The 2020 Democratic primary, which already boasts more than 20 candidates, may seem tame compared to a House race in the Bronx.
A couple of months after veteran Rep. José Serrano announced he would retire in 2020, some Democrats in New York and Washington have grown worried that Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr., a 76-year-old, cowboy hat-wearing Pentecostal minister known for his constituent services and controversial statements on social issues, could be elected to Congress in a deep blue district next to one led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
While the presidential contenders quibble over policy, this congressional race has already turned personal.
Councilman Ritchie Torres — the first out gay person to hold elected office in the borough and a likely competitor in the race — told CNN, “Rubén Díaz Sr. is the most vicious homophobe in New York State politics.”
Díaz, a self-proclaimed “conservative Democrat” is out of step with the national party’s views on abortion and same-sex marriage. He was the only Democrat in the state Senate to vote against a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in 2011. And he has been sharply criticized in recent months for saying the City Council is “controlled by the homosexual community”; he was subsequently stripped of his chairmanship of the For-Hire Vehicle committee and urged to resign by the City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
Díaz did not respond to multiple requests from CNN for comment on this story. He has said publicly that he is in favor of traditional family values and is attacked for espousing them.