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The Bronx Democratic Party decided to part ways with a veteran incumbent amid a contentious power struggle between its left and far-left flanks.
In an unusual move, the leadership of the Bronx Dems snubbed state Sen. Gustavo Rivera and instead endorsed his rival, lawyer Miguelina Camilo, in the reapportioned 33rd district.
Even more surprising is that fellow state legislators who run the Bronx Democratic Party — state Sen. Jamaal Bailey, who is party chairman, and Assemblywoman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who is the party’s secretary — back the move to dump their colleague.
“Gustavo has aligned himself with the far left of the party. Defunding the police, that’s not going to sit well in the 33rd District,” said Dinowitz, whose Assembly District overlaps with the senatorial district, including Riverdale.
Rivera joined the left wing Working Families Party and socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in backing insurgent Jessica Woolford against Dinowitz in the June 28 Assembly primary. Dinowitz trounced Woolford.
Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benedetto also easily defeated primary rival Jonathan Soto, who was endorsed by the WFP and Ocasio-Cortez. Benedetto and Dinowitz were among the incumbents who beat back lefty insurgents on a good day for the establishment and a bad day for the political left.
About one-third of Rivera’s district is new under court-ordered redistricting, taking in the northwest Bronx neighborhoods of Riverdale and Norwood. The Senate primary will be held on August 23.
Dinowitz noted that Rivera now resides in the 31st District but insisted on running again in the 33rd. Camilo, following redistricting, decided to run in the 33rd instead of the 34th district, an open seat after state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi opted to run for Congress.
But Rivera, first elected in 2010 after defeating convicted crook Pedro Espada, has the backing of the Working Families Party and a slew of powerful unions. He has been associated with leftist causes such as defunding the police and instituting a government-run public health insurance system.
Rivera, the Senate health committee chairman, also has pushed controversial policies, such as providing comprehensive benefits to illegal immigrants and pushing legislation to open “safe injection sites” to give drug addicts clean needles to shoot up drugs.
The leadership of the state Senate — Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) — are also backing Rivera’s re-election.
“I always endorse my sitting members and I want all of them to come back to the Senate. Senator Rivera has always been a valuable member of the Senate and I look forward to continuing to serve with him,” Stewart-Cousins said.
Rivera’s response to the Bronx party snub? Bring it on!
“Senator Gustavo Rivera has been representing the working people of the Bronx for over a decade. He is a labor candidate and advocate for his community,” a campaign spokesperson said in a statement.
“The Senator has already amassed support and endorsements from 1199 SEIU, CWA, NYSUT and PSC l. He will continue to fight and deliver for his community. He represents over 70% of this district and looks forward to the spirited primary election,” the Rivera camp said.
Camilo formerly headed the Bronx Women’s Bar Association and served as a commissioner on the city Board of Elections, an appointment that goes to people with close ties to the party leadership.
“Immensely proud to have the endorsement of @bronxdems, an organization that has seen me grow as a young lawyer and dedicated member of our Bronx community,” Camilo tweeted Tuesday.
Bailey, the Bronx Party leader, said Wednesday night that party officials sought to avoid a primary by urging Rivera to run in the 34th district or 32d districts instead. Rivera refused.
“We were not looking to primary Gustavo. We tried to avoid a primary. We were not able to figure it out,” Bailey said.
“We believe in Miguelina,” he added.