Hear directly from the Democratic candidates running for two Assembly seats representing Throggs Neck, City Island and Pelham Bay (District 82) and Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Norwood (District 81), who sparred off in debates hosted by BronxTalk and co-sponsored by City Limits.
Voters will head to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in the first of two primary elections in New York this summer, with candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and State Assembly vying for their party’s space on the general election ballot in November (a second primary will take place Aug. 23 for the State Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, the result of a chaotic redistricting year).
In The Bronx, Assembly incumbents in at least two districts are facing competitive challenges. In the 82nd District, incumbent Michael Benedetto—who has held office since 2004, representing the neighborhoods of Throggs Neck, City Island and Pelham Bay—is up against minister and chef Al Quattlebaum and Jonathan Soto, a community organizer who campaigned for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“As a minister, as a business owner, I understand what we need in our community,” Quattlebaum said in his case to voters during June 13 debate on BronxNet’s BronxTalk, moderated by longtime host Gary Axelbank and co-sponsored by City Limits, Bronx Times, Norwood News and the League of Women Voters. “I have empathy for our district and it’s time that we have people that are empathetic,” Quattlebaum added.
Soto touted his community organizing experience, saying if elected he would focus on safe streets, education, mental health care access, education and the threat of climate change. “I’m a public school parent trained in law and urban planning, organizing to fight for those that have been most impacted and most adversely impacted by the series of crisis that are affecting us today,” he said.
Incumbent Benedetto, meanwhile, cited his long experience. “I think I’m the only candidate who has lived in this community, their whole life, as I have. I’ve worked for this community before I was even elected,” he said, pointing to projects like the Throggs Neck ferry and incoming Bronx MetroNorth stations as accomplishments he helped push for. “I know the people, I know the issues, I know the history of this area. And so I worked for this community. I participated in this community.”
In The Bronx’s Assembly District 81, longtime Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz—who’s represented the district in Riverdale, Norwood and Kingsbridge since 1994—is likewise facing a challenge, coming from the left. His rival is mutual aid organizer Jessica Altagracia Woolford, who has also earned AOC’s endorsement and has previously worked for the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
“I grew up in Kingsbridge and was raised by incredibly great and resilient women like my grandma who came from the Dominican Republic in the late 60s and was a home health aide for many, many years right here in this district,” Altagracia Woolford said. “She taught me that with faith, with hard work, with compassion and with care anything is possible in The Bronx.”
Dinowitz touted his roots as a tenant organizer and long history in the district. “This is my neighborhood, this is where I live, this is where I’ve chosen to raise my family,” he said. “When other people were leaving The Bronx, we chose to stay here and I don’t regret that for a second. People who left, they missed out on a lot.”
The candidates in both races went on to discuss and debate issues like the state budget, policing, bail reform, housing and more. Watch both conversations before heading out to the polls Tuesday.
Bronx 82nd Assembly District Democratic Debate: Michael Benedetto, Al Quattlebaum, Johnathan Soto
Bronx 81st Assembly District Democratic Debate: Jeffrey Dinowitz, Jessica Altagracia Woolford