Thursday, April 17, 2014

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Two Openly Gay Candidates Among Those Vying For Bronx City Council Seat

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Six candidates are running to fill a term-limited City Council seat in the 15th district in the Bronx. What's different about this race is the presence of openly gay candidates, a rarity in the borough. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

There has never been an openly gay member of the City Council or the state Legislature from the Bronx. Although it's the poorest borough, it also elects its share of socially conservative candidates.

Ritchie Torres, a staffer to Councilman James Vacca, is hoping to change that. He is openly gay and has won the endorsement of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

"I feel like it's a sign of changing times in the Bronx," Torres said. "We're becoming a more progressive borough, and I have hope for the future."

Torres, who has locked up much of the union support, is running against Joel Rivera, who shares the name of the councilman currently representing the district, even though they're not related. Rivera said that because of that confusion, he now makes an effort to include his middle initial in all campaign literature.

Rivera said he better represents the values of the community than his rivals.

"I respect everyone's ability to be who they want to be, but at the same token, I think I stand for a certain thing, being married, five children. the son of a pastor," Rivera said. "There are certain beliefs that I have that I feel that a lot of the constituents share."

Councilman Joel Rivera has thrown his support behind his chief of staff, Albert Alvarez, who is also running.

"Yes, the council member is endorsing me, and it has created some confusion," Alvarez said. "In some cases, the senior citizens are asking me why we're arguing and I'm running against the boss."

Cynthia Thomkins is the second openly gay candidate in the race. She is active on LGBT issues in the borough.

"You know, I've been openly gay for a long time," Thomkins said. "So to say I'm openly gay is almost like a surprise to me, because I've been living this life for a long time."

Attorney Raquel Batista is also running.

"I think there's a lot more that needs to be happening," Batista said. "We really need to feel the presence of our elected officials on a day-to-day basis."

The sixth candidate in this race is Joel Bauza, a minister. There was a seventh candidate, Kenny Augusto, a district leader who is also openly gay, but he failed to make the ballot and recently threw his support behind Alvarez. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP