Conservative Democrat could win primary in U.S.' bluest district
The bluest congressional district in the United States is located in the Bronx in New York City and borders the district of the famous liberal congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Among the 12 candidates vying for the open convention seat, one of the top candidates is a conservative democrat, Reverend Rubén Díaz Sr., a polarizing city councilor with a history of advocating Republicans and homophobic comments.
Díaz Sr. is known for wearing a cowboy hat and being controversial. He resisted last year's requests to resign after saying that the New York City Council was "controlled by the homosexual community" even though the committee he chaired had been dissolved. Díaz Sr. has described himself as "the opposite of AOC".
In 2011 Díaz Sr. held a rally against same-sex marriages, while his granddaughter held a duel across the street to support this. In 2009 and 2011, when the measure was successful, he voted against legalizing same-sex marriage. He compared abortion to the Holocaust and said, "Murderers, assassins, and criminals are pro-choices."
Díaz Sr. did not respond to requests for an interview from CBS News.
Charter School Rally
Rubén Díaz Sr., D-Bronx, speaks to Mike Groll / AP during a charter school rally in the legislative office building on Wednesday, January 20, 2016, in Albany, NY
"There is a real danger that a Trump Republican disguising himself as a democrat will represent the bluest district in America," said New York City Councilor Ritchie Torres, one of Díaz's main rivals in the race. Hillary Clinton won the congress district in 2016 by over 93%.
A survey conducted by the liberal Data for Progress think tank in May found that Díaz Sr. led the field of democratic candidates with 22% support, closely followed by Torres. Torres was the youngest person to be elected to the City Council in 2014 and the first openly gay person to be elected to a higher position in the Bronx. In an interview with CBS News, Torres painted the area code as a two-person race between him and Díaz Sr.
"We have the historic opportunity to have a new generation of leaders and we have the historic opportunity to abandon the policies of hate and fear," said Torres, adding that the election of Díaz Sr. "is one of the greatest tragedies from would be 2020. "
Torres was supported by the New York Times and several national progressive groups like the Human Rights Campaign. Torres Times endorsement Díaz Sr. "talks and acts like a pro Trump Republican."
Though he often scolded same-sex marriages and abortions, Díaz Sr. insisted that his opposition be based on his religious beliefs, not bigotry. Díaz Sr., born in Puerto Rico, is a pastor of a Pentecostal church in the Bronx. Torres argued that Díaz Sr. had an "irreducible base of evangelical support".
Díaz Sr. entered politics in 1993 when he was confirmed by the city council as a member of the police complaints review board. He supported Republicans Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, and Rick Lazio, Clinton's opponent, in their 2000 run for the Senate. More recently, he has invited President Trump to visit his church and Senator Ted Cruz to visit his district.
Díaz Sr. was a senator before being elected to the council in 2017. The South Bronx is full of buildings called Rubén Díaz, such as Rubén Díaz Apartments and Rubén Díaz Plaza. His son Rubén Díaz Jr. is the popular president of the Bronx district.
Election 2020 New York House
In this file photo dated January 7, 2015, Senator Rubén Díaz, D-Bronx, in the Senate Chamber of the State Capitol in Albany, NY, observes Mike Groll / AP
Díaz Jr. has not approved of his father and has previously distanced himself from Díaz Sr.'s controversial comments. However, in the past few days, the two have performed frequently, including distributing food boxes to the Bronx residents on June 5. The 15th congressional district is one of the poorest in the country, with an average income of $ 30,000 and nearly 34% of the living below the poverty line.
Bronx United, a political action committee opposed to Díaz Sr., lodged a complaint with the General Election Commission earlier this month alleging that Diaz Sr. knowingly accepted "illegal company contributions" by offering food provided by Fresh Direct the presidents of the boroughs have spread outside of his city council but within the congressional district. Díaz Sr. has denied that he has campaigned.
"As a pro-Trump, anti-election and anti-LGBT politician who has spent his entire ineffective career promoting Republicans like Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, and Rudy Giuliani, Rubén Díaz Sr. shouldn't be traveling to Washington If we needed dynamic leadership, the bizarre antics and extreme views of Díaz Sr. would harm the South Bronx and New York City, "a Bronx United spokesman said in a statement to CBS News.
Díaz Sr. may also benefit from being listed as "Rubén Díaz" without a junior or senior modifier on the ballot, which means that some people may not be sure which Rubén Díaz they support.
"I think the fact that he's on the ballot as 'Rubén Díaz' is trying to confuse people," said MP Michael Blake, another candidate in the race. "It's absolutely competitive, you can't ignore that, but like any campaign, you have to tell your own story."
Blake, who is also the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, is supported by several influential local unions. Blake was also supported by the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Ocasio-Cortez and the Democratic Socialists of America support community activist Samelys López. Other candidates are the former city council spokeswoman Melissa Mark-Viverito; City Councilor Ydanis Rodriguez; Chivona Newsome, co-founder of Black Lives Matter in the New York area; Tomas Ramos, program director at the Bronx River Community Center; and Frangell Basora, a former intern at Serrano.
An open convention seat in New York City is a unique opportunity for many young politicians, since several members of the New York delegation have been in the house for decades. Torres noted that some of the primary school candidates, including Blake, ran for the New York attorney in 2019, a position that was viewed as a springboard for the mayoral election.
"There are opportunistically elected officials who continue to run for higher office," said Torres. He also argued that "every insurgent believes they are the reincarnation of AOC".
Blake replied that "people will vote for anyone they vote for" and said that his "Belief in the Bronx" topic is "not just a one-liner, it's a true mindset".
Progressive candidates in neighboring congressional districts are becoming increasingly important. In addition to Ocasio-Cortez in the 14th district, the progressive candidate Jamaal Bowman presents the long-time incumbent Eliot Engel in the 16th congress district with a major challenge. In a region where winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to winning the election in November, anyone who prevails in these competitions could set the tone for the future of New York City politics.
"They have the poorest congressional district, the most diverse district, and the most democratic district in one. And New York-15 can demonstrate the country we go to, especially in urban America," said Blake.
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