Longtime incumbent New York State Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo captured 53 percent of the Democratic primary vote by late Thursday night., despite two spirited bids to unseat her. Challengers Maximino Rivera, a community activist, and Charles Serrano, a former police officer, split the remaining votes 25 percent to 22 percent.
Arroyo, whose campaign volunteers were not available for comment last night while votes were being tallied, will likely continue representing the 84thdistrict that includes Highbridge, Longwood, Melrose, Mott Haven, Port Morris and Hunts Point neighborhoods after election day Nov. 6. There has yet to be a Republican challenger for the seat.
Her opponents criticized her lengthy tenure that has not been free from scandal.
“She’s been there too long,” Rivera said of Arroyo. “It’s time for her to go.”
Both opponents faced challenges staying afloat in the race against Arroyo, whose ties to party politics are well established. The Rivera and Serrano camps said the Arroyo campaign unsuccessfully challenged the signatures on their petitions, which slowed down their campaign timetables.
“It’s a real battle just to get on the machine,” said Jose Velez, who was raised in the South Bronx and ran for male district leader of the Serrano campaign.
After getting past that hurdle, Rivera and Serrano focused on presenting alternatives to Arroyo. Rivera, a former Post Office employee and community organizer, ran a lively campaign. Rivera’s sister Maria Chompre said the campaign had a 30-person core comprised of family and friends. Rivera campaigned for Arroyo during a previous race, and said he did so only because he favored Arroyo over her opponent.
Serrano, who was part of the New York City Police Department for 25 years, campaigned on the promise to push for term limits for all state-level representatives. He also focused on housing, senior citizen issues and crime, with an emphasis on gun violence.
Both challengers are Vietnam veterans. Both complained that Arroyo has become complacent after almost two decades in office.
“Carmen was a very good activist, but for the last eight to ten years she’s been missing in action,” Rivera said.
Arroyo disclosed $4028 in campaign contributions. Rivera and Serrano did not file financial reports.
Low voter turnout did not help the challengers to Arroyo’s seat. Serrano said people’s focus lay elsewhere, even though the primary campaign was important because the results decided who would win this seat in the general election. “People want to vote, they don’t really know when they have to vote,” Serrano said, “They’re only thinking about November 6.”
For those who did make it to a polls, change was an important factor. Evelyn V. Figueroa, a nurse from the Melrose section of the Bronx, said she wanted to see crime decrease and access to housing and healthcare increase. She said she had not seen any improvements in these categories in the 10 years she has been living in the area.
“This is like a lottery game,” Figueroa said. “We’ll see what happens. I definitely hope there will be some change.