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Hot races in the Bronx Democratic Primary

Bronx Times

Today belongs to the voters - at least the few inspired to go to the polls to vote in local primary contests for state legislators.

With a few hot races and a number of tepid ones with minor candidates challenging incumbents, the turnout nunbers are expected to be low - an advantage to incumbents who have strong local organizations to turn out their supporters.

In the heavily Democratic Bronx, a win in the primary is virtually a win in the November 6 general election.

The switch from the traditional second Tuesday of September to a Thursday after the 9/11 attacks, may also confuse many voters for an even lighter turnout.

The hottest primary contest in the Bronx today has embattled incumbent Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, dealing with major investigations and scandal, fighting to keep her seat against challenger Mark Gjonaj, a strong, well-financed businessman, and two other candidates seen as potential vote drainers in the 80th Assembly District covering Morris Park, Allerton, Pelham Parkway, Pelham Gardens and Norwood.

But a number of other incumbents are also facing challenges that would be upset victories if the challengers DO win.

The other closely watched race is to fill the assembly seat vacated by longtime incumbent Peter Rivera, recently appointed by Governor Cuomo to become his new labor commissioner.

Luis Sepulveda is running against Danny Figueroa for the vacant seat in the newly designated 87th A.D. (formerly the 76th A.D. before redistricting), which covers Parkchester, Castle Hill and West Farms.

Sepulveda, an attorney, has the heaviest political backing, with support from the Bronx Democratic organization; both Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and his father, local Senator Ruben Diaz Sr.; and a large segment of the local Bangladeshi population.

Figueroa, also an attorney, has the endorsement of both Peter Rivera, for whom he served as chief of staff for many years, and from Bronx County Clerk Luis Diaz,.

Sepulveda ran unsuccessfully against Rivera in the last primary two years ago, pulling in a healthy 44 percent of the vote.

The other borough primary race that has drawn media and public attention is over in the west Bronx, where Senator Gustavo Rivera faces a challenge from Manny Tavarez.

Rivera (no relation to the other Rivera’s) is now in his first term after defeating the now disgraced and convicted Pedro Espada for the seat in the 33rd Senate District covering the northwest corner of the borough.

Tavarez has picked up the support - in campaign vans and volunteers - of Senator Diaz, a Pentecostal minister opposed to Rivera’s support of gay marriage and pro-choice.

Meanwhile, Naomi Rivera faces local Realtor, businessman and city Taxi and Limousine commissioner member Mark Gjonaj (Joe-nigh), Adam Bermudez running a grassroots campaign, and longtime community activist Irene Estrada-Rukaj.

But as Rivera camnpaigns, she also faces four city, state and federal investigations.

There are also new revelations of her son and boyfriends on the taxpayers’ payrolls, embarrassing Facebook photos, one of the worst attendance records in Albany and not one single original bill signed into law during her almost eight years there.

She too has the backing of the Bronx Democratic machine and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who has been going door-to-door campaigning with her.

majority leader.

With the multiple investigations in allegations that have sent other fellow Bronx electeds to jail, a victory in office might be short lived.

Her recent campaign expenditure filings show a $10,000 retainer to the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

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