Primaries heating up in the Bronx

With a more than two-to-one ratio of candidates to seats, the 2010 Democratic primaries are heating up in the Bronx.

By the July 15 deadline to submit petitions to be a candidate in the Democratic primaries, 39 had filed to contest 17 races.

NYC Board of Elections hearings to determine which petitions are valid are scheduled for Thursday, July 29, and Friday, July 30. Not all candidates are expected to make it onto the September 14 primary ballot.

“There’s been a changeover in the leadership in the Bronx, so a lot of people see that as an opportunity to get in on the change as well,” Patrick Jenkins, spokesman for the Bronx Democratic County Committee, said.

As for lingering frustration over problems with state government, Jenkins said that, “I think there’s some element of it, but that’s really a global perspective. Most of it is a local consideration, but with the legislature and the economy as it is today, I think some voters will see an opportunity to make change there, as well.”

Of the seats, which include two spots for the U.S. Congress, four for the state Senate and 11 for state Assembly, four races have at least three preliminary contenders.

The biggest race so far is for the 31st Senatorial seat, where six candidates are vying for Eric Schneiderman’s seat. Schneiderman plans to run for State Attorney General instead.

The next most crowded field is for the 33rd Senatorial district, which is currently held by Democratic Senate Majority leader Pedro Espada Jr. Four Bronxites, including Espada, want to make a run of it. The district includes Fordham, Van Cortlandt Village, Kingsbridge, East Tremont and Bronx Park South.

Senator Jose Serrano, Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, and Assemblyman Michael Benedetto are each facing two possible primary challengers.

For Benedetto, this will be the second time he has been in the middle of a three-way primary race. The first time was in 2004, when he was first elected to represent the 82nd Assembly District that includes Co-op City, Throggs Neck, City Island, Westchester Square, part of Pelham Bayand Zerega.

“It was a very gratifying primary in 2004 because not only did I win the primary, but I won it with 52 percent of the vote in a three way race,” the assemblyman said. “I was very proud of the campaign we ran, and that was one of the most satisfying events of my career. So I do have a track record in this area.” It is still unclear whether Benedetto, or any other incumbent, will even face primary opponents, but Benedetto said he will not be worried if it comes to a challenge.

“I look forward to the race,” he said. “I believe that if you do your work in the community, people will realize what you’ve done and will reward you for those efforts, even in a difficult year like this has been with the economy and the state in such bad shape.”

Although the possible field of candidates is large, Jenkins said he would not be surprised if many contenders do not make it to the ballot because they did not collect enough signatures to qualify for the race.

“There are a lot of seats open,” he said. “But when the dust clears there will probably be a lot fewer races.”

The Board of Elections should announce which challengers have been knocked out of the races at the beginning of August.

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