After a Month of Cautious Humility, Ritchie Finally Claims Victory!

Ritchie Torres is the apparent Democratic nominee for Congress in the Bronx's deep blue 15th District after expanding his lead during the mail-in vote count.
New York City Council/ Jeff Reed

How does Congressmember Ritchie Torres sound?

Weeks after establishing an early lead in the Democratic primary race for New York’s 15th Congressional District, out gay City Councilmember Ritchie Torres has pulled away from the competition and declared victory, solidifying a primary election night result that saw two candidates from districts in New York on the verge of becoming the first out gay men of color elected to Congress.

Counting mail-in votes, Torres has 37.81 percent, more than 20 points ahead of second-place candidate Samelys Lopez in the Bronx race, while out gay candidate Mondaire Jones of Northern Westchester and Rockland County expanded his already-formidable lead in the 17th Congressional District by the time the Associated Press declared him the victor in his crowded competition last week.

“The counting is all but over,” Torres wrote in a tweet July 22. “On Primary Day, we were ahead by 4,516 votes. As of yesterday evening, our lead had grown to 7803 (far larger than the # of uncounted ballots). Even if our nearest rival were to win every single one, we would remain ahead by a wide margin.”

He added, “I want to thank the voters of NY15, as well as my supporters here and elsewhere, for entrusting me with the Democratic nomination. Looking forward to fighting for the essential workers and mothers of the South Bronx. Stay tuned!”

The victories by Torres and Jones were accompanied by LGBTQ wins down the ballot by a Brooklyn state senate candidate and a slew of Democratic district leader contenders.

Jones responded to Torres’ tweet, congratulating him on his victory and saying that “the American people will be better off when you bring your forceful advocacy and commitment to justice to the House.”

“Looking forward to causing ‘good trouble’ with you, my brother,” Torres responded, invoking the words of the late civil rights icon Congressmember John Lewis, who died July 17 at the age of 80.

While there are still more than three months remaining until the general election, Torres is all but guaranteed to win in an overwhelmingly blue district, while Jones’ 17th Congressional District, long served by retiring Representative Nita Lowey, also boasts a strong registration advantage for Democrats.

Mondaire Jones, the winner of the Democratic primary in NY-17, is preparing to make history alongside Ritchie Torres as the first out gay men of color in New York’s congressional delegation.Twitter/ Mondaire Jones

Torres is poised to become the first out gay Afro-Latinx member of Congress, while Jones is on track to be the first out gay Black member of Congress. The pair would join Congressmembers Mark Takano of California, a Japanese American, and Sharice Davids of Kansas, who is Native American, as the only out LGBTQ people of color elected to Congress.

Among the region’s other lingering congressional races, 16-term Representative Eliot Engel, of the Bronx and Wetchester, conceded to progressive insurgent Jamaal Bowman, while 14-term Representative Carolyn Maloney, who represents portions of Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, is in the midst of a tight bid for re-election against challenger Suraj Patel.

Elsewhere in the June primary, State Senate candidate Jabari Brisport of Brooklyn jumped out to an early lead that put him on the cusp of becoming the first out LGBTQ Black member of the State Legislature. With most of the mail ballots counted, Brisport claimed victory on July 23.

Out trans State Assembly candidate Kristen Browde of Westchester conceded her race to Chris Burdick, who narrowly defeated her in the 93rd Assembly District; and out queer Assembly candidate Genesis Aquino of Brooklyn fell far short in a race that saw incumbent Felix Ortiz get toppled by challenger Marcela Mitaynes.

Primary night featured important gains  for local district leader candidates. Within days of the start of the count of the mail-in ballots, congratulatory tweets celebrated the  victory of out trans Democratic district leader candidate Melissa Sklarz of Queens, who had trailed her opponent in the in-person primary day vote in Assembly District 30, Part B.

The Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City tweeted, “After absentee ballots were counted it’s now clear that @MSKLARZ has won her primary election for Female District Leader in AD-30!!”

Emilia Decaudin, another out trans Queens district leader candidate, who took the lead in the in-person vote tally, claimed victory on July 23 in Assembly District 37, Part A. She and Sklarz will be the city’s first out trans district leaders.

Out queer district leader candidates Samy Nemir-Olivares built up a commanding 25.5 percent lead over opponent Tommy Torres in the in-person total for the 53rd Assembly District in Brooklyn, and claimed victory on July 23. Out gay district leader candidate Zachariah Boyer of Queens held a 300-vote lead following the in-person vote, and he too claimed victory on July 23, in Assembly District 36, Part B..

In Brooklyn’s 51st Assembly District, out queer Latinx district leader candidate Julio Peña III cruised to a decisive lead on primary day and has claimed the win, while Justin Westbrook-Lowery, an out gay Black district leader hopeful in the Bronx’s Assembly District 87 who led by 572 votes after the in-person votes were counted, has also declared victory.

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[Editor’s note: This story has been updated since its original posting on July 22 to reflect the results in Jabari Brisport’s State Senate contest and in several Democratic district leader races.]

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