BY MATT TRACY
Community News Group
Out gay congressional candidate Ritchie Torres of the Bronx beat all of his competitors with a $335,089 fundraising haul during the most recent filing period in the packed race to replace outgoing Congressmember Jose Serrano in the 15th Congressional District.
Torres’ latest filing encompassed the time period between July 1 and September 30 and came roughly three months after he pulled in $522,000 in his first filing ending on June 30. He currently has $722,436 in cash on hand.
Torres, who is chair of the City Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations, is mounting an historic congressional bid: If elected, he would become the first out gay black member of Congress and the first out gay Latinx member of Congress. But he’s facing competition, most notably from his homophobic City Council colleague, Ruben Diaz, Sr., as well as from Assemblymember Michael Blake and former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito. Bronx Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez has also entered the race.
Torres landed $5,000 donations from a handful of unions, including Laborers’ International Union of North America, Machinists Non-Partisan Political League, Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Iron Workers Local 46, and United Association Political Education Committee. For the second straight quarter, Torres received a $5,000 boost from the political arm of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, which endorsed him over the summer. He also has been endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which Gay City News first reported.
The 31-year-old garnered 100 Bronx-based donations, a marked improvement over the 61 contributions he received in the borough during the spring and more than twice as many as any other candidate, at least among donations that have been made public. Diaz, who raised $44,388 in his latest filing, trailed behind Torres with 47 donations coming from the Bronx.
Blake had the second-biggest fundraising haul of the quarter behind Torres, raking in $239, 260, but he yielded just 36 donations in his home borough.
Mark-Viverito, who lives in Manhattan but represented part of the Bronx during her time in the City Council, raised $151,613 since entering the race in August. Only 13 of her contributions came from the Bronx.
Rodriguez is a newcomer to the race and grabbed just three donations from the borough, but managed to collect $53,160 in total, outraising Diaz.
As usual, however, there could be hidden Bronx-based donations because many candidates also raised funds labeled “unitemized individual contributions,” which represent donations that did not require identifying information because they were less than $200 (some contributions under $200, such as those made through ActBlue, are still publicized). Of the candidates’ total hauls, Diaz’s unitemized contributions totaled $11,044 compared to $41,782 for Blake, $19,268 for Mark-Viverito, and $1,660 for Rodriguez. Torres did not receive unitemized contributions.
Torres received $2,800 contributions from key figures such as Frank Carone, a prominent attorney who is counsel to the Brooklyn Democratic party, and billionaire real estate and supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis, among others. Blake, who has the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus and earned a $5,000 donation from the caucus’ PAC, has pulled in $2,800 donations from folks including Lu-Shawn Thompson, who is the widow of the late Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, and investor and hedge fund executive Jeffrey A Weber. In the last filing, Blake got a $500 boost from DNC Chair Tom Perez.
Mark-Viverito has vowed not to take corporate or real estate money, but has welcomed cash from Deborah Garcia-Gratacos, who is president of real estate advisory firm Deval. Vanessa Nadal, who is married to “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, also contributed to Mark-Viverito’s campaign.
Diaz, a Pentecostal minister who rocked the political landscape earlier this year with homophobic comments about gay control of the City Council, has raked in cash from several religious leaders and has received funds from real estate developers like David S. Mack. He trails leading candidates in fundraising, but he is relying on his loyal base to carry him to victory. He wrote in a tweet on October 15 that he is only aiming to raise $200,000, saying, “I am well ahead of my goal.”
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Torres and Diaz are widely considered frontrunners in the race. Torres has warned in interviews with Gay City News that the elder Diaz’s candidacy “is an urgent recognition that we as a community cannot afford to have the most anti-choice, anti-LGBT Democrat represent the most Democratic district.”
“I need the support of the LGBT community,” Torres told Gay City News in July. “I need a real mobilization of the LGBT community to overcome the entrenched power of Ruben Diaz. Sr., in the Bronx.”