Camilo, Rivera go at it in first senate debate

Topics ranged from bail reform to IDC, to the Bronx Dems


In the first debate in one of the state’s more high-profile races — state senate district 33 — incumbent Sen. Gustavo Rivera and Miguelina Camilo explained their stance on issues related to the county party, bail reform and the infamous Independent Democratic Conference.

The moderators, PoliticsNY editor-in-chief Stephen Witt and broadcast journalist Jane Hanson, opened up the debate by asking Rivera why the Bronx Democratic Party, in an unusual move, turned its back on him in this race. They questioned if his progressive brand of politics had ruffled the feathers of the party’s more moderate leaders.

As previously reported in The Riverdale Press and other news outlets, the party’s secretary Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz has recently lobbed accusations at Rivera. He said the senator supports movements to defund police departments and to end international support for the Israeli government.

Rivera kept his response limited to legislation he has fought for during his tenure in office, saying that he doesn’t believe it’s too radical to want universal healthcare, to raise taxes on the wealthy and to introduce criminal justice reforms that treat communities of color more fairly. “It is interesting to me that some of the folks who are calling me now too radical — even though I have not changed my tune in 11 years — are folks who have supported me in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020,” the senator said.

The moderators then asked Camilo, who is a practicing attorney, whether new bail reform laws needed tweaking.

While she didn’t explicitly say that there should be more changes to the law, she did argue for a balanced approach to criminal justice, involving more community policing.

“The bail reform that has occurred in Albany, and was revisited by our legislators, was an effort to tailor that legislation to meet the needs of the community. And I have to balance that, because I want to be an elected that meets the needs of the community,” she said. “We are at a time where, nationally, crime is up. But certainly our constituents, our neighbors in New York, are feeling unsafe.”

Toward the end of the debate, Rivera asked Camilo whether she regrets supporting the IDC — a group of Democratic legislators who aligned themselves with the Republican Party to bolster the right’s power.

“I think that’s a false statement because I did not support the IDC since I wasn’t involved in politics,” Camilo responded. “I absolutely will say now that I would have joined you in fighting against the IDC.”

However, as Rivera mentioned soon after, Camilo donated $250 to Marisol Alcantara, who had joined the IDC back in 2016, one month before her 2018 competitive primary.

“It is simply false for Miguelina Camilo to deny she supported the IDC,” No IDC NY board member Peter Feld said in a statement following the debate. “She donated to Alcantara during her first campaign when it was widely reported that she was being bankrolled by the IDC, and then again one month before the 2018 primary, nearly two years after Alcantara had officially joined the IDC.”