Councilwoman Gonzalez vows not to debate challenger Menchaca

Hook sinker? Red Hook Houses could be key to Gonzalez seat
Courtesy of Carlos Menchaca

Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez is accusing challenger Carlos Menchaca of distorting the nature of the work he did in her district following Hurricane Sandy — and is vowing not to engage with her rival unless he comes clean.

Gonzalez (D–Sunset Park) has alleged that the younger Democrat has depicted himself as a volunteer in the disaster relief effort in Red Hook — when in reality, he was on the ground there as a paid staffer of the New York City Council.

“Sara’s opponent has consistently misstated his claimed accomplishments and qualifications and failed to share with the voters that his work in Red Hook was on behalf of the Council,” said Gonzalez spokesman Michael Tobman.

Tobman said that Gonzalez would continue to refuse to attend debates with Menchaca — like the one she skipped on Aug. 22 — until the challenger admits the truth.

But Menchaca insists that he has always been up front about his role in the recovery — and that his presence as an aide to Council Speaker Christine Quinn was common knowledge in the storm-shattered neighborhood. The one-time staffer to Borough President Marty Markowitz also claimed that the incumbent never arrived on the scene.

“I was walking around, and people would say ‘There’s Carlos, he’s with the speaker,’ ” said Menchaca. “Sara Gonzalez did not show up.”

Tobman disputed Menchaca’s claim that Gonzalez was missing in action, and added an interesting twist — claiming that, since Menchaca was there as a council staffer, he was essentially representing for her as well.

“She was there, and was there by him being there,” said Tobman.

Both candidates have submitted photographs to this paper as evidence that they worked in Red Hook following the storm.

Besides Sunset Park and Red Hook, the contested district includes Windsor Terrace, Boerum Hill, Greenwood Heights, and parts of Bay Ridge and Borough Park. Gonzalez, who grew up in the district, entered office in 2003 after winning a special election to replace disgraced Councilman Angel Rodriguez. She is eligible to run again because she was in office when term limits were extended.

Menchaca, who grew up in El Paso, Texas, moved to the district in February after his work in the hurricane relief effort.

The Democratic primary is Sept. 10.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
Red-handed: Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez says Carlos Menchaca has not told the truth about his experience in Red Hook — and she won't debate him until he does.
Courtesy of Sara Gonzalez