News & Politics

Volunteers Vie for LES Seat


In a contentious City Council Race hinged heavily along ethnic, racial and social lines, voters in the staggeringly diverse District 2 were turning out Tuesday—in varying degrees. Stretching from the pub-lined enclaves of Murray Hill and Gramercy Park, south to the hipster strongholds of the East Village to the largely Latino contingency on the Lower East Side, District 2 voters filtered into their respective polling places from early this morning.

According to one worker at a polling station at 3rd Avenue and 11th street, turnout up until mid-afternoon was “so-so,” On East 9th west of 1st Avenue, another poll worker observed that there was a “flood from time to time.”

Still, volunteers along side streets between 3rd Avenue and Avenue B shouted praises for their candidates, often from opposite sides of the same sidewalk. Brian Kavanagh and Rosie Mendez supporters were the most prominent, as evidenced by the smattering of campaign posters on every available lamppost in the East Village.

When asked about petitioning challenge instigated by Mendez this summer, Ronnie Billini, a former resident of District 2 who commuted from South Orange, New Jersey at 4:30am to support her candidate, said, “Mendez had every right” to make the challenge. The petitioning issue had more to do with raw numbers than discrimination, she contends, and if you can’t get the numbers “how are you going to manage this diverse district?” As for the other candidates, she asks, “what have they done for the community?”

A lot, says Peter Rider, a volunteer for Kavanagh. While he also agreed that turnout was slow, with few people “really jazzed up” about the election, he pushes his candidate’s activism in community and tenant organizing in the borough. This race, he believes, is based on factors other than race, sexual orientation and gender.

It is not a sentiment felt by all, especially in the Latino communities north of Delancey on the Lower East Side. “People will vote for who they can relate to,” said Sandra Maldonado, who is lending her support to Rosie Mendez. Will most of her neighbors do the same? “I believe so,” she says.

Indeed, on the Lower East Side the steady stream of older Latino voters was obvious, punctuated by a strong opinion or two about the ethnic issues at play. One poll worker at P.S. 140 on Ridge Street north of Rivington observed, “it’s been busier than expected” for a primary election. Will that guarantee Mendez’s bid?

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 13, 2005


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