On Saturday, March 24 longtime New York State Assemblyman and Speaker Pro Temp Peter Rivera announced he would step down as the 76th District’s representative at the end of this year’s legislative session. He is accepting a job as the new NYS commissioner for the Department of Labor, effective June 30.
His impending departure now opens his seat in what may be this election year’s most hotly contested race in the Bronx.
With a primary election still months away, some familiar names are already jumping into the political ring.
One of those is Rivera’s current chief of staff.
On Tuesday, March 26, Danny Figueroa III, Rivera’s decade-long right hand man, announced he wants to take the baton and lead. Like his boss, Figueroa III will be running as a Democrat. He said his position as chief of staff gave him a preview of what to expect if he were to win the seat.
“I have quite a bit of experience in my activism in the past 20 years that I think will be a benefit to the people in my community,“ said Figueroa III, who wants to pass several bills that will probably remain in limbo once Rivera relinquishes his seat. One of those measures is a plan that provides tax breaks to property owners who install security cameras in buildings. Another bill aims to limit mayoral control of the city’s schools by imposing more power to community eduation councils who want a say in the co-locating of schools.
But Figueroa III will face some competition from Luis Sepulveda, the Bronx attorney who nearly unseated Rivera in the 2010 primary election by garnering 44% of the vote. He announced his candidacy well before Rivera even announced his resignation.
It was the day after Sepulveda lost the 2010 primary that he wanted to seek election. He remained a presence in the 76th District by hosting town hall-style meetings, offering pro-bono legal services and helping senior citizens organize weekend trips to Atlantic City.
“My passion is to make the 87th the best place in the world for people to live,” said Sepulveda, referring to the current 76th District, which will be renamed the 87th District due to redistricting. It takes effect January 1, 2013.
Sepulveda will once again run a Democratic grassroots campaign. His candidacy is also bolstered by several key Rivera allies who defected last time around. This includes the Male and Female District Leaders, State Committee members and judicial delegates. Some of his members have been with Rivera for upwards of 20 years.
“They all called me and said we prefer working with you,” said Sepulveda.
Figueroa III was not swayed by the departures of Rivera’s slate.
“You can’t please everybody all the time. These individulas chose to run with Mr. Sepulveda. I cannot control people,” said Figueroa III.
The two Bronx attorneys are still unofficial candidates since a minimum of 500 signatures is required to get on the ballot. While they are still unofficial, they both have crafted their platforms which include goals to fight crime, improve quality-of-life and upgrade the school systems within the areas of Parkchester, Van Nest, West Farms and Castle Hill.
The seat will remain vacant until the new year.