Final Countdown for D17 Special Election

Final Countdown for D17 Special Election
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Courtesy of Joann Otero

Only six candidates remain for the District 17 City Council special election.

The vacancy was created when Maria del Carmen Arroyo took a high-paying job at a not-for-profit.

Over the past few weeks the list of candidates has dwindled from 11 to the following: Rafael Salamanca, Julio Pabon, George Alvarez, Marlon Molina, Rev. Loren Russell, and Joann Otero.

Amanda Septimo, who is the district director for Congressman Jose Serrano, saw her hopes to win the seat vanish due to a designating petition error.

Septimo circulated petitions with the name of her independent party as ‘Democratic Values’.

According to state election law, the use of a name that can be confused with an existing political party is prohibited.

Helen Foreman-Hines, a retired 1199 SEIU advocate and organizer, who vowed to bring her many years of experience to the table, was eliminated from the race for failing to file a certificate of acceptance on time.

Carlton Curry, an activist, was kicked off the ballot for the same reason – in his case he filed the certificate one day too late.

Army veteran John Perez and Elliot Quinones, a businessman, were ruled off for not filing an adequate number of petition signatures. The required amount is 450.

The remaining candidates all feel sure of their chances to gain the seat – but Salamanca still appears to be the frontrunner.

Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. recently endorsed Salamanca on February 12, at the candidate’s campaign headquarters.

At the event Diaz said Salamanca “has a vision on how to move the Bronx forward,” and praised the candidate’s work as district manager of Community Board 2.

The United Federation of Teachers, representing 200,000 members also advocated for Salamanca on February 8, followed by the Transport Workers Union Local 100, who publically announced support for him two days later.

Congressman Jose Serrano showed his support for Salamanca on February 11, shortly after Septimo lost her ballot spot.

Joann Otero, Arroyo’s former chief of staff, and now the only female in the race, says she is fighting for more women in the city’s legislative body.

“I’m running to fight for more affordable housing, to advocate for working families, and to help our school system…electing me will help address the lack of female representation,” said Otreo.

She said that Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito previously called on women to make the city’s legislature more reflective of reality. Women make up a large percentage of the district.

“I am accepting the Speaker’s challenge,” said Otero.

Julio Pabon, co-founder of the South Bronx Community Congress, is a community activist that has worked for decades in various positions to assist the people of the south Bronx.

As a result, he has garnered vast support in Mott Haven and Grand Concourse areas.

Pabon thinks the current political system of the borough is unjust, with partyheads picking candidates well before election time, and he calls for reform.

Bronxnet hosted a debate on BronxTalk last Friday, in which the remaining six candidates debated the issues and answered questions posed by moderator Gary Axelbank.

This Friday, February 19 at 4 p.m., NY1 will host a final debate at their Chelsea studio.

Council District 17 includes Morrisania, Crotona Park East, Melrose, Longwood, Hunts Point, East Tremont, Mott Haven, and Soundview.

Voting for the special election will be held next Tuesday, February 23 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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