September 11, 2013 at 8:56 AM
By Alex Kratz
Ritchie Torres and Andrew Cohen, two of the most widely-endorsed and institutionally-backed candidates in the Bronx, sailed to easy victories in two hotly contested City Council Democratic primaries, according to early election votes released last night.
In the 11th Council District, which includes much of the northwest Bronx including Norwood, Riverdale, Woodlawn and parts of Wakefield, Bedford Park and Kingsbridge Heights, Cohen was backed by most Bronx officials, prominent mayoral candidates and an army of unions. Cohen, who was also endorsed by current Councilman Oliver Koppell, easily beat out Cliff Stanton, a businessman and local activist, taking 67.75 percent of the vote, compared to 32.25 for Stanton.
In the 15th Council District, which includes Fordham-Bedford, Belmont and parts Tremont, Crotona and West Farms, the 25-year-old Torres’ strong support from his former boss, east Bronx councilman Jimmy Vacca, launched his campaign into relevance early in the year.
On the campaign trail, he picked up the backing of most unions, several political groups and some high-profile Bronx officials on his way to emerging from a crowded group of Democratic candidates. Those candidates included current Councilman Joel Rivera’s chief of staff, Albert Alvarez, and another candidate whose name is Joel Rivera.
Torress took 36.05 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results released by the Board of Elections, while Joel Ray Rivera came in a distant second, with 21.8 percent. Cynthia Thompkins finished third with 20.74 percent of the vote and Alvarez took fourth with just 9.22 percent. Raquel Batista (7.30 percent) and the Rev. Joel Bauza (5.51 percent) also received votes.
Torres becomes the first openly gay candidate to win a Democratic primary in any major Bronx political race. He’s poised to become the borough’s first gay elected official.
Working independently of the candidates, Jobs for New York, a political action committee backed by the powerful real estate lobbying, played a big role in both the 11th and 15th District races, pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars on support for Torres and Cohen and against their opponents (in the 15th, that spending went against Joel R. Rivera).
Cohen, Torres and the other Democratic primary winners in City Council races — Fernando Cabrera (14th District), Vanessa Gibson (16th), Andy King (12th), Annabel Palma (18th) and Maria del Carmen Arroyo (17th) — are almost assured of winning the general election in November. In the Bronx, Democrats outnumber Republicans 11-1.
In perhaps the most competitive Democratic primary in the entire city, the Bronx’s 86th Assembly District, which includes University Heights and Morris Heights, Victor Pichardo holds a slim 64-vote lead over Hector Ramirez with 90 percent of precincts reporting. Two other candidates, Haile Rivera and Yudelka Tapia, are within six percentage points of Pichardo. The 86th District opened up when Nelson Castro resigned from office earlier this year.
Bill de Blasio easily took the Democratic primary for mayor, but it’s still unclear if he reached the 40 percent threshold to avoid a run-off with second-place candidate Bill Thompson. Council Speaker Christine Quinn finished a distant third.
For preliminary results in other city races, visit WNYC.org.
All of the results still need to be certified by the Board of Elections, which could take up to two weeks.
More on all of these races, including the scene at Torres’ victory party, coming soon.