Everything you need to know for the June 23 Democratic primary elections

Photo via Getty Images

BY ALEX MITCHELL, JASON COHEN AND JENNA BAGCAL 

With the June 23 Democratic primary less than a week away, voters will head to the polls to choose candidates in some important local races, including Congress, State Senate and State Assembly.

Absentee Ballots

Although the first deadline for absentee ballots passed on June 16, Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the deadline to Monday, June 22 for individuals who plan on submitting applications in-person at a local Board of Elections office. Learn more about absentee voting here: elections.ny.gov/votingabsentee.html.

Early Voting

There are still opportunities for individuals to vote early and those who are interested can find their voting location at nyc.pollsitelocator.com/search. Those who want to participate in early voting can do so until Sunday, June 21. Check below for early voting dates and times:

  • Thursday, June 18, 2020 – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Friday, June 19, 2020 – 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 20, 2020 – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 21, 2020 – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Who’s on the Ballot

Here are some key races to look out for:

NY-14 Congressional District

Areas: Pelham Gardens, City Island, Country Club, Van Nest, Morris Park, Parkchester, Pelham Bay, Schuylerville, Allerton and Throggs Neck

Progressive incumbent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez faces award winning, Hispanic CNBC journalist Michelle Caruso-Cabrera in her primary for the fate of the east Bronx and western Queens.

In what has become a heated campaign between the two Democratic candidates, Caruso-Cabrera accused AOC of avoiding a debate between the two, which a representative of Ocasio-Cortez disputed.

Caruso-Cabrera said she values the Democratic Party and is the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants. She described how her family worked overnight shifts and her father was one of the first to go to college.

During COVID-19, the congresswoman has delivered over 772 meals to the Bronx to a Glebe Avenue NYCHA senior complex, Pelham Parkway houses, Parkside houses and Throggs Neck Houses.

Her campaign’s field team and volunteers have made over 78,000 calls to check on Bronx residents’ well-being and connect them with local resources. Also, the campaign has raised nearly $576,000 for 26 community groups exclusively through small-dollar, grassroots donors.

Two other candidates, financial controller and activist Badrun Khan and professional chess player and perennial candidate Sam Sloan are also running in this race.

NY-15 Congressional District

Areas: Mott Haven, Hunts Point, Melrose, High Bridge, Morrisania, East Tremont, Tremont, Morris Heights, University Heights, Belmont, Fordham, Bedford Park, West Farms, the Longwood Avenue Historic District, and parts of Soundview

This competitive race includes 12 Democratic candidates who all vying for the Congressional seat. Incumbent Congressman José E. Serrano, who has served this district since 2013, is vacating the seat, leaving the race wide open for a new representative.

District 18 Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr. appears to be a favorite in the race despite being criticized for his anti-LGBTQ and misogynistic viewpoints. The councilman failed to show up to a virtual debate on June 2, during which 10 of the candidates duked it out in front of an online audience.

Recently, the New York Times endorsed District 15 Councilman Ritchie Torres saying that he would be the “best positioned” to beat Diaz, calling it an “urgent task.”

Other candidates in the race include former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, New York State Assemblyman and Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee Michael Blake, District 10 Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, Samelys Lopez, an activist in the Housing Justice for All statewide coalition and co-founder of Local Democrats of NY, Tomas Ramos, the program director for Children’s Arts & Science Workshops at the Bronx River Community Center, Frangell Basora, a former Congressional intern, copy center owner and former candidate for Bronx Borough President Mark Escoffery-Bey, insurance agent Black Lives Matter organizer Chivona R. Newsome, entrepreneur Julio Pabon and former New York City Council aide Marlene J. Tapper.

NY-16 Congressional District

Areas: Baychester, Co-op City, Eastchester, Edenwald, Fieldston, Riverdale (North and South), Spuyten Duyvil, Wakefield, Williamsbridge, Woodlawn

What already was a race to watch has now become the center of political attention as Hillary Clinton endorsed incumbent Congressman Eliot Engel while Senator Elizabeth Warren endorsed his progressive foe, Jamaal Bowman.

Bowman was also endorsed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Senator Gustavo Rivera, Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Comptroller Scott Stringer, helping him become a front-runner to upset Engel on Tuesday, June 23.

In Washington, Engel chairs the house’s foreign affairs committee and is only one of two New York delegates to serve on that committee.

Ironically in 2018, the establishment democrat spoke highly of AOC after she won her own congressional race, telling the Bronx Times “I have no concerns about her [ability to do a good job],” adding that he was excited to work with her.

State Senate District 32

Areas: Parkchester, Soundview, West Farms, Hunts Point, Longwood, Concourse, Melrose, Morrisania, Mott Haven, East Tremont, and Westchester Square

Senator Luis Sepulveda is defending his incumbency against Democratic challengers Pamela Stewart-Martinez and John Perez. Sepulveda replaced longtime Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., who opted to run for City Council in 2017. Sepulveda won the special election in 2017 and elected to a full term in 2018.

The senator currently serves as the chairman of the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee.

This is Stewart-Martinez’s second run for the 32nd Senate District seat. She worked in a communications company for seven years before transitioning to the public sector. Perez is currently the 87th Assembly District Leader and former career U.S. Army Sergeant.

State Senate District 34

Areas: Spuyten Duyvil, Riverdale, Hunts Point, Castle Hill, Throggs Neck, Pelham Gardens, Pelham Parkway, City Island

Incumbent Senator Alessandra Biaggi is being challenged by James Gisondi. In 2018, Biaggi beat longtime Senator Jeffrey Klein, who served in the position for 13 years. She is currently the chair of Ethics and Internal Governance Committee.

Prior to running for office, Biaggi was an advocate for the people of New York, working in a legal capacity to ensure that working families had access to affordable housing and helping small businesses and municipalities who had been affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Her challenger, Gisondi, is an attorney who served for two terms as a State Committeeman in the 80th Assembly District. The Bronx resident graduated from the CUNY School of Law.

State Assembly District 78

Areas: Fordham-Bedford, Kingsbridge Heights, Bedford Park, and Belmont

Jose Rivera, the incumbent has been in office since 2001 and is running for reelection in the 78th Assembly District. He has served as deputy majority whip and assistant majority whip.

Newcomer Francisco Spies is looking to dethrone Rivera.

“It’s time for a change. We’ve been idle for 30 years and I need your support to bring a real voice to Albany,” Spies said on his Youtube page. “Let us stop the status quo. The change is now, elect me as your next State Assemblyman because I will fight for you. Our community is lacking a strong voice to solve our problems, and I am that person to provide that strong voice. The voice of the people will be heard!”

State Assembly District 79

Areas: Concourse Village, Morrisania, Melrose, Belmont, Claremont and East Tremont

Assemblyman Michael Blake is vacating this seat as he is running for Congress in the 15th District. There are six newcomers hoping to fill the void: George Alvarez, Cynthia Cox, Chantel Jackson, Dion Powell, Elvis Santana and Eric Stevenson.

Alvarez served as vice-president of the Democrats in the Heights and is a member of the Coalition for a New Future in the Bronx, Coalition for a New Future and Child for a Violin. Alvarez was also a 2016 candidate for District 17 of the New York City Council.

Cox is a minister and has served as District Leader of the 79th District since 2008. Cox serves as DC 37 union member and delegate, member of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), a member of the NAACP and active NAACP Bronx Branch member, a chairperson of the Neighborhood Advisory Board and a board member of a number of charities and business groups.

Jackson is a United Federation of Teachers member, a licensed social worker, a college professor and a published author. She went from being a teen mom to helping young adults.

Powell helped start the Bronx Young Democrats and became the chair of the Caucus of Color for the New York State Young Democrats. Powell was the community liaison to the Bronx for Assemblyman Blake for three years.

Santana, born and raised in Morrisania knows the struggles the community is facing.

In 2015, he was the first and only to be chosen from the White House Reach High Initiative by Michelle Obama to talk about his own accomplishments and how his involvement with the community matters.

Santana has helped over 3,000 young men and women find employment, while also creating relationships with local businesses that have helped reduce the low-income poverty rate in New York.

Stevenson, a former assemblyman, spent three years in prison for pocketing bribes and helping developers open adult day care centers. He served in the Assembly from 2011 to 2014.

He was a community coordinator and liaison to Community Board 3 for Borough President Fernando Ferrer and worked as a legislative researcher for the City Council Speaker.

State Assembly District 81

Areas: Kingsbridge, Norwood, Riverdale, Van Cortlandt Village, Wakefield and Woodlawn

For the first time in 25 years, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz is facing a democratic challenger,

Dinowitz has served since the 81st Assembly District since 1994. He chairs the Assembly Committee on Judiciary. He also serves on the Rules, Health and Election Law committees. Dinowitz previously chaired the Committees on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, Consumer Affairs and Protection, Aging and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

Newcomer George Diaz hopes to knock him off. Diaz is a former staffer to former Councilman Oliver Koppell and a law clerk.

State Assembly District 82

Areas: Co-op City, Throggs Neck, Westchester Square, City Island, Country Club and Pelham Bay

This race features incumbent Michael Benedetto against Egidio Sementilli. Benedetto has represented District 82 for 15 years. Benedetto was a teacher for 35 years and as a legislator, has focused on educational and child protection issues and has been an ardent supporter of union rights.

Sementilli’s experience includes work as a community representative for the U.S. Department of Commerce, the publisher and founder of The Bronx Advocate and the director of the Pelham Bay Home Improvement & Safety Organization.

State Assembly District 85

Areas: Soundview, Clason Point, Longwood, and Hunts Point

As Bronx Democratic Chair Marcos Crespo announced he would not seek reelection to the 85th Assembly district this year, a door is open for two new coming candidates — Kenny Burgos and William Moore.

Moore has previously ran for city council in 2017 on the Reform Party line, losing to Ruben Diaz, Sr also attempting to upset Crespo for the 85th AD during previous year in 2016.

His prior work experience involves press and speechwriting work for many major NYC politicians, such as Mayors David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani.

Meanwhile Burgos has just turned 25-years-old and is jumping into his first major election.

He has managed to secure the endorsement of Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and even poked some fun at what has been an unorthodox campaign.

State Assembly District 87

Areas: Van Nest, Parkchester, Castle Hill, West Farms, Unionport, and parts of Westchester Square

Karines Reyes has held the 87th Assembly District seat has since Luis Sepulveda transitioned to the senate some time ago. 

Reyes, previously a registered nurse at the Montefiore Einstein Hospital oncology department is facing another primary in the 87th District — this one coming against progressive candidate Garfield Holland.

Holland comes in on the issues of medicare for all, housing as a human right, as well as tight gun control and immigration reform.

Reyes takes a similar stance to many of these issues, also earning an endorsement from fellow Bronx politician Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

She has spent almost 20 years in the Bronx, participating in various labor unions also serving as inspiration to run while promoting accessible healthcare and support for small businesses.

Other Candidates

Visit vote.nyc to see a complete list of candidates who will be on the June 23 ballot.

More from Around NYC

>