Klein vs. Koppell top this year’s primary challenges

Challenger Oliver Koppell (center) sparred with the incumbent, Senator Jeff Klein (r), in a live debate Monday, August 25 on BronxNet’s BronxTalk, moderated by Gary Axelbank (l).
Courtesy BronxNet

Two high-profile Bronx seats in the state senate are up for grabs at the polls this year.

In the 34th district — which covers a large swath of the borough, including Throggs Neck, Morris Park, Hunt’s Point, Soundview and Riverdale — incumbent Jeff Klein is facing challenger Oliver Koppell, a former city councilman and state legislator.

Klein has endorsements from the majority of city and state labor unions, and from elected officials including Mayor deBlasio and Gov. Cuomo. The state senator has touted his ability to protect his district from unwanted development, net funding for local programs, respond to constituent concerns and deliver in the state government as leader of a brakeaway group of Democrats called the Independent Democratic Conference.

Accomplishments with Klein as the senate’s co-leader including passing a landmark gun control law and funding universal pre-K.

“I made the state senate work again,” said Klein in a debate on public access TV channel BronxNet.

But Klein’s opponent Koppell has mounted his own powerful challenge, slamming Klein for failing to pass progressive laws like the DREAM act, which would help clear residency paths for young immigrants.

Koppell has called Klein’s IDC a “betrayal” of the Democratic Party because it took the Democrats out of the majority in the state senate. Klein has since promised that the IDC would vote with the Democrats in the future to accomplish progressive goals — but Koppell is not buying it.

“He did a legislative extortion,” Koppell told NY1’s Errol Louis in a debate on “Inside City Hall” last week, adding: “Any day he can renounce that agreement.”

Tussle in the 33

More familiar faces are battling it out in the 33rd district, which covers a wide area ranging from Fordham and Kingsbridge, over to Belmont and Van Nest.

Incumbent Gustavo Rivera is facing off against challenger Fernando Cabrera, who is currently a Councilman.

In an interview, Rivera praised his record of bringing trust back to a district where the past three assemblypeople have been indicted and removed from office.

He also spearheaded a bill that allows non profits to post bail for non violent criminals, and another bill that bans smoking outside of schools.

But for Cabrera, many questions remain unanswered. The councilman has yet to respond to charges that he attempted to shake down the Kingsbridge Armory’s developers for a series of payments to a not-for-profit he was linked to, in exchange for crucial support in its public review process.

Cabrera declined through a campaign aide to be interviewed for this story. He also did not appear on a public debate with BronxNet’s Gary Axelbank in late August, forcing Rivera to debate an empty chair.

Rivera said the lack of response from Cabrera is yet another reason voters should renew Rivera for another term.

“The councilmember’s actions are a concern, and there are a lot of questions that he has to answer,” said Rivera. “And I hope the conclusion drawn by the voters is that I can be trusted to continue to represent them.”

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at bkoch‌man@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.

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