Dinowitz wins, knocks off progressive primary challenge from Woolford in northwest Bronx

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Jeffrey Dinowitz is joined by supporters, including Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, on Tuesday night in Riverdale. Dinowitz cruised to victory against Jessica Altagracia Woolford.
Photo ET Rodriguez

Despite challenges in the past two political cycles for his northeast Bronx Assembly seat, Jeffrey Dinowitz is set to add two more years to an impressive 20-plus year run in politics after toppling Kingsbridge challenger Jessica Altagracia Woolford.

As of Wednesday morning, Dinowitz had secured 62%, or 5,830 votes, to Woolford’s 37%, or 3,514 votes, with 99% of scanners reporting, according to unofficial tallies by the city Board of Elections.

Dinowitz, a moderate Democrat, has kept the northwest Bronx seat warm since 1994, and without a Republican challenger in November will be reelected to another term in the statehouse.

At his watch party in Riverdale’s Blackstone Bar & Grill surrounded by a who’s who of Bronx politicos — including state Sen. Jamaal Bailey, U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, and his son, City Councilmember Eric Dinowitz — the 66-year-old told the Bronx Times he’s looking ahead to a legislative slate that addresses climate change accountability for oil groups, housing and overall qualitative improvement for the borough.

“You know, I passed nearly 200 laws in office. Among them, recently, was the eviction moratorium, which prevented thousands of people from being evicted from their homes during the pandemic. And I focused a lot on housing issues and I will continue to do that,” Dinowitz said. “But also environmental issues. I introduced legislation recently, which is essentially to set up a superfund to address climate change issues by making the polluters, meaning the oil companies, pay.”

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

After 13 consecutive elections dating back to his special election win in 1994 having never being challenged in a primary, the longtime Riverdale representative has seen recent primary challenges from George Diaz Jr. and Woolford in 2020 and 2022, respectively.

Woolford, a Progressive candidate that was backed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, spent a decade working in Democratic politics — mostly in communications roles — and resigned as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s New York City press secretary to focus on her campaign.

Woolford told the Bronx Times around 10 p.m. at a Working Families watch party in Fordham that she’s going to continue to hold Dinowitz accountable over his next two years, and noted that 2022 is just “a beginning” for a progressive undercurrent that’s been mobilizing on Bronx ballots for the past few political cycles.

“What we’ve seen is that Dinowitz acts when he feels pressure, especially from people on the left and from folks like myself and others who have been organizing,” she said. “Unfortunately, there’s this pattern with him where he says he supports something and when it’s time to seal the deal, we never know if he’s going to deliver.”

Dinowitz’s performance steadied around the 60% mark in this cycle — he received 64% in 2020 against Diaz Jr. — and notably maintained his strong support in the Riverdale and Norwood precincts, calling his win a “super landslide” in his victory speech.

While the Riverdale moderate said he’s had to allot more time and energy in his schedule to ward off threats to his reelection in recent years, his focus remains on the work ahead in the Assembly.

And for the approximate 35% of his constituency that has opted for new blood in 2020 and 2022 cycles, Dinowitz said he’s here to build coalitions — even if he stops short on more progressive calls to defund or cut the police presence in Bronx neighborhoods.

“I think we have to take a number of steps to prevent crime, but also, we should not be cutting the number of police. That would be a big mistake,” he said. “We have to go address the issues which cause crime … and at the same time, we need the police.”

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

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