Nydia Velázquez endorses city councilwoman in New York House race, bypassing a House colleague

POLITICS: Nydia Velázquez endorses city councilwoman in New York House race, bypassing a House colleague

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The Aug. 23 Democratic primary for an open House seat in New York City has attracted a who’s who of hopefuls, including a current congressman, a former congresswoman, a former two-term mayor and a handful of state lawmakers.

But when Representative Nydia Velázquez went looking for a candidate to endorse, she chose none of them.

On Friday, Ms. Velázquez will announce she is backing Carlina Rivera, a Manhattan councilwoman who is one of 15 candidates running for Congress in the new 10th District, which covers parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“I will help bring everything that I got to help her throughout the district,” Ms. Velázquez said on Thursday, speaking by phone from Washington.

“People, they call me ‘La Luchadora,’ the fighter,” she said. “And it’s not only Latinos calling me that way, young progressives. People in Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, they know I work hard for my community.”

Ms. Rivera is considered a rising Democratic star in New York City. Elected to the City Council from her Lower East Side district in 2017, she has championed resiliency measures along the East Side of Manhattan, supported the rezoning of SoHo and NoHo — two wealthy neighborhoods in Manhattan — and helped direct city funding to enhance abortion access for poor women from out of state.

But she may still be considered something of a long shot. Among those seeking the seat are Representative Mondaire Jones, who currently represents the 17th District, north of New York City; the ex-mayor Bill de Blasio; and Elizabeth Holtzman, a former congresswoman and city comptroller.

In an interview, Ms. Rivera said the endorsement gave her “an even clearer path to victory.”

“I didn’t come into this with $3 million in the bank or the name recognition of being a citywide leader who made a run for president,” she added, referring to Mr. Jones and Mr. de Blasio.

The endorsement represents a blow to similarly positioned progressive candidates in the race for Congress, including Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, of Lower Manhattan, and perhaps most of all to Mr. Jones, who decided not to seek re-election in his suburban New York district.

Following court-ordered redistricting, Mr. Jones apparently decided his best chance for re-election lay within the confines of New York City. He moved to the district last week.

“Rep. Jones refused to primary fellow Black progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman when his residence was drawn into Bowman’s district,” Bill Neidhardt, a spokesman for Mr. Jones’s campaign, said in a statement. “He also wanted to avoid a member-on-member primary with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.

“Rep. Jones lives in Carroll Gardens, has worked in and had formative experiences in Lower Manhattan, and has already been fighting for and delivering results for New Yorkers in Congress.”

Still, Ms. Velázquez questioned Mr. Jones’s political calculus.

“I’m sorry, why didn’t he run in the district that is a 9-plus Biden district,” she said, referring to Mr. Jones’s current district, which voted strongly for President Biden.

In April, New York’s highest court struck down as unconstitutional maps friendly to Democrats that were drawn by the State Legislature and ordered a neutral expert to quickly draft replacements.

The expert redrew the 10th Congressional District, which is currently held by Representative Jerrold Nadler, to include large swaths of Brownstone Brooklyn, a portion of the Orthodox Jewish community in Borough Park, as well as the East and West Village in Manhattan. Mr. Nadler opted to run in the 12th District against a longtime colleague, Representative Carolyn Maloney, creating a rare intraparty battle between two powerful committee chairs.

Ms. Velázquez will be joined in her endorsement by Antonio Reynoso, the Brooklyn borough president who said that the congresswoman’s support was instrumental in helping him win progressive votes in North Brooklyn, as well as Councilman Lincoln Restler.

“If Nydia is not endorsing you, it’s hard for you to make the claim that you’re the progressive candidate running in North Brooklyn,” Mr. Reynoso said.

Mr. Jones is not without supporters of his own.

“I like Carlina very much,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the retail workers union, which has endorsed Mr. Jones in the race. “But I don’t see any reason to remove Mondaire from the great role he’s playing in Congress, and I think it’s important for him to continue in that role.”

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