Bronx Times Election Primer: June 28 primaries include five competitive Bronx races for state Assembly

Vote 2022 with stars and USA colors – Illustration
Five Bronx Assembly races will highlight the June 28 Democratic primaries in the borough.
Photo courtesy Getty Images

The June 28 primaries, which will center on races for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, state Assembly and U.S. Senate, will kick off the first of a two-primary summer for New York voters after much of this summer’s political cycle was upended by a protracted legal battle over redistricting.

A upstate judge’s decision moved congressional and state Senate primaries from June 28 to Aug. 23 after the redrawn lines were approved last month.

Most of the headlines written on June 28 will focus on the primaries for the state’s governorship as incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul tries to retain her post from moderate and progressive challengers in U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, of Long Island, and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, of Brooklyn, respectively.

On the Republican side, Lee Zeldin, Rob Astorino, Andrew Giuliani and Harry Wilson all hope to do something that hasn’t been accomplished in 2002: win the state’s highest office as a Republican.

For Bronx voters, a few deadline days are approaching such as a June 13 deadline to request an absentee ballot and the early window voting which is open from June 18-June 26.

But voters in the borough will also been keen on a few competitive races for state Assembly including primary showdowns for three longtime incumbents.

Which races are competitive?

In all, there are five contested primaries of note on the June 28 ballot, all Democratic battles for state Assembly seats.

Three longtime state assemblymembers José Rivera (AD-78), Jeffrey Dinowitz (AD-81) and Michael Benedetto (AD-82) face opposition from challengers looking to bring fresh blood and perspective into the legislative chambers.

Rivera, who has been a Bronx officeholder dating back to 1983 in his original District 77 stint, has held the District 78 post since 2001. George Alvarez, a perennial candidate and Emmanuel Martinez, chair of Bronx Community Board 7 will challenge Alvarez. Rivera last faced a primary in 2016 defeating Ischia Bravo — now district manager of CB7 — winning by a 65%-34% margin.

In May, Alvarez faced a two-week legal battle from an election lawyer, Aaron Foldenauer, who represented a Bronx resident accusing Alvarez of submitting fraudulent petition signatures, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

District 77 is a landmark-heavy district running from Fordham Manor in the west of the borough through Bedford Park and Belmont that includes the New York Botanical Garden and Bronx Zoo. The winner of that primary will face Republican nominee Michael Dister, who unsuccessfully challenged Rivera in 2020.

Dinowitz, a North Riverdale Assembly seat holder since 1994, faces a progressive challenger in Jessica Woolford, a Kingsbridge native who had most recently been U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s New York City press secretary.

The Assembly’s 81st District includes Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Van Cortlandt Village, Kingsbridge Heights, Marble Hill, Norwood, Woodlawn and Wakefield.

Dinowitz enjoyed a strong primary performance in 2020 when he defeated George Diaz Jr. — he made a bid for the seat again this year before being disqualified last month — by a 62%-36% margin. Dinowitz then went on to trounce Republican candidate Nicole Torres by securing 80% of the vote in the November general election.

With no Republican challenger in the way come November, the winner of Dinowitz versus Woolford would be the seatholder come 2023.

Benedetto’s competition for the 82nd Assembly District which covers Co-op City, Throggs Neck, Westchester Square, City Island, Morris Park, Locust Point, Country Club and Pelham Bay, includes two primary challengers in former AOC organizer Jonathan Soto, a Progressive, and Parent Party-endorsed Democrat Al Quattlebaum. Community Board 10 District Manager Matt Cruz has dropped out of the race.

Elected in 2004, Benedetto’s hold on the seat has hardly been in peril, as he handily defeated Egidio Sementelli, a primary opponent in 2012 and 2020. There is no Republican challenger in the November general election.

In District 84, Amanda Septimo, a Progressive who was elected in 2020, will be tested in her first primary as incumbent as she faces off against Hector Feliciano, a director of a college prep program; and Alberto Torres, an attorney and community organizer.

District 84 is a South Bronx local, which includes Hunts Points and Mott Haven.

District 86 seatholder Yudelka Tapia, who won a special election in 2021 after incumbent Victor Pichardo abdicated his role, will also face her first primary challenge in Pooi Stewart, a teacher and secretary of Bronx Community Board 5.

The District 86 seat encompasses the University Heights, Tremont and the Morris Heights sections of the Bronx.

No primary? The general awaits

Some Bronx assemblymembers can breathe easy this summer and focus all their attention on November.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Latoya Joyner, Chantel Jackson, Kenny Burgos and Karines Reyes are not facing a primary challenge this summer.

District 80 Assemblymember Nathalia Fernandez made her intentions for Senate District 33 known last week, and if successful in the Aug. 23 primary, would leave her Assembly seat open meaning a committee of vacancies or the county committee would select a candidate to face Republican challenger Phyllis Nastasio, a schoolteacher and Bronx Community Board 11 member.

Members of the state Assembly are elected to two-year terms and make an annual salary of $110,000 plus per diem.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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