Bronx Top 10 Elected Officials

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on June 23, 2020.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on June 23, 2020.
Kathy Willens/AP/Shutterstock
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on June 23, 2020.
Boroughs

Bronx Top 10 Elected Officials

The borough’s most influential political leaders.

Not long ago, the Bronx seemed to have New York City’s last powerful political machine. Brooklyn had long been in decline, and the 2018 upset of then-Rep. Joe Crowley rocked the Queens Democratic Party, which he had run as party chair. 

In the Bronx, by contrast, Carl Heastie had ascended to the role of Assembly speaker, then-state Sen. Jeff Klein had shared control of the state Senate, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was on a path to becoming New York City’s first Latino mayor.

However, Klein is now out of power and Diaz is set to retire, and another local power broker – Assembly Member Marcos Crespo – resigned as Bronx Democratic Party chair. Meanwhile, upstarts like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and New York City Council Member Ritchie Torres are shaking up the party. 

In the midst of all the upheaval, City & State identified the top 10 elected officials in the borough’s evolving power structure. 

1. Carl Heastie

Assembly Speaker

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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
Image Credit: 
New York State Assembly

Even as his Assembly moves further left and adds new members from outside traditional Albany hierarchies, Carl Heastie’s speakership is secure. Yet, the past two years have challenged Heastie’s Bronx Democratic Party unlike any other period during his time in office. His closest Bronx allies are retiring, and three friendly congressional seats have been lost to independent progressives since 2018. How and when he responds to the anti-establishment fervor will shape the borough for years.

2. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Congress Member

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Image Credit: 
Ron Adar/Shutterstock

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continues to assert herself prominently in national conversation while, back home, her 2018 victory continues to pay dividends. Justice Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Jamaal Bowman, helping him defeat Rep. Eliot Engel, the second time in two elections that a Democratic congressional mainstay lost in the Bronx. Her endorsement of Samelys López in the 15th Congressional District was less successful: López finished fourth in a crowded race.

3. Ritchie Torres

New York City Council Member

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City Council Member  Ritchie Torres
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City Council Member Ritchie Torres
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City Council Member Ritchie Torres
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City Council Member Ritchie Torres
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City Council Member Ritchie Torres
Image Credit: 
Emil Cohen/New York City Council

Ritchie Torres will likely be heading to Washington as the nation’s first openly gay Black representative, along with Mondaire Jones. He would get there on a path forged entirely by himself, a progressive independent of the establishment and left-wing factions battling for power in the Bronx. Torres already is making noise on Capitol Hill, criticizing a tradition that bars members from joining both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

4. Rafael Salamanca Jr.

New York City Council Member

As the chair of the New York City Council Land Use Committee and a Bronx Democratic Party loyalist, Rafael Salamanca Jr.’s influence is far-reaching. His opposition to the mayor’s Southern Boulevard rezoning torpedoed the effort. During his first term, Salamanca brought 5,000 new affordable housing units to his district alone. When Corey Johnson leaves the council, Salamanca will be a top contender to replace him as speaker, especially if the Bronx Democrats enthusiastically back him.

5. Darcel Clark

Bronx District Attorney

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Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark.
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Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark.
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Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark.
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Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark.
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Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark.
Image Credit: 
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Electorally, Darcel Clark is more secure than any district attorney in New York City. But as the first Black woman in her position, she will have to navigate scrutiny both externally and from within her own ranks as debates over criminal justice reform rage on. Despite positioning herself as a reformer, Clark is close with the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, her top donor, and the thousands of union members who work in her jurisdiction.

6. Jeffrey Dinowitz

Assembly Member

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Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz speaking as Chair of the Committee on Corporations Authorities and Commissions.
Image Credit: 
Photo via <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/mem/Jeffrey-Dinowitz/photos" target="_blank">New York Assembly</a>

In June, Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz dispatched an underfunded progressive challenger by more than 20 percentage points, his only competitive race since his first victory in 1994. Next year, Dinowitz hopes to see his son win the City Council race in the 11th District. His most immediate challenge is the feud between the influential Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club and state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who is starting her own local political club.

7. Jamaal Bailey

State Senator

Jamaal Bailey is ready for this moment. His aggressive criminal justice reform agenda figured prominently in the majority’s plans. In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing civil unrest, Bailey’s efforts have taken center stage. Section 50-a, the law that shields police disciplinary records, was repealed. What comes next will go through Bailey’s Codes Committee and will need to be championed by his mentor, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

8. Ruben Diaz Jr.

Bronx Borough President

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Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
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Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
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Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
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Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
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Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
Image Credit: 
Philip Vukelich

For more than 20 years, the Diaz family has been synonymous with Bronx politics. The three-term borough president amassed a war chest before dropping out of the 2021 New York City mayoral race in January, ending his bid to be the city’s first Latino mayor. Ruben Diaz Jr. will likely not stray far from the Bronx, but he could be on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s short list if U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is nominated to Joe Biden’s Cabinet.

9. Vanessa Gibson 

New York City Council Member

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New York City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson
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New York City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson
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New York City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson
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New York City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson
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New York City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson
Image Credit: 
Official NYC Council Photo by William Alatriste

Vanessa Gibson wants to be the Bronx’s first Black borough president, and she has the cachet to do it. A protege of Aurelia Greene, who first helped unite the borough’s Black and Latino communities, Gibson will likely be the Democratic Party’s preferred candidate. As a council member, she negotiated the Jerome Avenue rezoning, blocked the new borough jail from her district and served as the first woman of color to chair the Public Safety Committee.

10. Jamaal Bowman

Democratic Candidate, 16th Congressional District

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Jamaal Bowman
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Jamaal Bowman
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Jamaal Bowman
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Jamaal Bowman
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Jamaal Bowman
Image Credit: 
Guerin Blask

Jamaal Bowman consolidated progressive support, gained national attention and earned the support of many Obama foreign policy alums in his primary campaign to topple House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel, who has served in Congress for more than 30 years. Although not technically an elected official, the Bronx middle school founder is poised to win in November – and will have to walk the walk and attempt to address the issues that plague the Bronx.

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City & State
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