City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca announced his bid for re-election on Saturday to the tune of torrential rain and a dedicated constituent base as rumors grow that Assemblymember Feliz Ortiz may challenge him.
Menchaca (D-Red Hook, Sunset Park) made the announcement at El Arco Restaurant, 5719 5th Avenue in Sunset Park with his political mentor, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn, Lwer Manhattan, Queens) and City Councilmember Brad Lander (D-Park Slope, Kensington, Windsor Terrace) at his side. Union members and over 50 energetic constituents also packed the restaurant to support the candidate.
“It’s definitely cold and rainy but I just adore him, I think he has such integrity and such genuine heart.” said Sunset Park resident Shira Sameroff, 47, adding she applauds Menchaca’s introduction of Participatory Budgeting to the community as well as his policy on immigration. “I think he makes a big difference for the community.”
Menchaca is the first Mexican-American New York City legislator and currently serves as the Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Immigration. His work includes securing funding for the public defender program for undocumented immigrants.
Participatory Budgeting was the buzzword of the afternoon. Many speakers and onlookers took the opportunity to point out the inclusivity and attentiveness the councilmember has shown by introducing participatory budgeting to the District. This included 11-year-old Brittney Espinoza, who stole the hearts of the crowd in reading a speech in both English and Spanish expressing her contribution to the community through participatory budget voting.
“If this young lady who is 11 today, has voted, has mobilized, shame on us if we stay home,” said Velazquez. “She is here to remind of us that this is our future.”
Lander ran in from the PTA 5K Fun Run in Prospect Park, an event in which both Councilmembers help to sponsor, to share a few words with the crowd.
“The courage that Carlos shows in representing this community, its people, its businesses, its workers, its young people, its immigrants –– it is a kind of fierce courage, a strong courage that makes an enormous difference that we don’t see enough of in government,” said Lander.
“I came to support Carlos because he’s been a fearless leader for Red Hook,” said Melissa Stewart, 48 an attorney and Red Hook resident. Stewart worked with Menchaca on opposing the Oxford Nursing Home project in Red Hook, in which the City Land Use Committee rejected as recommended by Menchaca who claimed the property was slated for construction in a flood zone.
After the event, Menchaca spoke to KCP about how pleased he was to see such a diverse group celebrate the accomplishments of the last four years and welcome the next four. “This campaign is about values, the values we trust the most are the ones that we bring to the table,” said Menchaca. “Everyone there had something to say about courage, equity and representation.”
When asked about the direction in which he sees his constituents using participatory budgeting going forward, Menchaca said the community wants more resources in the school. The Councilmember hopes to use participatory budgeting as a tabling session for longstanding community change. “We are trying to figure out how to change the bigger budget to impact our schools,” said Menchaca.
Menchaca’s campaign kickoff comes as several sources say that Ortiz, a 23-year veteran of the Assembly representing Sunset Park and Red Hook is very close to jumping into the primary race. As this is an off-year in state election races, Ortiz would not lose his assembly seat if he decides to run against Menchaca and lost.
Also in the primary race is Sara Gonzalez, who Menchaca ousted four years ago, Delvis Valdes and Javier Nieves. Additionally, Carmen Hulbert is running as the Green Party candidate. Having several candidates in the primary race should favor Menchaca as an incumbent.
Menchaca has drawn community criticism for among other things, the sale of the Sunset Park Library in a no-bid contract to the non-profit Fifth Avenue Committee, which has strong ties to Lander, Velazquez and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to state Carmen Hulbert is running as a Green Party and Democratic Party candidate.