15th Congressional District Debate: Diaz doesn’t show, but still appears the favorite

The candidates from the 15th Congressional District debate on June 1.
Courtesy of BronxNet

There is a saying in football, that if you have two quarterbacks, then you really have none. That same theory is applicable to last night’s 15th Congressional debate.

The event, featured 10 candidates, all who barely had time to speak and not a single one stood out from the pack. The district, which is the poorest in the country, has its primary June 23.

While everyone last night mostly shared similar views, it is believed Pastor and Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., who is known for his anti-abortion and LGBTQ+ views is the favorite. Diaz did not attend the debate or the previous one hosted by City Limits.

BronxNet, in partnership with Schneps Media, the Bronx Times Reporter and the League of Women Voters held the debate.

BronxTalk host Gary Axelbank moderated the debate and the candidates were Councilman Ritchie Torres, Frangell Basora, Michael A. Blake, Samelys Lopez, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Chivona R. Newsome, Julio Pabon, Tomas Ramos and Marlene J. Tapper.

While a few people took shots at Torres and Blake, the night was calm. They discussed poverty, racism, jobs and health care.


Torres, the youngest person ever elected to city council, who overcame COVID-19, knows firsthand about poverty as he grew up in public housing in the south Bronx. This is a community of immigrants and people of color and they need help, he stressed.

“COVID-19 has shown the south Bronx is the essential congressional district,” Torres said. “People need jobs and decent wages.”

Newsome, an activist and co-founder of the NY Black Lives Matter, claimed people like Torres work for the city, yet allowed places like the 15th District to stay poor. Newsome was born and raised in the south Bronx.

“The struggles that happen in my community I understand,” she said.

Health Care

Lopez said she is the only one running for office without health care and there are too many in society without it.

“Health care should not be whether or not you have a job,” she said. “The system we have right now is not working for us.”

Blake, who was born with a heart murmur, echoed her concerns.

“Our people are dying because we haven’t addressed the issues at hand,” Blake explained. “At the end of the day everyone just wants to survive.”


Tapper said she has seen too many black men and women dying at the hands of cops or racist people. According to Tapper, there needs to be mass police reform.

“We need to take power away from the police,” she said.

Ramos experienced racism firsthand. He was jumped by five white men, arrested by white cops and locked up.

“Rikers is not a place for anyone,” Ramos said.


Blake said wondered why the city has a lot of money allocated for the NYPD and not youths. How can people expect to work if programs the Summer Youth Employment Program are axed?

We need to build schools, not jails,” the assemblyman said.

Tapper said that the Bronx needs to focus on middle class jobs. Not everyone can afford a four-year college, so people need other options.

She stressed there should be more trade schools in the borough, so people can have careers that don’t I involve secondary education.

“We need to allow for apprenticeships to come to the Bronx,” she remarked.

Watch the full debate here.

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