The Race for Bronx Borough President

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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?


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General Election Results

x-Adolfo Carrion, Dem 104,334 - 79 percent
Aaron Justice, Rep 22,374 - 17 percent
Kevin Brawley, Con 2,933 - 2 percent
Ronald Law, Lib 2,138 - 2 percent

Primary Election Results

Adolfo Carrion 48,913
Pedro Espada Jr. 44,124
June Margolin Eisland 26,815
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)

Incumbent: Fernando Ferrer (can't run in 2001)

The Candidates:

Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign Finance Board:

Kevin Brawley has not filed.
Contributors to Adolfo Carrion
Contributors to June Eisland
Contributors to Pedro Espada Jr.
Aaron Justice has not filed.
Ron Law has not filed.

Letter from a Brooklyn Jail
by Adolfo Carrion

Campaign Feature:

Carry On (In Prison Stripes)?

Under most circumstances, run-ins with the law are not recommended as a career path for aspiring politicians. But then, normal political rules don't always apply in the Bronx.

The contest to succeed Fernando Ferrer (term limited and running for mayor) includes one candidate who is currently in jail and another who barely avoided jail. And those are the frontrunners!

Councilman Adolfo Carrion, the Democratic organization's choice for borough president, has spent the last several weeks in a federal detention center in Brooklyn as part of the Vieques Four-the four local leaders sentenced to jail time for civil disobedience for protesting the Navy bombing of the Puerto Rican island.

The detention has been a double-edged sword for Carrion. He started his campaign only in late May, so his incarceration has taken time away from his efforts to campaign and circulate petitions to get on the ballot. On the other hand, being part of the Vieques Four has given him incalculable media attention and made him better known than he ever was as a rising young councilman from the South Bronx.

A well-regarded city planner, Carrion was marked for bigger things the day he arrived in the City Council in 1998. Some believe he could have become the council speaker next year had he decided to stay in the council. But he represents class among the borough's council delegation, so it was not hard to see why Bronx Democratic Chairman Roberto Ramirez (another of the Vieques Four) picked Carrion to succeed Ferrer.

Carrion's primary roadblock is an old adversary for Ramirez and the Bronx Democratic organization: state Senator Pedro Espada Jr. Espada, who made his name running a string of health clinics, has been battling both the Democratic machine and local prosecutors for most of the last decade. He beat the machine in 1992 to win a state Senate seat, then was knocked off the ballot when he sought re-election in 1996.

His son, Pedro G. Espada, beat the machine to win a council seat in 1997, then the elder Espada beat the machine again last November to reclaim his Senate seat. Several weeks later, Espada went on trial for allegedly funneling money from his health clinics into his campaigns. He was acquitted, and immediately launched his campaign for borough president.

The big question in the Bronx is where Ramirez's political foes will line up. Ramirez made a lot of enemies last fall when he challenged the renomination of Representative Eliot Engel . Engel won anyway and now the congressman and his friends, mostly from the Bronx's Jewish community in Riverdale, are looking for revenge.

Espada backed Engel in his fight last year, but it is not clear whether Engel feels comfortable supporting Espada, given his checkered past. Engel considered supporting salsa singer Willie Colon for beep, but Espada persuaded Colon to run for public advocate instead-eliminating one potential Latino borough president candidate. (Hispanics make up half of the Bronx's population.)

Another possible anti-Ramirez candidate Engel could endorse is Councilwoman June Eisland of Riverdale, a term-limited council member looking to take advantage of a split in the Hispanic community between Espada and Carrion. But Eisland has not been one of the more aggressive council members and she entered the contest very late.

Finally, there is a fourth candidate in the race-Ron Law, a former aide to Governors Carey and Cuomo and the only black in the race. Demographics could give him an edge in a large field (nearly one-third of the Bronx is black), but he is unknown and has raised little money, making him very much an underdog.

Despite recent feuds, the Bronx Democratic organization remains strong. Its top priority this year is electing Ferrer mayor and it will do everything it can to turn out a strong Bronx vote for him. Many of those voters will also pull the lever for Carrion, making him the favorite-even though he has had to start his campaign wearing prison pinstripes.

Philip Lentz

posted 6/25/01
Previous Bronx Race Features


Campaign Trail

June Eisland, 61, who is running for the Democratic nomination for Bronx borough president in Tuesday's primary, hopes her 22 years on the City Council isn't her only edge in the race. Facing her are two men, state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. of Soundview and City Councilman Adolfo Carrion Jr. of Kingsbridge. "We've never had a woman borough president in the Bronx, and this is an historical opportunity," Eisland said. "I also believe I have more experience in public office than both my opponents combined." (Daily News)

The Daily News continues its series of profiles on Bronx borough president candidates with an article on Adolfo Carrion (Daily News)

Profile of Bronx Borough President Candidate Pedro Espada. The first in a series of articles on the candidates in the race (Daily News)

The Daily News endorses Adolfo Carrion (Daily News)


In a contest among two Puerto Rican men and one white woman, the focus of the race for Bronx borough president is now on the Bronx's African- Americans, who make up an estimated 40 percent to 45 percent of the borough's Democratic voters. (NY Times)

The New York Times makes endorsements in this race. The Bronx: Three candidates are fighting to replace the outgoing president, Fernando Ferrer. They are June Eisland and Adolfo Carrion Jr., both City Council members, and State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. Of the three, Mr. Carrion would be the strongest candidate to represent the entire borough because of his temperament, his training as an urban planner and his focus on urgent problems with housing and schools in the Bronx. Mr. Carrion's close ties to the Democratic Party organization cause some concern, but he has vowed that as borough president he will try to reconcile warring political factions and provide more openness and support to residents throughout this diverse borough. We have strong hopes that he will be the kind of thoughtful, independent-minded and inclusive politician the borough desperately needs. We endorse Adolfo Carrion Jr. (NY Times)

Former Mayor Ed Koch endorsed Adolfo Carrion for Bronx borough president. (Daily News)

Two candidates for Bronx Borough President dropped out yesterday. City Councilman Larry Warden told the city Board of Elections that he was withdrawing his nominating petition and Ronald Law did not get the 4,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot. The remaining candidates for the Democratic primary include state Senator Pedro Espada Jr. and City Council members June Eisland and Adolfo Carrion Jr. (Daily News)

State Senator Pedro Espada yesterday formally announced his candidacy for Bronx borough president. Espada says he has 25,000 signatures, enough he believes, to withstand any attempts by his long-time adversaries at the Bronx Democratic Party organization to keep him off the ballot. The organization is backing City Councilman Adolfo Carrion for borough president. (Daily News)

City Councilman Adolfo Carrion formally announced his bid for Bronx borough president on the steps of Borough Hall yesterday. (Daily News)

Just a few days after his release from a federal prison in Brooklyn after being held for 40 days, Adolfo Carrión is returning to his race for Bronx borough president with a fury. But Mr. Carrión, a Democratic city councilman, has returned to a campaign whose competitive dynamics have intensified significantly since he was arrested and jailed for his role in a protest against the United States military's bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. In that time, State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. has unleashed a campaign whose pitch can only be described as feverish. Apart from daylong campaign appearances throughout the borough, Mr. Espada has raised more than $100,000 and plastered the Bronx with his campaign posters and campaign literature. And another competitor, Councilwoman June M. Eisland, is also raising money and increasing her public profile throughout the Bronx. Moreover, the names of two other candidates have surfaced. One, Ronald Law, who was once an aide to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the former senator, and Mario M. Cuomo, the former governor, has entered the race. Councilman Lawrence A. Warden, another Democrat, has also begun raising money and collecting signatures to qualify for the ballot in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary. All of that has heightened the sense of unpredictability in a race that is the most competitive contest the Bronx has seen for the borough presidency in recent years. (New York Times)

Three Bronx politicians, arrested for trespassing to protest the Navy bombing range on Vieques, say their jailing and their release tomorrow could mark the beginning of a new political era. Bronx Democratic Party Chairman Roberto Ramirez, Assemblyman Jose Rivera and City Councilmember Adolfo Carrion Jr., a candidate for Bronx borough president, say they hope to use the public attention they gained from their arrest to galvanize black and Latino voters, among others, into a powerful voting bloc for this year's city elections. (Newsday)

Adolfo Carrion, who just finished a week-long hunger strike, has some trouble running for Bronx borough president stuck in jail serving 40 days for protesting the Navy bombing exercises in Vieques, Puerto Rico. But his incarceration could inspire the Latinos of the Bronx. (NY Times)

Adolfo Carrion Jr., who is running for Bronx borough president, says he doesn't want his Vieques jail term to become an issue in the campaign. Carrion, along with Rev. Al Sharpton and two other Bronx politicians, is serving a prison sentence for trespassing May 1 during a protest of Navy bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island. Although he is the Democratic Party organization1s candidate for the borough presidency, Carrion faces a stiff challenge from State Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., as well as City Councilmember June Eisland and Ronald Law, a onetime aide to former Sen Daniel Moynihan. (Daily News)

Bronx borough president candidate Adolfo Carrion, one of the Vieques 4 jailed for a protest against the Navy bombing of the Puerto Rican island, is ending his hunger strike. (Newsday)

The race for Bronx Borough President now has five candidates. Ronald Law, an administrator for the federal General Services Administration and former aide to Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington and former U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, said he will run. Some are speculating that Law is the African-American candidate that Rev. Al Sharpton alluded to two weeks ago. (Daily News)

June Eisland, a City Councilwoman from the Bronx, announced yesterday that she would run for Bronx borough president. Eisland becomes the fourth person to formally enter the race by joining City Councilman Adolfo Carrión, State Senator Pedro Espada Jr., and salsa singer Willie Colón. (NY Times)

City Councilmember June Eisland says she is joining the race to succeed Fernando Ferrer as Bronx borough president. She joins state Senator Pedro Espada Jr., singer and former congressional candidate Willie Colon and City Councilmember Adolfo Carrion as contenders in September's Democratic primary. (Daily News)

The Bronx Democratic Organization endorsed Adolfo Carrion Jr. for Bronx borough president, though this by no means assures his election. His opponents include State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. and Willie Colón, the salsa performer and onetime candidate for Congress. Other candidates the organization endorsed: Ruben Diaz Sr. (district 18), Michael Benjamin (district 16), Jose Marco Serrano (district 17), Larry Seabrook (district 12) (NY Times)

Willie Colón, a potential candidate for Bronx Borough President, has called for reform of the system used to tax co-op apartments. Colón, a musician and actor, is expected to announce his candidacy for Bronx borough president shortly. Colon said the current system requires co-op owners to "go back to politicians on a recurring basis to maintain the tax relief that should be their permanent entitlement." He also charged that co-op owners often pay two to three times the tax charged single family homeowners, even when their home is of equal value. (Riverdale Review)

Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer's final major speech to his Bronx constituents was very much an attack on the Giuliani administration. Ferrer focused on police/community relations and on education, especially the recent court ruling which found that the state underfunds New York City schools. He criticized Governor George Pataki's decision to appeal the court's ruling and Guiliani's plan to dissolve the Board of Education, stating that it would not help a single student learn. (Riverdale Review)

So far, only Pedro Espada Jr. has formally declared his candidacy for Bronx Borough President. But others known to be considering running include City Council members Adolfo Carrion, June Eisland and the Rev. Wendell Foster; Assemblyman José Rivera; Bronx Overall Economic Development head Joe Ithier; former state Sen. and City Councilman Israel Ruiz, and salsa legend Willie Colon. The reason why the party organization has not narrowed the field down, some say, is based on the strategy that the more candidates running, the more incentive for their supporters to go to the polls - and vote for current Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer for mayor. (Daily News)

The race for Bronx borough president is heating up, and is seen as a theatrical battle between two rival political organizations. On one side, State Senator Pedro Espada Jr, has already announced his candidacy. On the other, Assemblyman Roberto Ramirez and the Bronx Democratic organization is looking for a strong candidate. Among those interested are Assemblyman Jose Rivera, City Councilman Adolfo Carrión Jr. and Jose L. Ithier, former chief of staff to current borough president Fernando Ferrer. But adding to the political theater is some music: Willie Colon, the salsa musician who ran for Congress in 1994, said over the weekend that he, too, was a candidate. (NY Times)

No candidates have formally announced in the race to replace Fernando Ferrer as Bronx Borough President, but those people who are considering a run include: the singer Willie Colon, City Councilmembers Adolfo Carrion Jr, Wendell Foster and June Eisland, and newly elected State Assemblymember Jose Rivera. (Crain's NY)




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Find what city council district you are in -- and learn more about what's going on there, and who's running.

What is this?
Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 offers a comprehensive look at what is being called New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history. (See the left-hand column for an explanation).

Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.

Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)

2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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