In what most insiders describe as a big defeat to the Bronx Democratic party organization, leaders of a rebel faction that included both new-comers and incumbent elected officials trounced ‘machine’-backed candidates in the September 9 primary.
Long-time Senator Efrain Gonzalez, currently under federal investigation for misappropriation of campaign funds, was defeated by former state senator Pedro Espada Jr., virtually guaranteeing election on November 4 in the heavily Democratic 33rd Senate District. Espada served two stints in the Senate from 1992-96 and 2000-02, representing the 32nd Senate district.
“I hope to replicate and enhance the service I provided to the Parkchester and Soundview communities during my tenure in the 32nd Senate district,” Espada noted. “This will be the first time someone has served in the Senate on three separate occasions, and the first time someone will have represented both the east and west Bronx. I want to break the gridlock in Albany. I don’t believe the 33rd district and rest of the Bronx should have to stand in line any more.”
In addition, the dubbed ‘rainbow rebellion’ judicial civil-court candidate Elizabeth Taylor got a majority of the votes cast against machine-backed candidate Maria Matos and a third candidate, Verena Powell.
Incumbent assemblymen Michael Benjamin, Carl Heastie, and Ruben Diaz Jr. also won handily against challengers backed by the Democratic Party organization, under the control of Assemblyman Jose Rivera.
“We used the same tactics as the party regulars, who were lacking our talent and determination,” said Benjamin about his win. “The signal here is that the public wants change. They rejected soundly the regime that is currently in power.”
Benjamin said that both assemblymen Michael Benedetto and Jeffrey Dinowitz worked their districts to bring out the vote for the likely winner in the November 4 Civil-Court general election, Elizabeth Taylor.
“Assemblyman Dinowitz and the Benjamin Franklin Reform Club in the 81st Assembly district in Riverdale where there was no local primary got about five votes less for Taylor than were cast in the 83rd district, where there was a very active race,” Benjamin explained. “Assemblyman Michael Benedetto also was very helpful in the 82nd Assembly District with the Chippewa Democratic Club in delivering votes for Ms. Taylor.”
Benjamin added that he felt bad for Efrain Gonzalez, who he felt might have been the victim of a last minute, back-room deal to oust him from power.
When asked about the secret of the rebels’ successes, besides the public’s desire for change, Benjamin spoke of unity.
“We all believed in and trusted each other,” Benjamin noted. “The public responded to this trust. Where there is unity, there is strength.”
A large victory party was held at Maestro’s Catering hall on Bronxdale Avenue the night of the primary for the upbeat winners, while there were reports that Bronx Democratic Headquarters in Westchester Square closed shortly after the polls did at 9 p.m, despite the win of party-backed assembly candidate Nelson Castro in the 86th assembly district in University Heights.
“I would like to thank the residents of the 83rd Assembly District for their tremendous vote of confidence in the work that we have been able to accomplish,” said assemblyman Carl Heastie, one of the night’s winners. “I will continue to serve the district with the utmost dedication. The best has yet to come.”