts Point, has a huge lead over her challengers.

At IS 74 on Bryant Avenue, also known as the Hunts Point School, voters the Express interviewed were uniformly pleased with the voting process at the ballot boxes. Education was the one issue almost everyone who responded agreed was the most important for their elected officials to address.

A woman in her 40s who declined to give her name, said the voting was easy. She added that her key motivation was to cast a vote for Joe Biden sa the Democratic nominee for president, because nothing else was as important as beating Donald Trump in November. But she was unfamiliar with the local candidates because “they do not come to Hunts Point to present themselves to the public.”

A voter in his 30s who gave his name only as Garcia and said he does not support any political party, called the voting process “pretty easy,” though voting as an independent required him to take an additional step to cast his vote. He listed taking better care of the homeless population and the mentally ill, and quality of life issues such as keeping the streets clean, as key.

Iman Hamby of The Point CDC’s A.C.T.I.O.N. program contributed reporting. 

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