Few Surprises on Primary Day

Eric Gonzalez (center) celebrated his campaign victory at the Williamsburg Hotel surrounded by his wife Dagmar (second from left), his three sons and Lu-Shawn Thompson (right), the widow of the late Ken Thompson. (Photo by Rob Abruzzese via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

With Mayor Bill de Blasio capturing 74% of the vote, widely outdistancing his closest rival, Sal Albanese, in the Sept. 12 primary, the lack of drama at the top of the ticket ensured that voter turnout was low across the city. De Blasio, Public Advocate Letitia James and many New York City Council members who faced challengers glided to easy victory – which, in this mostly Democratic city, means their victory is assured in the general election in November as well. The closest race for an incumbent was in Manhattan’s District 1, where Margaret Chin held onto a slim lead of about 200 votes the morning after the primary, before all the absentee ballots were counted. In Brooklyn, acting district attorney Eric Gonzalez easily clinched the closely-watched and crowded race.

Meanwhile, across the city in contests to replace term-limited council members, candidates favored because of their affiliation with previous officeholders appeared to get the nod. In Manhattan’s District 2, Carlina Rivera, former staffer to term-limited Rosie Mendez, easily got the nod of the Democratic party with more than 60 percent of the vote, The Villager reported.  [However, The Villager did note an upset in the smaller race for district leader, dubbing it “a crushing blow to former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s Truman Democratic Club.]

Justin Brannan, a former staffer of Vincent Gentile [who was term-limited and ran for Brooklyn DA], won the Democratic nomination for the 43rd District seat with 38.8 percent of the vote, with Rev. Khader El-Yateem coming in second with 31 percent of the vote. In the November election for the Bay Ridge seat, Brannan will face off against Republican John Quaglione – who in the early hours of voting “also experienced bouts of primary panic,” according to Kadia Goba of Kings County Politics, but finished comfortably ahead of his rivals.

The contest to take the council seat held by Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose District 8 spans both East Harlem and parts of the South Bronx, was close – but Diana Ayala, who served as Mark-Viverito’s deputy chief of staff, appeared to edge out Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez.

Gonzalez’s victory, against a lineup that included other attorneys in the DA’s office, made him Brooklyn’s first Latino district attorney. Rob Abruzzese reports on the results in Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Gonzalez, 48, never had political aspirations prior to the death of the late DA Thompson in October 2016. Despite the fact that Thompson handpicked Gonzalez to run the agency in his absence, there was speculation that his lack of political experience could hurt him if he decided to run officially for office.

All candidates in the race tried to ride the coattails of Thompson, including [Vincent] Gentile, who endorsed Thompson’s opponent in the 2013 DA race. However, Gonzalez benefitted from Thompson’s widow Lu-Shawn Thompson coming out early in the race to endorse him.

“Ken, her husband, was a transformational figure in this city, in criminal justice, and for her to believe that I could carry on in his footsteps and carry that baton to make this city the kind of place that Ken believed we could be — I won’t let you down, Lu-Shawn,” Gonzalez said.

Supporters with Carlos Menchaca at his victory party Tuesday night. (Photo by Jaime DeJesus via Brooklyn Reporter)

Council races in Brooklyn produced few surprises. In Sunset Park, incumbent Carlos Menchaca garnered 4,102 votes (48.6 percent) to Assembly member Felix Ortiz’s 2,777 votes (32.9 percent). The community “came out today and said yes to the things that we are doing,” Menchaca was quoted in Brooklyn Reporter as saying. And he made it clear that larger issues are at stake.

After thanking his supporters and volunteers, Menchaca focused on the present and future of the district and political climate. “These last two weeks have been really difficult,”he said. “The president has continued to attack us. DACA was a cruel decision. Hurricanes continue to pummel the lands that some of us that have families in. Today, I am happy but I’m also feeling affirmed. We started this movement not four months ago, but four years ago.”
In the Bronx, Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj and incumbent Fernando Cabrera secured the Democratic nominations for the 13th and 14th District council seats, respectively. But Gjonaj’s victory was slim, reports Norwood News, in an especially costly race:

With nearly $700,000 in contributions, Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, representing Norwood, set a new record on cash spent in a City Council race since the New York City Campaign Finance Board started keeping track in 1989.

The cash flush paid off, with Gjonaj winning the Democratic nomination for the 13th Council District with 38 percent of the vote, securing a victory by the slimmest of margins over challenger Marjorie Velazquez, who secured 34 percent of the vote. Velazquez did not return calls seeking comment.

“That’s what $700,000 buys?” a Bronx political insider opined to the Norwood News.

The race was crowded, with four Democrats vying for the open seat that covers a large terrain of the East Bronx, stretching from Morris Park to City Island. Total spending for the 13th Council District seat surpassed $1 million, making it the costliest council race of 2017. The challengers sought the seat held by Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who is term-limited.

In Queens, Council member Peter Koo handily beat back a challenge from Alison Tan, QNS reports. And read about the disappointment among supporters of Hiram Monserrate, attempting a comeback against Francisco Moya to represent Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst on the City Council.

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