Vol. 14, No. 15    July 26 - August 29, 2001 


Rivera and Ortiz Back in the Ring


Councilman Joel Rivera and community activist Edwin Ortiz, Jr. will face off once again on Sept. 11 in the Democratic primary for City Council in the 15th District. Last February, Rivera beat Ortiz in a special election for the district, which covers Fordham Bedford, Belmont, Crotona and Tremont.

Ortiz says he's ready for a rematch. "I decided to run again because the people of the 15th District want to see a change," he said. "... We laid the groundwork down in the early election. So people are already familiar with my candidacy."

Norwood resident Winston Rouse, a lawyer and former New York City police officer, is also a candidate. He describes himself as "a fresh face," not beholden to any political club or alliance.

Rivera has the political and financial backing of the Bronx Democratic Party. Ortiz has teamed up with south Bronx state senator Pedro Espada, a chief opponent of the county's Democratic organization.

Both Ortiz and Rouse say that Rivera won the special election through help from his father, who held the Council seat his son now holds until he decided to run for a vacant Assembly seat. They also charge that, at 23 years old, Rivera is too young to represent the district. "You need experience in life in order to lead," Rouse said.

But Rivera is confident of his abilities in representing the district. He cited that he was able to secure $1.17 million for Poe Park and over a million dollars for Crotona Park in the latest budget approved by the City Council and the mayor.

Rivera feels he has an advantage this election, since he is running in a Democratic primary, as compared to a multi-party contest in the special election. "I have the full support of almost everyone in the Democratic community," he said.

But Ortiz says many Democrats are behind him, and others are changing their minds. The Fordham Belmont Independent Democratic Club, for instance, is endorsing Ortiz for City Council, even though it backed Rivera in February.

Ortiz is optimistic about his chances this time around. "We have significant name recognition in this community," he said. "We're knocking on doors, talking to people in churches and community centers. A lot of people know who I am and they feel honored that someone they choose to vote for is knocking on their doors."

Ortiz has been a housing and youth activist and now runs an organization that helps navigate bureaucracies. Rouse, who operates a law practice in the Bronx, is a newcomer to the political arena.

So far, Rivera is winning the money race. According to the New York City Campaign Finance Board, Rivera has raised over $18,500 and Ortiz has only raised $3,440.

Ortiz is confident nonetheless. He pointed to the results of the special election, which Rivera won with 54 percent to Ortiz' 40 percent. "It's a clear sign the Democratic Party organization is not as strong," he said. "All the power-based individuals should have made it that he won by a landslide and that didn't happen."

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