Councilman Fernando Cabrera is in the driver’s seat to serve a third and final term in city council after beating challengers Randy Abreu and Felix Perdomo in Tuesday’s primary.
With all precincts reporting, the incumbent defeated his opponents with 55percent of the vote, according to the city elections board.
While not necessarily a surprise an incumbent elected official won the 14th District race, it is a statement on exactly how powerful the Democratic party establishment is in the Bronx.
Poised to become the senior-most member of the Bronx delegation to the council after the November general election, Cabrera had overwhelming support of his fellow elected officials including Councilman Andrew Cohen and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.
Cabrera, who first took office in 2010, is all but certain to win the November election since there is no active Republican candidate at this point. A former Democratic challenger, Justin Sanchez, plans to run independently.
But Sanchez did make some headlines Monday morning just before the primary when news broke of a police probe into alleged coercion on the part of the Abreu campaign to get Sanchez to drop out of the race. Though it remains unclear whether any coercion actually occurred, it seems even being the only young, modern progressive candidate on Tuesday’s ballot for the 14th District wasn’t enough to catapult Abreu over Cabrera.
Cabrera has one term left on the city council, but has yet to weigh on whether he’ll look for toward larger aspirations and challenge Gustavo Rivera for his state senate seat in 2019.
Voter turnout in the northwest Bronx was expectedly low: Between 8:30 and 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, fewer than five voters milled into the polling locations at Marie Curie School for Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions and the Fort Independence community center.
As in past elections, it seemed hard to get voters in the Bronx to the polls, despite canvassing on the part of all three campaigns in the northernmost end of the district.
More than 6,600 votes were cast in this year’s District 14 primary as opposed to 5,992 in 2013, when Cabrera beat Israel Martinez with 76 percent of the vote. That was more than the 5,473 who turned out in 2009 when Cabrera beat then-incumbent Maria Baez by less than 100 votes.
In 2013, only a dismal 19 percent of eligible Bronx voters participated in the primaries, and only 22 percent for the general election showed up later that year same year. It seems turnout is a continuing problem in the Bronx, no matter how much fanfare centers on the campaigns and the candidates themselves.
Even with minimal turnout, workers at two precincts visited by The Riverdale Press were anything but cordial. Precinct leaders at both Marie Curie and Fort Independence obstructed reporters from covering election activities there. This despite possessing a written agreement signed by elections board executive director Michael J. Ryan granting access to the polls, as long as the journalists did not interfere with the actual voting process.
Photos typically are not allowed at polling sites without a valid press credential letter for the city board of elections — a rule that exists to prevent electioneering and voter intimidation. However, news media organizations, including The Press, have routinely covered elections and photographed polling sites, quoting voters who volunteer to be interviewed as they leave.
Polling coordinators at both Marie Curie and Fort Independence refused to accept Ryan’s letter, making multiple phone calls to board officials in an effort to prove the granted access was fake.
That was the conclusion from Viola Dickerson, the coordinator at the Marie Curie polling location, and even further suggested several times that board official Kristin Strandberg, who she spoke with on the phone about media access, may not be who she says she was.
“I don’t know who that person is,” Dickerson said after hanging up with Standberg. “You could’ve had anyone call me and tell me that you can take photos.”
Valerie Vazquez, a spokeswoman for the elections board, told The Press poll workers have a copy of the letter Ryan sends with journalists as part of their training packets, and are instructed to call a specific number in the letter if there is a need to verify. Dickerson refused to call that number to verify the media presence.
The same problem reared its head at Fort Independence Houses, where a poll coordinator — who refused to give her name and did not wear a name tag — also refused to allow the reporters to do their jobs for more than an hour, despite other poll coordinators and poll watchers telling her it was OK.
“I could have made this letter, anyone can make a letter,” the unidentified poll coordinator said. “I have to call this in, I am not going to lose my job. They told us in the training there are no pictures, and this letter seems very hypocritical.”
The online version of this story was updated to provide full, unofficial results, which were not available by the time the print edition went to press.