Openly gay Ritchie Torres declares victory in NY primary

Ritchie Torres in New York, March 19, 2018 – Image: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) – US Representative Carolyn Maloney, who has represented a New York City district in Congress since 1993, declared victory in a hard-fought Democratic primary on Tuesday, defeating progressive challenger Suraj Patel.

Maloney announced the win in New York’s 12th congressional district after the New York State Board of Elections certified the results from the June 23 primary. The conclusion of the race was delayed more than a month as election officials struggled to count thousands of mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, Maloney said she was thrilled by the outcome. “This has been a historic election, with historic turnout and participation – and a historic wait time for results. We’ve learned many lessons for November, and must take a number of actions to protect the safety of our vote in the general election.”

There was no response Tuesday evening from the Patel campaign.

But a progressive won in another New York district after the primary results were certified there. Ritchie Torres declared victory in an open seat to represent the 15th congressional district, and prepared to join another New Yorker, Mondaire Jones, as the first two openly gay Black members of Congress.

Maloney, Torres and Jones are all from Democratic strongholds where the party’s nominee is expected to win in November.

Maloney, 74, is chairwoman of the powerful House Oversight Committee. Patel, 36, an attorney, businessman and son of Indian immigrants, cast himself as the candidate for change.

The contest was a rematch from two years ago. Maloney was slightly ahead in preliminary results on election night June 23, but thousands of absentee ballots were still outstanding.

Some election observers have suggested the delayed results could be a harbinger of what Americans may experience in November, with large numbers of mail-in ballots possibly meaning results of the presidential race will not be clear election night.

New York election officials disqualified many of the mail-in ballots for minor errors.

Maloney’s congressional district includes some of the wealthiest parts of Manhattan, while Torres said in a statement that his district in the South Bronx had long been known as the “poorest congressional district in America.”

Torres, 32, a city councilman who was born and raised in the Bronx and refers to himself as Afro-Latino, beat a crowded field to replace Representative Jose Serrano, who is retiring.

The races were among several that tested the strength of the Democrats’ left flank after moderate Joe Biden became the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

Progressive Black Jamaal Bowman last month defeated a senior House Democrat, Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel, in another New York district primary.

-Susan Cornwell

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