With the state primary just days away on Thursday, September 13, the Bronx has three major state legislative seats up for grabs: the 34th Senate district, and the 84th and 87th assembly districts.
The senatorial race between 14-year incumbent Democrat Jeffery Klein and political newcomer and Pelham, NY resident Alessandra Biaggi has caught the attention of many in and out of the borough.
Klein has established a trustworthy track record within his district, which covers Throggs Neck, Pelham Bay, Country Club, City Island, Morris Park, Allerton and parts of lower Westchester. He has amassed countless local endorsements while Biaggi has counted on the support of outsiders such as US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Public Advocate Scott Stringer, who are both using this race to raise their ‘progressive’ credentials. Fellow Bronx progressive political novice Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whom stunned many with her primary victory over incumbent Congressman Joseph Crowley on June 26, has also endorsed Biaggi.
“It’s absolutely stunning to see this kind of support,” Biaggi said while citing that ‘things changed’ for the progressive movement on that fateful June night. Her interest in running for office came after working on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016 and following working for Governor Cuomo more recently. “Seeing so many progressive policy roll backs under the Trump administration is what made me want to take action at the state level to protect the rights of New Yorkers,” Biaggi added.
On the other side of things, Klein believes that experience in Albany sets him apart from his progressive challenger. “I came to Albany to make a difference and I believe I have,” said Klein.
During his successive terms Klein has fought for paid family leave, gun control, $15 minimum wage, and other Democrat Party ideals. “Those are some of the big picture items, but what’s also important to me is fighting for quality of life issues within my constituency as well,” Klein said while mentioning funding he’s given to local public schools, anti-auto theft and gun violence programs he had established as well as senior and women’s health programs too. If re-elected, Klein also seeks to create programs to assist with student debt.
One local issue that separates the two candidates is NYC Department of Transportation’s proposal to install a ‘road diet’ plan on Morris Park Avenue. Community Board 11 and the Morris Park Community Association, as well as Klein, vehemently oppose the plan, while Biaggi is fully behind its implementation.
On other matters Biaggi has views similar to her opponent; while also looking to push for an end to tenant harassment, expanding educational access for children, as well as affordable health care for all. “This is a grassroots campaign and I’m looking to explore the district’s best interests,” Biaggi said.
Oddly, the political novice and granddaughter of the late Congressman Mario Biaggi has had a spotty voting record. According to NYS Board of Elections records Biaggi has rarely voted in a Democratic Party primary and has missed casting her vote in other important general elections as well.
The 87th Assembly District has remained vacant since Luis Sepulveda transitioned to the senate on April 29. Three political newcomers: Karines Reyes, Farah Despeinges, and John Perez, are vying for the open seat.
Reyes, a registered nurse at the Montefiore Einstein Hospital oncology department has received Sepulveda’s endorsement for the vacancy.
“I cannot think of a better qualified person to fill my former seat in the 87th Assembly District than Karines Reyes. Her record as a deeply involved member of her community; a strong leader in her union; a nurse who almost daily deals with not just health issues, but a host of social issues that go with it; a mother deeply concerned about education issues and a host of other issues, make her more than qualified to be our next assemblymember,” Sepulveda said.
Reyes has spent almost 20 years in the Bronx, her participation in various labor unions served as inspiration to run while promoting accessible healthcare and support for small businesses.
Despeinges, also a 20-year resident of the Bronx is a public school teacher seeking to promote equity, vocational training and accessibility to school resources.
Perez, an Army veteran, has focused on domestic violence awareness and housing improvements for the district.
He previously attempted to run for the 17th City Council District but was removed from the ballot for failing to meet the required minimum of 450 valid signatures.
Over in the 84th Assembly District, 24-year Democrat incumbent Carmen Arroyo faces a strong challenge from Amanda Septimo, a public servant.
Arroyo, the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the Assembly has dedicated her career to fighting alcoholism and drug abuse, representing children and family rights; and also establishing education committees.
She is a fierce opponent of Mayor de Blasio’s proposed jail for Mott Haven.
While Septimo supports similar ideals, she also seeks NYCHA improvements and wants to put an end to gun violence.