A changing of the guard is on tap for the first time in three decades in the South Bronx’s lone congressional district.
Ritchie Torres, the city council’s first openly gay member, survived a crowded and tightly contested primary in June to emerge as the Democratic candidate for the 15th congressional district, then cruised to an easy victory in the Nov. 3 general election. Torres received 136,471 votes, 84.10 percent of the total votes. Patrick Delices, running on the Republican and Conservative lines, got 18,198 votes, for 11.21 percent.
Torres will succeed Rep. Jose E. Serrano Sr., who has represented Hunts Point, Mott Haven and points north since he was first elected to the seat in 1990. Serrano Sr., who has Parkinson’s disease, announced last year that he is stepping down.
“The Bronx’s struggles have been my struggles,” Torres said in a Nov. 3 statement after the election was called. “Whether it’s growing up in public housing, clawing to make ends meet, or as someone who struggles with depression, this borough is my only priority in Congress.”
Torres highlighted his policy priorities in the statement, like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. Along with Hunts Point, Longwood, Mott Haven and Melrose, the district takes in High Bridge, Morrisania, East Tremont, Tremont, Morris Heights, University Heights, Belmont, Fordham, Bedford Park, West Farms, and parts of Soundview.
The blue trend didn’t stop there, however. State senators Jose M. Serrano Jr. and Luis Sepulveda, of the 29th and 32nd districts respectively, retained their seats without a fight. Serrano Jr. won 82 percent of the votes in his district, which includes Mott Haven and Melrose. Sepulveda won 85 percent of the vote in his district, which includes Hunts Point.
Serrano Jr., who was first elected in 2004, chairs the Senate Majority Conference and the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation. Sepulveda was first elected in 2018, and chairs the body’s committee on Crimes, Crime Victims and Corrections. He also serves on its Judiciary committee, as well as its Investigations and Government operations committee.
The stakes for the incumbents are high as they begin their second terms. Rep. Sepulveda expects he will have to grapple with a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in the hard hit South Bronx, while also juggling fallout from the state’s budget crisis.
“We have to figure out how we’re going to generate revenues for the state, so we have to consider taxing the wealthiest individuals in the state,” Sepulveda said. “We have a federal government that’s punishing New York State. So, unfortunately, we may have to tax the super wealthy in the State of New York in order for the State to function.”
He hopes a Democratic administration in Washington will ease the pain. Taxing the wealthy to remedy the state’s budget crisis seemed like a lone option to make up for revenue shortfalls, he said, days before Joe Biden officially won the presidential election.
Three Democrats representing Hunts Point and Mott Haven also won lightly contested Assembly races.