Carrión Fights for Strong Bronx Finish

Photo by: Karla Ann Cote
The good news for the man many thought could be the first Latino mayor is that the Bronx is New York's most Latino borough. The bad news for the candidate of the Independence Party is it is also the most Democratic county in the state.

The former councilman and borough president who many thought could be the city's first Latino mayor trails badly in the polls and is focusing on his home turf on Election Day

By: María Villaseñor

In the last days of a mayoral race he's not expected to win, Adolfo Carrión Jr.'s campaign volunteers were told to focus on his home borough.

"People are just calling the Bronx, the Bronx, the Bronx, the Bronx," said Donald Kaplan, his press secretary at Carrión's Midtown headquarters.

"Generally, the overall pitch is that here's an Independent candidate who's not beholden to any of the special interests, who's looking out for the interest of the voters."

In the cramped space, nearly a dozen volunteers have called only Bronx voters since Friday to encourage them to pick the Independent candidate on Election Day. But an NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll released Monday showed Carrión with 4 percent of the vote. Expected winner Democrat Bill de Blasio had the support of 65 percent of likely voters and Republican Joe Lhota drew 24 percent. Carrión has little citywide support, and even Bronx memory is wavering for the man many thought could become the city's first Latino mayor.

Kaplan said when Carrión has driving around the Bronx campaigning, other drivers would often recognize him at stoplights and roll down their windows to talk with him.

"He'll walk down the street and people will yell, 'Carrión, Carrión,' " Kaplan said. "There's a tremendous amount of enthusiasm."

But other Bronxites recognize him only as the former borough president, not as a mayoral contender, much less President Obama's first urban affairs director.

On the eve of the election, Gonzalo Nuñez, 66, said he hadn't yet picked a candidate. But on hearing that Carrión was running and recalling his tenure as Bronx borough president, Nuñez said he might consider him. As a Latino candidate, maybe Carrión would have other new ideas that could improve New York, Nuñez said.

And while more than half of residents in the Bronx are Latino, nearly 80 percent of the borough's registered voters are Democrats. Several Latino Democrats, like State Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, were the first to endorse de Blasio early in the race. An Edison Research exit poll after the Democratic primary in September showed de Blasio won over the most black and Latino voters.

"If you poll Latinos, the number one issue is jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. And after jobs, it is going to be housing, and after that it's going to be education," said Carlos Vargas-Ramos, a research associate at the Center for Puerto Rican studies, during an October panel at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism on the impact of Carrión's candidacy on the Latino Community.

Vargas-Ramos, a political scientist, said Latino New Yorkers are sharing many of the concerns of other groups and temporarily eschewing ethnic or borough ties during this election season.

"It's important to still stop and take a look at 'What is this hiatus?'" he said. "Because I think it is unusual, but I don't think it is the end of identity politics."