Vol. 11, No. 17 Sept. 10 - 23, 1998


Rivera, Ramirez Face Primary Challenges


Three Democrats facing primary challenges, from left to right: Congressman Eliot L. Engel, Assemblyman Roberto Ramirez. and Assemblyman Peter M. Rivera

They may be little known and hard to find, but two Democrats are mounting primary challenges against incumbents in Fordham Bedford. Assemblyman Roberto Ramirez, who also heads the Bronx Democratic Party, will face off against Richard Soto, a former aide to former City Councilman Israel Ruiz, in the 78th Assembly District, which encompasses the other end of Fordham Bedford and most of Kingsbridge.

Assemblyman Peter Rivera is being challenged by Charles Serrano, an exterminator who has made something of a second career out of challenging Democratic incumbents, including Bedford Park State Sen. Efrain Gonzalez, Assemblymembers Ramirez and Aurelia Greene and City Councilwoman Lucy Cruz. All are still in office.

The primary election is Tues., Sept. 15.

For Ramirez' race, the assemblyman did not respond to several requests to discuss his re-election campaign. The Norwood News was unable to find a phone number for Soto.

Rivera Seeks Reelection

In an interview with the Norwood News, Assemblyman Peter M. Rivera (D), discussed his background and his positions. Following a stint as a New York City police officer, Rivera served in the Drug Enforcement Agency and then became an assistant district attorney for homicide. He was elected to the Assembly in 1992. "Peter is someone who I think has as diverse a background as any elected official," said Assemblyman Jeff Klein (D-Bedford Park).

Rivera opposes punitive measures for nonviolent drug offenders (known as the Rockefeller drug laws) and Gov. George S. Pataki's reinstatement of the state death penalty.

"We were petitioned by a whole slew of folks who thought the state shouldn't be taking a step backward," Rivera said. He believes there are unconstitutional aspects to the law that will not stand up in court.

"We should be looking at our system, not to punish people and not to excuse them, but to rehabilitate individuals who have screwed up," he said.

Regarding economic development, Rivera advocates the planned Business Improvement District on Fordham Road and is planting public seed projects which he hopes will become profitable and then move into private hands, including a cybercafé with coffee and online services in his district.

"All studies show inner city communities are not plugging into the Internet. Only 20 percent of inner city households have computers in their homes, whereas outside it's 40 percent," Rivera said. "It's really a question of economics. It's not a question of any cultures, traditions or morays."

"We want to incubate it for a year," he added. "After the year is up, we'll let it fly on its own."

Referring to Serrano's hapless record of running for public office, Rivera said his opponent had no real program for the 76th District.

"I don't think he is a candidate who is developing a specific agenda," Rivera said. "He's a person who is looking for a job."

The Norwood News was unable to locate Soto. Calls to allies of both Soto (Ramirez' opponent) and Serrano -- the South Bronx Democratic insurgent Pedro Espada, head of the Soundview Health Center, and his son, City Councilman Pedro Espada, Jr., -- were not returned.

Other Local Dems Get a Pass

Assemblymen Jeffrey Dinowitz and Jeffrey Klein, and State Senator Efrain Gonzalez, all Democrats, will have no challengers on the Sept. 15 primary ballot.

With no one else in his party opposing him, Democrat Henry Spallone, the former Yonkers mayor, will challenge Republican State Senator Guy Velella in November.

As we reported in our last issue, two Manhattan Democrats -- Daniel O'Donnell and Eric Schneiderman -- are vying to replace retiring state Senator Franz Leichter.

Congressman Eliot Engel, however, is facing a primary challenge from Co-op City resident Herbert Moreira-Brown.


Phone numbers

For polling information or to register to vote, call the New York City Board of Elections at 212-VOTE-NYC or the Bronx office at 299-9017.

To vote in the general election on Nov. 3, you must register by Oct. 14.



For information on the State Assembly:

For information on the State Senate:

For general information on the registration and voting process and on referenda that will appear on the ballot:

Click here for a list of 1998 Election Races

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