Fight for the 15th: NY’s primary election less than 2 weeks away

New York’s primary election is less than two weeks away and the retirement of the long-time Congressman Jose Serrano is opening the door to a host of challengers ready to fill his seat.

News 12 Staff

Jun 11, 2020, 1:22 AM

Updated 1,443 days ago

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New York’s primary election is less than two weeks away and the retirement of the long-time Congressman Jose Serrano is opening the door to a host of challengers ready to fill his seat. 
Tuesday night, the fight for New York’s 15th Congressional District seat reached a new level on a News 12 debate co-moderated by Kurt Semder. 
It was much about who was there and who wasn’t.  
News 12 reached out to Ruben Diaz Sr., city councilman, and potential frontrunner to join the debate--but did not hear back. 
News 12 heard from candidates on a variety of issues, including the growing movement against racial inequality. 
Chivona Newsome, a former financial advisor, touted her record as the co-founder of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York. 
"I've been doing this for the betterment of my life, passing policy and making things happen and getting justice as a regular girl, born and raised in the Bronx. Can you imagine what I'm going to be able to do with the resources in D.C.?” said Newsome. 
The candidate also touched on the coronavirus pandemic, which is deeply affecting residents in the district. 
Tomas Ramos, a program director at the Bronx River Community Center pointed to his work during the pandemic. 
"I stopped campaigning, I stopped actively seeking contributions and I founded the Bronx Rising Initiative and secured $3.2 million in increased ICU bed capacity for the entire borough of the Bronx,” said Ramos. 
Councilman Ritchie Torres himself recovered from COVID-19. He is the youngest member of the city council and is the first openly gay elected official in the Bronx. 
He says the pandemic brought a bigger problem to light. 
“COVID-19 has revealed deeper disparities in health because there are disparities in healthcare. We need to establish at the federal level that healthcare is a human right, that all of us are entitled to healthcare regardless of immigration status or insurance or income,” said Torres. 
Fellow city councilman Ydanis Rodriguez has been in office for a decade and is already looking forward to what he feels he can achieve if elected. 
FULL DEBATE: 
 "We will eradicate poverty by 2030, we will improve the quality of education, we will create low paid jobs, we will invest in affordable housing and we will provide free quality health insurance for all residents of the Bronx,” said Rodriguez. 
Bronx residents were at the heart of a much-discussed topic -- affordable housing. State Assemblyman Michael Blake has made it the pillar of his campaign, asking voters to “Believe in the Bronx.” 
"We have to go from area-median income to neighborhood-based income, which is a federal effort that we can address immediately. It makes no sense whatsoever that affordability in the Bronx is tied to Westchester, Rockland, or Suffolk county,” said Blake. 
Housing was also quoted as the biggest issue facing the district by Samelys Lopez, a community activist endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She says her personal experiences have driven her to seek change. 
"We absolutely need to fight for housing as a universal human right in America, because there's a lot of homelessness. There's a lot of people that went through the shelter system like I once did. We need to fight to decommodify the production of housing so it won't be based on profit, it'll be based on people. We need national rent control,” said Lopez. 
Melissa Mark-Viverito believes her experience is just one reason she’d excel in congress. The former city council speaker has a plan to address a number of issues in NY-15. 
"If we increase the federal minimum wage if we provide free quality education for all our children so they're not saddled with debt if we're providing healthcare for all… we're gonna uplift the lives of the 15th congressional district and uplift the lives of millions of people,” said Mark-Viverito. 
On the other side of the spectrum, 28-year-old Frangell Basora, a political newcomer from the borough believes this moment is an opportunity for change. 
"As a politician, I am telling you that it is time that we bet on ourselves. That it is time that we no longer depend on anyone else but ourselves…We need to take the 30 years that we've come from and build on it, exponentially and lift all of our people,” said Basora. 
Julio Pabon, a community activist, and a longtime resident said the position requires bold leadership. 
"Vote for a revolutionary who can get to Congress, break the door down if they don't want to open it, break the window open if they don't want to open it…because the South Bronx cannot continue to wait, we need a Bronx revolution now,” said Pabon. 
The primary election is on June 23. You can vote in person or by absentee ballot.


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