Opinion: I won big betting on this year’s primaries

Bronx City Councilman Ritchie Torres speaks during a news conference regarding the Kushner Companies in New York
Ritchie Torres ran an impressively successful campaign for congress in the South Bronx — and appears to have a comfortable lead as absentee ballots get counted.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

There was a primary election this week. Owing to the enormous number of unopened absentee ballots, many election results will not be clear for weeks. But most of the candidates I supported appear to have won, if we’re basing things off preliminary results.

This year, an unusual number of my favorite candidates were gay Black or Latino men, often running against many opponents. Samy Nemir-Olivares only ran against one, and so I shall discuss him first.

Nemir-Olivares is a brilliant and genuine young man, and a filmmaker who migrated from Puerto Rico less than a decade ago. Challenges to sitting district leaders are rarely successful. Nemir-Olivares ended up being endorsed by all the local politicians, like Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, and won over 62 percent of the Election Day vote — a huge achievement against an incumbent.

Nemir-Olivares did brilliantly and got so much support partly because he is amazing but also because so many people disliked his opponent. It is the opinion of this columnist but not the Brooklyn Paper that Tommy Torres is a scumbag who was responsible for my being knocked off the ballot in the middle of a pandemic. Many in north Brooklyn are glad to see the back of him.

Jabari Brisport appears to have won a three-way election for an open seat representing central Brooklyn in the State Senate and recently vacated by Velmanette Montgomery. Although Brisport is gay, many LGBTQ+ organizations endorsed one of his straight opponents. Although Brisport’s family has lived incCentral Brooklyn for three generations, he was accused by supporters of the other opponent of being the outsiders’ tool.

The support and opposition to Brisport were so vehement because he is a socialist. Although some elections’ outcomes across Brooklyn may shift when the absentee ballots are counted, Brisport is currently thousands of votes ahead of his main opponent, and poised to join Julia Salazar as the second socialist — also a millennial, also a Brooklynite — in the State Senate next year.

Ritchie Torres ran an impressively successful campaign for congress in the South Bronx against a number of opponents. Like Salazar and Brisport, he attended a fancy New York college in the last fifteen years. Like Brisport, he went to NYU. Like Salazar, he didn’t graduate. Torres is brilliant and has been dazzling people since he became the Bronx’s first openly gay councilman in 2013.

Torres’ campaign faced a notorious homophobe, Ruben Diaz, Sr. — who shares a name with his son, the popular borough president of the Bronx — and literally ten other opponents. Torres argued his campaign was the only one who could beat Diaz. It helped that he was the perfect foil. Probably, former supporters of Samelys Lopez and Melissa Mark-Viverito switched to Torres to prevent Diaz’s victory. 

In the end, Diaz took third and Assemblyman Mike Blake took second on Election Night. Torres appears to have received twice as many votes as Diaz. But how could Torres have known? In the fog of war of a campaign, you don’t know how close your opponents are so you run as hard as you can.

Nick Rizzo is a Democratic District Leader representing the 50th Assembly District and a political consultant who lives in Greenpoint. Follow him on Twitter @NickRizzo.