Tag Archive | "Election 2010"

The Bronx loves Obama… still

Video by David Patrick Alexander and Elettra Fiumi.

Bronx voters bucked the national trend at the polling booths during Tuesday’s midterm elections, rallying behind President Barack Obama even as they expressed concerns about rising unemployment and the faltering economy. The majority of 300 voters interviewed by Bronx Ink reporters at 29 polling stations Nov. 2 said they voted for the Democrats on the ballot in large part because they wanted to show their support for the president. Many believed that the halfway point was too early to judge his presidency. “I think he’s doing good,” said Maritza Rivera, who voted in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. “There’s too much pressure on him; somebody else would have just passed out already.” An engineer at St. Joseph’s School of Yorkville in Manhattan said he sympathized with the heavy burden born by the nation’s first black president. “He has resolved a little bit of the problems created by Bush,” said Jose Quinonez, as he voted in Belmont. “His hair is white now.” Nationally, the Republican Party took control of the House of Representatives and is expected win a number of state gubernatorial races previously held by Democrats. Control of the seats in the U.S. Senate, as of 10 p.m. Tuesday, was still in the balance. In New York State, 13 Congressional seats are being contested. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo beat Republican Tea Party candidate Carl Paladino in a tighter than expected race for governor. But in the Bronx, where nearly 90 percent of the population is non-white, many continued to vote Democratic down the line and hoped the party would keep the momentum it gained in 2008, when 89 percent of borough voters cast ballots for Obama. “I’m concerned about Republicans gaining control over the House,” said Barbara Curran, who voted in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. “They’re going to make getting President Obama out of office their mission.” For some supporters, the rising national dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party and the Obama administration added extra incentive to get to a polling booth early in the morning. One Fordham voter said Obama needs confidence from his supporters to implement the changes he promised in the 2008 campaign. “There’s a lot of excess baggage he walked into,” said Perneter McClary. “A lot of times when he tries to get something done, nobody wants to help him. And he can’t do it alone.” But for others, the President still had a long way to go. “I still support him,” said Floyd Sykes of Highbridge, “but not as enthusiastically. Like a lot of people, I wish he’d show some emotion, get mad.” The staggering unemployment rate in Bronx County also prompted many Bronxites to head to the polls. With the latest unemployment figures putting the number of jobless in the borough at 12.5 percent - almost 5 percent higher than Manhattan, according to the State Department of Labor - the economy was an issue for many voters. “I’ve been unemployed for two years,” said Darlene Cruz who voted today in Soundview. “I voted Democrat down the line.” Other issues raised by voters included health care, education, mayoral term limits, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, immigration and gay rights. "I care about maternal health and getting money for schools," said Carmen Mojica outside St. Brendan School in the Norwood section of The Bronx. "I really didn't care about the propositions. I honestly couldn't care less about arguing over term limits. We could be voting for more important things." Beverly Scriven, a Jamaican immigrant who turned up to vote in Soundview just as the polls opened at 6 a.m., said health care was on her mind. "I care about the economy and Medicare. We're seniors, so it affects us more than the youngsters. Regardless of the issues, we'll come out and vote. It's a privilege." On the State level, gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo was popular in the Bronx - even among the Bronx Ink survey’s few staunch Republicans. Williamsbridge resident and Republican Anna Presume said she voted for Cuomo because she liked his stance on crime. “I like Cuomo ... I didn’t vote for him just because he’s good looking,” she laughed. Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for governor, was vilified for his offensive statements about gay people during his campaign, words that may cost him votes. When asked if he had voted for Paladino, East Crotona Park resident Winston Collymore, who does not vote along party lines, replied, “Do you think I am crazy? Do I look crazy?”
Bronx Voters Sound Off: Why I came out to vote? “Right now the city never takes care of us,” said Iqbal Chowdhury, 55, from Norwood. “Robberies are way up. We don’t have enough police support.” “I woke up at 5 a.m., and thought I should make history,” said Chevonne F. Johnson, 43, from East Tremont. “United we stand, divided we fall. That’s why I’m voting today.” “I’m 53 and I’ve never seen it this bad,” said Lisa from Prospect Avenue, who did not want to reveal her last name.  “I got laid off from Department of Homeless Services and now I can’t find a job in this economy.” “I came to vote so I can help keep Republicans from ruining the country,” said William Byne, 56. “Trickle down doesn’t work.” “I always vote,” said Ousmane Bah, 49, from Grand Concourse. “People get killed for the right to vote, you have to come use it.” Do I think Obama is doing a good job? “I think that instead of a bag of gold, he got a bag of dirty laundry,” said Adam King, 36, a Board of Elections coordinator in Castle Hill but lives in Throgs Neck. “We can’t blame Obama for our problems since they came before him. And they’ll probably be here after him.” “It may take more than ten years to fix all this mess,” said Sidney Ellis, 73, from East Tremont. “I want him to take his time and do everything right,” said Natasha Williams, 25, from Tiebout Avenue. “I don’t want him to rush because of what other people said...He’s got eight years to clean up.” “He has no experience. He’s not fit to be president,” said Robert Healy, 49, from Fordham. “A painter doesn’t paint a house unless he’s got experience. I didn’t vote for him before, and I won’t vote for him in 2012.” “I think he’s doing a good job... There’s always going to be crises coming up,” said Luis Padilla, 45. “There’s more eyes on him because he’s the first black president.” What party did I vote for? “I never voted Republican in my life, and I’ve been voting a very long time,” said Kitty Lerin, 63, from Riverdale. “I think the tea party is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing for the Republicans,” said Luis Agostini, 38, from Fordham. “I’m for Cuomo, not Paladino,” said Ziph Hedrington, 43, from Melrose. “Paladino is somebody who I just didn’t trust. He seemed ‘gangsterish’ to me.” “For me, I don’t need to know the candidates,” said Jennifer Clery, 50, from Mott Haven. “I want a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate, a Democratic everything.” What do I think about gay rights? “It’s getting a little crazy out there,” said Anthony McDonald, 56, from Grand Concourse. “I do what I have to do.  I’m from the old school.  Whatever you do is your private business, but it shouldn’t be on TV.” “I think gay rights are being used to get more votes,” said Anthony Neal, 50. “I don’t think any politician cares whether a person is gay or not.” “You should allow people to be who they are,” said Chevone F. Johnson, 43, from East Tremont. “It’s not our job to judge each other. That’s God’s job to judge.” “Friends of mine are suffering those problems due to the restrictions and the violence,” said Yvonne Long. “It affects everyone, it affects all of us.” “I don’t care about gays,” said Bertram Ferrer, 69, from Fordham. “I retired from the military and I believe in ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’.”
Additional reporting by David Alexander, Elisabeth Anderson, Alexander Besant, Elettra Fiumi, Amara Grautski, Nick Pandolfo, Catherine Pearson, Connie Preti, Irasema Romero, Zach Schonbrun, Yardena Schwartz, Yiting Sun and Caitlin Tremblay.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Election 2010, Politics, Special ReportsComments (1)

A fifth term for Diaz

Senator Diaz was out of the office on election day. Photo: Yardena Schwartz

Diaz was out of the office on election day. Photo: Yardena Schwartz

Bronx voters proved the power of incumbency on Tuesday, re-electing the Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr., an outspoken opponent of gay rights, to serve a fifth consecutive term as state senator. The veteran Democrat's re-election by an overwhelming majority comes amidst violent attacks on New York’s gay community and a public outcry against anti-gay hate crimes, the most brutal of which occurred in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx on Oct. 3. Diaz took the 32nd District by an overwhelming 94 percent margin over his opponent, Michael Walters — a slight dip from his 99 percent victory in 2008, but a sign that voters cared more about party loyalty than Diaz’s anti-gay stance. That’s a contrast to Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for governor, who was vilified for his statements about gays during his campaign, words that may have hurt him in the race against Democrat Andrew Cuomo, which he lost by a 27 percent margin. Yet Diaz’s controversial stance on gay issues did not appear to present a similar hurdle to his quest for another two years in office. Of dozens of Bronx voters interviewed Tuesday, many distanced themselves from his extreme beliefs, yet voted for him nonetheless. “Everybody has the right to choose who they want to love and spend their life with,” said Darlene Cruz, 53, of Soundview. “I don’t really care for Diaz, but I voted Democrat down the line.” The wave of recent hostility against the gay community included the Oct. 3 hate crime, in which members of the Latin King Goonies allegedly tortured three Bronx men they suspected of being gay; the beating of two gay men at Julius Bar, New York’s oldest gay bar; and an attack on a gay man at the historic Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 riots largely credited with starting the modern gay rights movement. These incidents came after the highly publicized suicides of five gay teens across the country, among them Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, who jumped off of the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22. Diaz, who is a Pentecostal minister at the Christian Community Neighborhood Church on Longfellow Avenue, has 17 siblings, two of whom are gay. He released a statement days after suspects were arrested in the Bronx hate crime, condemning the attack but not the bias that motivated it. The omission sparked outrage from the gay community, which blamed the attack, in part, on Diaz’s own rhetoric. Diaz’s office declined to respond to several requests for an interview. In the past, Diaz, the father of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., has called homosexuality an “abomination” and likened it to bestiality. He has also been the face of the opposition to same-sex marriage in the State Senate, blocking a May 2009 bill sponsored by Gov. David Paterson that would have legalized gay marriage in New York. If Bronx residents were dismayed by the senator’s remarks, however, it did not change their vote. “He’s entitled to his beliefs,” said Parkchester resident Lloyd Mitchell, 65. “I might not agree with everything he does, but I’ll still vote for him because he’s a Democrat.” Diaz has long benefited from wide support from senior citizens because of his role as chair of the Senate Aging Committee. His campaign this year focused on blocking tax cuts in order to balance the budget. Such work has struck a chord with Bronx voters, who did not seem to share the widespread dissatisfaction with incumbents that has surfaced in other parts of the country. “He does a lot for the community, especially the seniors,” said Marilyn Villanueva, 37, of Castle Hill. Seventy-eight-year old Antonia Rosado affirmed that sentiment: “He’s one of ours,” she said, adding, “He’s been here a long time so he has experience.” It may be Diaz’s connection to an older and more conservative constituency that has kept him in office. The most recent poll of New Yorkers on the legalization of same-sex marriage, from May 2009, showed a wide gap between support within younger and older generations. According to the Quinnipiac University poll, only 37 percent of New Yorkers older than 55 favor legalization, compared with 61 percent of those younger than 34. “He has a certain amount of Latino voters that are older and tend to be more conservative on social issues,” said West Farms resident James Goodridge, 50. “As long as he has them, he’s not going anywhere soon.” Last Tuesday, a rally outside Bronx Supreme Court gathered community activists who voiced their concern over the Morris Heights anti-gay hate crime. While there, they used bullhorns to vehemently denounce Diaz’s outspoken opposition to gay rights. But a week later, the polls revealed that his stance was not a factor in voters’ decision to keep him in office. While his positions on gay issues are controversial in light of recent incidents, they are not shocking to the voters who have come to know him. “He’s a Pentecostal preacher who doesn’t agree with gay marriage,” said Adam King, 36, of Throgs Neck. “For the gay community to fight about it only increases his defensiveness. The more they protest and criticize him, the more he wants to dig in.”

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Polling snafus persist for some Bronx voters

Adam King, a poll worker at P.S. 123 in Melrose, waits outside to welcome voters. Photo: Yardena Schwartz

Adam King, a poll worker at P.S. 123 in Melrose, waits outside to welcome voters. Photo: Yardena Schwartz

Tiny font, scanner problems, and privacy complaints topped the list of Bronx voter-reported gripes during Tuesday’s general election. Voters said the new electronic scanners caused less confusion this time compared to the chaos of September’s primary, but they were still far from perfect. Soundview seniors complained that they couldn’t read the small type, while Mott Haven voters said the ballots were too big for the scanners.  Still other voters in Fordham were put off when asked to hand their ballots to poll workers prior to placing them in the scanners, potentially compromising their privacy. “I thought the older version was better,” Sharon Walker, 47, of Highbridge, said of the new ballots, expressing a concern shared by many who hoped they had left ballot-related confusion behind in the primary.  “There’s too many steps.  The words on the paper were too small.  The workers seemed lost too, they weren’t very helpful.” The 2010 election marks New York State’s debut for the electronic paper ballots, replacing the old lever polling booths.  The new method was designed to streamline voting and increase efficiency in tallying results. However, the new machines faced so much criticism in September that Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the primary “a royal screw-up.”  The city received numerous complaints about the ballot’s typeface, confusing instructions, and non-working scanners. When the Board of Elections failed to sufficiently address the problems in time for the general election, Bloomberg took action last week, firing Board of Elections chief George Gonzalez. “Mr. Gonzalez screwed up!” said City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell who represents portions of the north Bronx.  Of the firing, he added “It’s probably a good thing.” Even with the firing at the top, there were fewer complaints on Tuesday than on primary day, according to Marjorie Lindblom, a lawyer working with the Election Protection Committee, a group that fields complaint calls. Still, a smattering of on-site snafus made for a challenging general election day in the Bronx and across the city. The election committee reported a number of issues ranging from broken polling machines to unprepared workers from Brooklyn, the Upper East Side and into the Bronx.  The Bronx Ink conducted exit interviews at 29 sites throughout the borough, and participants at a majority of them reported system-related problems. The most common complaint was that the paper ballot was difficult to read.  “I don’t think the forms were user friendly,” said Courtney Foster, 42, of Norwood.  “And I didn’t see anyone there to help you.”  Donald Lundy, 65, also of Norwood, said the layout of the ballot was “a bit too congested.” The next step – walking the paper ballots over to an electronic scanner –  was not a voter favorite.  “I thought the voting machines stunk,” griped Ruth Lentz of Riverdale.  Lentz, who is 89, who has never missed an election, lamented the loss of the lever system. In some neighborhoods, voters had to wait for workers to deal with glitches. In Mott Haven, one of the two polling machines at the Carmen Parsons Senior Center did not work until 7 a.m.  Problems persisted later in the day when some ballots were not cut properly and did not fit in the scanners.  “The first form that they gave me, it was bigger than the space,” she Maria Pena, 32, of Melrose.  Pena had to toss out her first ballot and fill in a second. Voters also lamented the new lost privacy.  In the old lever system, voters cast their ballots in a curtain-enclosed booth. In the electronic system, voters hand their paper ballot to a worker to scan.  “Some people thought maybe workers were looking at their ballots while they scanned them,” Lindblom said. “It’s not private enough,” said Perneter McClary, 64, of Fordham, who missed the old booths.  “Before, the curtains guarded you and you were alone.” In addition, in neighborhoods such as Highbridge and Williamsbridge, lines of residents snaked outside polling sites.  Also in Williamsbridge, the polling site at P.S. 78 opened 20 minutes late because security guards wouldn’t let poll workers inside on time. In Soundview, Freedom Party campaign workers handed out flyers just outside of P.S. 93, in violation of a prohibition against campaigning close to the polling site; they remained on the premises for more than two hours, before they left on their own. Unprepared poll workers were the source of some complaints, albeit fewer than Lindblom anticipated. The executive director of the New York City League of Women Voters explained that poll workers were trained to instruct voters to turn over their ballot to see two propositions on the back.  They were also trained to correct the incorrect voting instructions printed on the ballot.  His colleague said she was not confident workers would act consistently.  “I think the really underreported story is the personnel,” said Kate Duran, chair of the League’s city affairs committee. Duran, who was coordinating a polling site in Brooklyn, said some of her workers didn’t show up because they would have to work from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Koppell wondered on the eve of the election if the small cadre of poll workers was up to the task of handling the complicated system.  “It requires going to one place, then taking the ballot to a second place to fill it out, and to a third place to have it counted,” he said.  “I’m very nervous.” Elected officials and advocacy groups said they will continue to push for needed reforms. In the meantime, Bronx voters are taking the new system in stride. “We’ll get used to it,” said Darlene Cruz, 53, of Soundview.  “But I didn’t understand what I was doing.” Exit polls and additional reporting by the Bronx Ink staff.

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