Gotham Gazette

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Scandals Don't Drive Turnout for Primary Election


ALBANY, N.Y. — Weeks of front-page scandal was not enough to drive voters to the polls in droves as yesterday’s primary saw most incumbents re-elected by comfortable margins.

In New York City, the Democratic enrollment is so strong that most legislative races are decided in the primary rather than in the general election. However, a few heated contests remain for the general election, including the race between Sen. Joseph Addabbo and Councilman Eric Ulrich. But the majority of city residents now know who will be representing them come next year.

Not every every scandal-ridden politician survived unscathed. Sen. Shirley Huntley, indicted for forging documents in a conspiracy to defraud the state, lost to Councilman James Sanders by 4,979 votes to 3,477. And Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, accused of appointing unqualified lovers to government positions they were unqualified to do, lost her seat to Mark Gjonaj by 2,407 votes to 1,894, with two other challengers drawing votes in the hundreds.

In both races only a fraction of eligible voters made it to the polls. It’s also worth noting that both incumbents were the focus of many front page stories in the lead-up to the election.

In Brooklyn, pundits who expected those associated with scandal-plagued Assemblyman Vito Lopez would suffer brutal defeat were proven wrong as Sen. Martin Dilan easily bested challenger Jason Otaño. And, as of writing, the face of the Brooklyn reform movement, Democratic District Leader Lincoln Restler, was trailing the Lopez-backed Chris Olechowski by a few hundred votes. While it was Lopez’s machine doing the work, it’s clear voters weren’t inclined to punish everyone associated with the legislator.

As was expected, Assemblyman William Boyland was able to overcome the taint of his federal bribery indictment and the fact that he was one of the worst legislative records in the state thanks to the multitude of his challengers. Six challengers split the vote allowing Boyland another term in the Assembly — however long it might last.

In non-scandal voting news, Sen. Adriano Espaillat handily defeated his challenger and long-time rival Guillermo Linares. Espaillat took in 64 percent of the vote to Linares’ 36. Two major influences seem to have been at play in the race. One, Espaillat clearly improved his brand and name recognition with his failed run against Rep. Charles Rangel and, two, Espaillat’s tactic of painting of Linares as a traitor to their shared Dominican heritage because of his support of Rangel worked despite the brief backlash Espaillat suffered in the press.

Upstate races told some interesting stories as well. Nine-term incumbent Sen. Neil Breslin easily dispatched his challenger, Albany County Legislator Shawn Morse, in an ugly and personal race. The Gazette reported earlier this year that Morse had the support of the Independent Democratic Conference. The IDC is led by Sen. Jeffrey Klein, who leads the breakaway faction of Democrats that tend to vote with the Republican Majority on major legislation. Senate Republicans see the IDC as an insurance policy against any Democratic gains this November. The IDC funneled major financial support to Morse, but in the end it proved futile. The Breslin name is simply ubiquitous in Albany politics. Gov. Andrew Cuomo also took the rare step of endorsing Breslin. After declaring victory, Breslin said he hoped the IDC would consider coming back to the Democratic fold.

Albany County District Attorney David Soares won an ugly primary contest against Lee Kindlon. Soares has unique abilities to prosecute Albany legislators because of his Albany County jurisdiction. Soares drew the ire of Cuomo earlier this year when he refused to prosecute any of the Occupy Albany protesters who were camped out in parks next to the capitol.

Gay rights supporters who had been anxiously watching primary contests between Republicans who broke with party ranks and voted for same-sex marriage and their conservative challengers didn’t get a clear message after polls closed. In the 43rd State Senate District, Sen. Roy McDonald and challenger Kathy Marchione are separated by only a few hundred votes. About 1,000 absentee ballots will help to decide the race. Marchione has the backing of the Conservative Party.

Absentee ballots will also likely decide the 41st State Senate District contest between Sen. Steve Saland and Neil Di Carlo.

Saland not only broke ranks to vote for same-sex marriage, but was involved in crafting the bill so that other Republicans could feel comfortable voting for it. “The people in District 41 showed tonight that they want a socially and fiscally conservative state senator to represent them,” Di Carlo told reporters Thursday. “Sen. Saland has been desensitized to the liberal agenda.”

Meanwhile, Mark Grisanti who was expected to have a tough time keeping his seat in the 60th State Senate District, defeated challenger Kevin Stocker handily. Grisanti was the target of a graphic anti-gay flyer during the last week of the campaign. Stocker denied any involvement.

The National Organization for Marriage is touting victory despite the fact that two of the races are undecided and is even claiming that it was the issue of same-sex marriage that led to Huntley’s defeat — although Sanders didn’t have much to say on the issue during the campaign.

“The primary results were the beginning of what is sure to be a spirited and engaging campaign season leading up to the November general election,” the Empire State Pride Agenda said in a statement.

Primary 2012 Unofficial Results: Little Surprise as Status Quo Survives


NEW YORK — Two incumbents facing corruption investigations — state Sen. Shirley Huntley and Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera — were voted out of office during their primaries yesterday.

Those upsets were among the few surprises in yesterday's election. Another incumbent under investigation, Assemblyman William F. Boyland, of the 55th State Assembly District, won by 37 percent of the vote, which was split by six challengers.

"Overall, the impact of yesterday's primaries in New York City was to reinforce the status quo," wrote Angelo Falcon, of the National Institute for Latino Policy, in his analysis of the election.

Below are the unofficial results from wire services for important races in New York City. Winners appear in bold. Incumbents are in italics.

State Legislative Contests

State Assembly — Democratic Party

State Assembly District 80 Dem - Primary

District 25

66 of 66 precincts - 100 percent

Nily Rozic 2,245 - 56 percent

Jerry M. Iannece 1,749 - 44 percent

District 33

71 of 71 precincts - 100 percent

Barbara Clark - 3,066 - 63 percent

Clyde Vanel 1,788 - 37 percent

District 38

55 of 55 precincts - 100 percent

Michael Miller - 1,441 - 71 percent

Etienne Adorno 580 - 29 percent

District 40

50 of 50 precincts - 100 percent

Ron Kim 1,136 - 27 percent

Yen Chou 974 - 23 percent

Ethel Chen 932 - 22 percent

Myungsuk Lee 619 - 15 percent

Martha Flores-Vazquez 521 - 12 percent

District 42

67 of 68 precincts - 99 percent

Rhoda Jacobs - 3,753 - 68 percent

Rodneyse Bichotte 1,778 - 32 percent

District 45

70 of 70 precincts - 100 percent

Steven Cymbrowitz - 1,774 - 54 percent

Ben Akselrod 1,530 - 46 percent

District 48

64 of 64 precincts - 100 percent

Dov Hikind - 3,021 - 84 percent

Mitchell Tischler 558 - 16 percent

District 54

76 of 77 precincts - 99 percent

Rafael Espinal - 1,979 - 65 percent

Juan Rodriguez 1,048 - 35 percent

District 55

92 of 92 precincts - 100 percent

William Boyland - 1,532 - 37 percent

Anthony Jones 610 - 15 percent

Roy Antoine 541 - 13 percent

Nathan Bradley 495 - 12 percent

Anthony Herbert 470 - 11 percent

David R. Miller 260 - 6 percent

Christopher Durosinmi 198 - 5 percent

District 57

92 of 92 precincts - 100 percent

Walter Mosley 4,295 - 63 percent

Olanike Alabi 2,078 - 30 percent

Martine Guerrier 493 - 7 percent

District 58

76 of 77 precincts - 99 percent

Nick Perry - 4,191 - 76 percent

Terry Hinds 1,340 - 24 percent

District 60

90 of 90 precincts - 100 percent

Inez Barron - 2,847 - 56 percent

Christopher Banks 2,280 - 44 percent

District 72

83 of 83 precincts - 100 percent

Gabriela Rosa 2,946 - 44 percent

Mayra Linares 2,305 - 34 percent

Melanie Hidalgo 1,039 - 15 percent

Ruben Dario Vargas 435 - 6 percent

District 74

96 of 103 precincts - 93 percent

Brian Kavanagh - 2,192 - 70 percent

Juan Pagan 924 - 30 percent

District 77

65 of 65 precincts - 100 percent

Vanessa Gibson - 2,837 - 90 percent

Anthony Curry 301 - 10 percent

District 78

48 of 53 precincts - 91 percent

Jose Rivera - 1,528 - 78 percent

Ricardo Martinez 434 - 22 percent

District 80

90 of 90 precincts - 100 percent

Mark Gjonaj - 2,407 - 52 percent

Naomi Rivera (i) 1,894 - 41 percent

Adam Bermudez 222 - 5 percent

Irene Rukaj 134 - 3 percent

District 82

110 of 110 precincts - 100 percent

Michael Benedetto - 2,960 - 89 percent

Egidio Sementilli 376 - 11 percent

District 84

77 of 77 precincts - 100 percent

Carmen Arroyo - 1,267 - 53 percent

Maximino Rivera 614 - 25 percent

Charles Serrano 529 - 22 percent

District 86

53 of 57 precincts - 93 percent

Nelson Castro - 2,193 - 84 percent

Richard Soto 409 - 16 percent

District 87

89 of 89 precincts - 100 percent

Luis Sepulveda 3,003 - 76 percent

Daniel Figueroa 969 - 24 percent

State Senate — Democratic Party

District 10

166 of 166 precincts - 100 percent

James Sanders - 4,979 - 57 percent

Shirley Huntley - 3,477 - 40 percent

Gian Jones 263 - 3 percent

District 16

153 of 153 precincts - 100 percent

Toby Ann Stavisky - 4,940 - 58 percent

John Messer 3,575 - 42 percent

District 17

163 of 166 precincts - 98 percent

Simcha Felder 6,345 - 83 percent

Abraham Tischler 1,336 - 17 percent

District 18

215 of 217 precincts - 99 percent

Martin Dilan - 6,679 - 67 percent

Jason Otano 3,303 - 33 percent

District 27

220 of 235 precincts - 94 percent

Brad M. Hoylman 7,376 - 68 percent

Thomas Greco 2,526 - 23 percent

Tanika Inlaw 868 - 8 percent

District 31

203 of 225 precincts - 90 percent

Adriano Espaillat - 9,902 - 64 percent

Guillermo Linares 5,566 - 36 percent

District 33

145 of 154 precincts - 94 percent

Gustavo Rivera - 4,364 - 70 percent

Manuel Tavarez 1,872 - 30 percent

State Senate — Republican Party

District 15

164 of 164 precincts - 100 percent

Eric Ulrich 2,783 - 70 percent

Juan Reyes 1,217 - 30 percent

Judicial contests

Bronx Civil Court District 2 Dem - Primary

399 of 408 precincts - 98 percent

Eddie McShan 8,828 - 60 percent

Juana Valentin 5,869 - 40 percent

Brooklyn Civil Court District 1 Dem - Primary

130 of 130 precincts - 100 percent

Richard Montelione 3,507 - 53 percent

Lara Genovessi 3,120 - 47 percent

Brooklyn Civil Court District 5 Dem - Primary

276 of 282 precincts - 98 percent

Steven Mostofsky 3,155 - 45 percent

Theresa Ciccotto 2,577 - 37 percent

Charles Finkelstein 1,277 - 18 percent

Manhattan Civil Court District 3 Dem - Primary

91 of 91 precincts - 100 percent

Lisa Sokoloff 2,440 - 55 percent

Olga Statz 2,031 - 45 percent

Surrogate Manhattan Dem - Primary

1,071 of 1,156 precincts - 93 percent

Rita Mella 24,674 - 60 percent

Barbara Jaffe 16,744 - 40 percent


Photo by Hawaii/Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.


Family Values at Play in State Senate Race in the Bronx

going lg

Photo by David Howard King

ALBANY, N.Y. — Maybe it was state Sen. Gustavo Rivera’s vote for same-sex marriage. Perhaps it was that Rivera backed state Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s run against U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel. It could also be that Rivera unseated Ruben Diaz Sr.’s fellow amigo, convicted state Sen. Pedro Espada, in the 2010 race.

Whatever the impetus, Diaz has been giving Rivera’s little-known challenger for the 33rd State Senate District, Manny Tavarez, the support of his formidable ground operation in the run up to Thursday's primary. That operation includes a slew of vans and trucks equipped with loudspeakers that blast slogans and campaign workers that move through the Bronx handing out stacks of literature.

Diaz Sr., also may have given Taverez financial support as well, but it is impossible to know because, as of press time, Tavarez hadn’t filed any campaign finance documents with the state Board of Elections.

"It's not surprising that he has endorsed my opponent, given that he worked closely with my corrupt predecessor,” Rivera said of Diaz’ support for Tavarez.

Rivera does have the support of another Diaz: His son. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., is seen as more progressive than his father, and has endorsed Rivera and made public appearances with him; the two have also worked together on a health initiative. Rivera told the Gazette earlier this year that the borough president was his “hero” when it came to fitness and health.

Yet the same political machine that includes the fleet of vans and dozens of campaign workers that have worked in the past to get Diaz Jr., elected are now supporting Tavarez — and, in the Bronx, that alone might make the difference in the challenger’s effort to unseat Rivera.

Neither Diaz Sr., nor his son responded to emails and phone calls requesting comment for this story over the past week. Tavarez also didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Diaz, father and son, have kept a distance from each other in the public eye.

Diaz Sr., is seen as an old-school machine politician who blurs the lines between his status as a reverend and as an elected official.

That army of vans that Diaz has are housed at his church the Christian Community Neighborhood Church and, during election season, Diaz hosts block parties across the Bronx that are sponsored by his church. The parties gather groups of citizens that are then targeted by Diaz’s get-out-the-vote team. The Christian Community Benevolent Association, which owns the church, has been a major beneficiary of Diaz’s status as a senator.

In fiscal year 2006-2007, Diaz was able to steer nearly $500,000 in member items to the CCBA. In May of this year, the financial officer for the CCBA was accused by prosecutors of embezzling $75,000.

Diaz also hasn’t exactly been a team player when it comes to being a Senate Democrat. In 2008, Diaz joined with Sens. Pedro Espada, Carl Krueger and Hiram Monserrate to hold the senate majority hostage for more power. It wasn’t clear if Democrats would have a majority heading into session that year. Later, when Monserrate and Espada joined Senate Republicans and created the Senate coup, Diaz remained a Democrat but also stayed very friendly with the defectors.

Since then, Diaz has watched as Monserrate, Espada and then Krueger were either drummed out of the Senate or convicted on federal corruption charges. Rivera was able to defeat Espada in the 2010 Democratic primary before Espada was convicted. Diaz told The New York Times that he felt then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo overreached in his charges against Espada and that it was part of a “vendetta” for the coup.

Diaz gnashed his teeth and stomped his feet while the Senate passed same-sex marriage in 2011, cursing fellow party members who voted for the bill and telling the Republicans they should be ashamed of themselves for even allowing such a vote.

His son, on the other hand, has projected an image of a new school Democrat and a team player. He has very publicly disagreed with his father’s belief that there should be no separation between church and state and his sometimes vicious attacks on homosexuals.

“We have an agreement,” Diaz Jr. told NY1 in 2009. “He doesn't tell me how to be borough president, I don't tell him how to vote in Albany.”  

The gay community has been critical of Diaz Jr., for not speaking up loudly against the vitriol his father has spit at the community.

Ken Padilla, a Bronx district leader who went from working with the Diaz’s to waging a public battle with them, says that he has never seen much separation between father in son when it comes to political decision-making.

“For the two years I spent working with them, the two made major decisions in the same room,” he said. “The father would never do anything without consulting the son. He would never do anything to hurt his son’s political career.”

Padilla filed an IRS complaint against Diaz for storing his campaign vans at his not-for-profit church.

So while Junior may be publically supporting Rivera, Padilla says he thinks what really matters is Senior’s endorsement of Tavarez — which comes along with an entire political organization.

“Junior may be going along with the party line and supporting Rivera, but it is the organization, the structure, the people, the vans that matter and the father controls that,” Padilla said. “Senior’s support comes along with the vans and the people. It’s the same people, the same vans for junior and senior.”

BOE spokesman John Conklin said that Friends of Manny Tavarez was formed on April 19, 2012, and has not filed any financial statements with the board since then.

The committee should have filed a July periodic statement and a 32-day pre-primary statement.

Conklin says the board has sent multiple letters to the campaign asking that it show cause for failing to file and has begun the process of suing the committee.

Born in Rochester in 1979 to Dominican parents, but raised in the Bronx, Tavarez previously worked for District Leader Hector Ramirez’ unsuccessful campaign in 2010 for the 86th State Assembly seat (Nelson Castro, one of Rivera’s supporters, won that race), according to his website. The website also says Tavarez had experience during City Councilman Fernando Cabrera’s campaign in 2009. Before local politics, he was involved in baseball academies in the Dominican Republic.

On his website, under a section entitled “family values,” a message reads: “Manny Tavarez is pro-life. He believes that life begins at conception and wishes that the laws of our state reflected that view. Taking innocent life is always wrong and always tragic, wherever it happens.”

Rivera, on the other hand, is a member of the Bipartisan Pro Choice Legislative Caucus of the state Senate.

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