The left-leaning Working Families Party will endorse progressive candidate Marcela Mitaynes in the upcoming race for Sunset Park’s assembly seat — hoping to oust Félix Ortiz, who had held the post for that past 25 years, the political organization exclusively told Brooklyn Paper.
“Marcela is centering working families, immigrants and communities of color — and we’re proud to fight for her on the campaign trail this year,” said Sochie Nnaemeka, New York State director for the leftist group. “In 2018, the WFP helped build a true Democratic majority in Albany — and we’re working to guarantee a true Progressive majority as well.”
Mitaynes, who moved from Peru to Sunset Park when she was five, says she was inspired to enter the race after years of community organizing and activism, and hopes her potential perch in the state’s lower chamber will allow her to advance the causes she holds dearest — particularly housing reform.
“Housing is my main issue,” said the upstart pol, who organizes with the tenant advocacy group Neighbors Helping Neighbors. “I’m seeing people who’ve been living here for 40, 50 years on fixed income being displaced.”
Mitaynes, who has herself faced eviction, believes that greedy landlords and corporations have replaced many of the neighborhood’s conscientious landlords who were more sympathetic to their tenants’ needs.
“There used to be small-time landlords who realized that they had a good tenant, and were willing to work with them,” she said.
The would-be assemblywoman singled out a bill, championed by fellow Brooklynite Julia Salazar in the state Senate, that would prevent landlords from evicting market-rate tenants without showing “good cause” as an example of the type of legislation she would champion in Albany.
She also notes her support for designating New York a “sanctuary state,” which would hamper the ability of federal border agents to deport undocumented residents — a cause important to Sunset Park’s heavily immigrant community.
The Working Families Party endorsement gives Mitaynes a boost in the crowded field that includes two other progressive insurgents, Genesis Aquino and Katherine Walsh, in their quest to take down the scandal-scarred Ortiz in June’s Democratic primary.
Ortiz, who took office in 1995, was embroiled in a months-long controversy after his one-time chief of staff plead guilty to embezzling $80,000 in campaign funds in October.
The longtime assemblyman has also come under fire for failing to attend community events and remaining silent during crises, such as the immigration raids that swept the community last summer.
“He’s not present in the district,” said Jessica Thurston, the vice president of political affairs for the reformist group, New Kings Democrats. “He doesn’t advocate for residents in his district who are being targeted by ICE raids.”
It’s possible for a progressive candidate to unseat Ortiz, Thurston theorized, but she worries that the three separate insurgents may split the progressive vote and allow Ortiz to squeeze by.
“We hope all the challengers come together,” she said.
The Working Families Party, however, argued that Mitaynes’ growing support, which includes an endorsement from the Democratic Socialists of America, gives her the push she needs to unify progressive voters.
“Along with the Working Families Party’s full support, Marcela has the backing of numerous additional progressive organizations and activists, and an army of volunteers that have hit thousands of doors already,” Nnaemeka said. “It’s clear Marcela is now the progressive frontrunner — and the only candidate with the grassroots movement needed to win.”