PRIMARY RESULTS: Rivera declares victory in tight Senate District 33 primary; Camilo still holds out hope

Gustavo Rivera looked ready to lock up a hard fought victory on Tuesday night based on unofficial tallies from the city Board of Elections.
Photo NYS Senate Media Services

Just a mere seven blocks from each other at their respective Riverdale watch parties, Sen. Gustavo Rivera and challenger Miguelina Camilo saw their highly-contentious race for Senate District 33 come down to a difference of 500 or so votes as the final scanners trickled in late Tuesday night.

With 98% scanners reporting as of 11 p.m., the Progressive Democrat Rivera — despite not being backed by his own party — held on to a 51.9%-47.3 lead, emphatically declaring victory after a grueling and contentious primary campaign, and solidifying a seventh two-year term in the state Senate.

“When you come at the king, you best not miss,” said Rivera at his watch party inside the Bronx Alehouse. “After 12 years (in the Senate), I’m not going to forget who I do this for (or) who I work for. I work for y’all (his constituents).”

Rivera has spent more than a decade in Albany, first elected to the Senate in 2010 when he defeated entrenched pol Pedro Espada Jr. in a Democratic primary; Espada Jr. was later convicted on federal corruption charges and sentenced to 5 years in prison.

The last time Rivera faced a legitimate primary opponent was in 2016 when then City Councilmember Fernando Cabrera, a conservative Democrat, challenged him — he won that race by a wide margin. Rivera emigrated from Puerto Rico in 1998. Prior to joining the state Legislature, he worked on various political campaigns, including Fernando Ferrer’s 2001 failed mayoral run in New York City.

Camilo wasn’t ready to concede the race, however.

She told the Bronx Times as the clock neared Wednesday morning that she wanted to wait for 100% of precincts to report and for a batch of absentee votes to be counted later this week before official conceding the race.

“I understand him (Rivera) declaring victory because we have about 96, 97% of the vote but we don’t have 100% reporting and every vote counts,” she said. “There’s also absentee ballots that are outstanding and being processed by the NYC Board of Elections, and you can win by just one vote, so I’m still hopeful there’s a path to the Senate.”

Camilo, a Riverdale resident, is the former president of the Bronx Women’s Bar Association. She also ran her own law firm before a stint as commissioner of the city Board of Elections. Camilo entered her watch party alongside establishment Dems such as Jeffrey Dinowitz and Jaamal Bailey at Belle Notte on Johnson Avenue to an ovation of “Go Camilo Go!” from supporters.

Back in February, she first announced her candidacy for the Senate seat that became vacant when Progressive Sen. Alessandra Biaggi decided to run for Congress. Biaggi was defeated by moderate Democrat U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in the 17th Congressional primary.

Camilo said despite all the chaos that redistricting brought to her initial intentions for office, she touted her “resilience” as a first-time candidate and vowed to continue building on the momentum of her senatorial campaign.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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