Miguelina Camilo pivots candidacy following latest maps, to challenge Gustavo Rivera in newly drawn Senate District 33

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, left, will run for reelection in the newly drawn 33rd Senatorial District.
Photo courtesy NY Senate Media Services

All in a day. As a convoluted redistricting process came to a close Saturday, Miguelina Camilo went from the Democratic frontrunner in an open race for Senate District 36 to facing a stiff primary against longtime incumbent Gustavo Rivera in the newly drawn District 33.

Just minutes before a mandated Friday night deadline, Steuben County court-appointed special master Jonathan Cervas released final versions of new congressional and state Senate maps, concluding a redistricting process  — a procedure outlined in the Constitution to redraw legislative boundaries every 10 years — that dragged on for months pushing back some primaries deep into August.

Judge Patrick McAllister quickly approved Cervas’ maps in the early morning hours on Saturday, May 21.

The final maps included several changes which led to some jockeying in state and federal races as candidates were drawn out of their districts.

As a result, Camilo, 36, took to Twitter Saturday morning to announce that she would be seeking a new seat — Senate District 33.

“I began my journey to State Senate so that I could represent my neighbors and build up our communities,” said Camilo, a moderate Democrat, in a tweet. “The journey continues. … and I am proud to announce that I am running for the State Senate District 33!”

Back in February, Camilo announced her candidacy for Senate District 36, a seat that became vacant when Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, a Pelham Progressive, joined a crowded primary field for the open third congressional seat, which briefly combined parts of the Bronx, Queens, Long Island and Westchester.

That congressional district has since been redrawn with Westchester and the Bronx carved out of it.

Riverdale’s Miguelina Camilo talks with residents while out campaigning for state Senate. Photo courtesy Samuel Liedtka

About 30 minutes prior to Camilo’s announcement, Rivera, 46, condemned the “flawed” and “undemocratic” redistricting process, but also announced he would seek reelection in the revamped District 33.

“While I believe that this entire process has been deeply flawed, utterly undemocratic, and intended to diminish the voices of communities of color in our government, a determination has been made by the courts and the district maps are now final,” said Rivera, a staunch progressive from Kingsbridge Heights.  With so much work left to do in the legislature, I will be running for reelection in the new 33rd Senatorial District, which includes significant parts of my current district, as well as many communities that I represented when I was first elected to the Senate.”

Camilo told the Bronx Times Monday that neither the reshuffling of the legislative maps or Rivera’s plan to seek reelection changed “the plan in any way” for her.

“It was just a matter of timing,” she said in an interview. “My plan was always to run to represent my community and the new 33 is exactly that.”

Although Camilo acknowledged the difference in running for an open race versus facing an incumbent, she said the newly drawn district is one that Rivera hasn’t represented before. “I believe the campaign gets stronger,” she said. “I know the district very well and feel confident.”

The race for the 33rd now sets up as one of the high-profile state primaries to watch, pitting moderate against progressive.

Rivera has spent more than a decade in Albany, first elected to the Senate in 2010 when he defeated entrenched pol Pedro Espada Jr. in a Democratic primary; Espada Jr. was later convicted on federal corruption charges and sentenced to 5 years in prison.

The last time Rivera faced a legitimate primary opponent was in 2016 when then City Councilmember Fernando Cabrera, a conservative Democrat, challenged him — he won that race by a wide margin.

Rivera emigrated from Puerto Rico in 1998. Prior to joining the state Legislature he worked on various political campaigns, including Fernando Ferrer’s 2001 failed mayoral run in New York City.

Camilo, a Riverdale resident, is president of the Bronx Women’s Bar Association and the 100 Hispanic Women — Bronx Chapter. She also ran her own law firm before a stint as commissioner of the city Board of Elections.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Camilo immigrated to Washington Heights in Manhattan, at age 2.

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

The primary is now scheduled for Aug. 23.

This story was updated at 3:46 p.m. on May 25.

Reach Christian Falcone at cfalcone@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-2541. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes