Out politician Ritchie Torres has most likely won the Democratic primary election in his congressional district, beating out one of the most anti-LGBTQ Democrats in the U.S. Congress.
Torres, a 32-year-old Bronx native and New York City council member, has a strong early lead in Tuesday’s primary election for his state’s 15th Congressional District against Rubén Díaz Sr., a 77-year-old Pentecostal minister and socially conservative Democrat with a documented history of homophobia.
As NewNowNext reported last summer, Torres made it his mission to serve his local community—and run against Díaz, who opposes abortion, believes gay sex is akin to bestiality, and once claimed the NYC Council is “controlled by the homosexual community.”
The triumph of an openly LGBTQ candidate over a pro-Trump homophobe like Ruben Diaz Sr. would be poetic justice. As a Congressional candidate. I can think of no better way to celebrate #PrideMonth than to retire the politics of fear and hate that Diaz Sr represents. https://t.co/eF1d6ec2Ip
— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) June 4, 2020
Speaking to Spectrum News on election night, Torres said it was too early to declare his victory given the unusually large number of absentee ballots cast this cycle, although his early lead against Díaz, the perceived front-runner, is promising. The New York Times has characterized this race as “a wild and unpredictable primary with a dozen candidates” in “a deep-blue district.”
“I’m not prepared to declare victory until every vote is counted,” Torres told Spectrum News, “but even if I win the election, it’s governing that matters.”
“It would be the honor of my life to represent this borough,” he continued, getting choked up. “It’s my home. And I would not be here today were it not for my mother. The South Bronx is full of mothers like mine who have suffered and struggled and sacrificed so that her baby boy could have a better life that I did. The opportunity to represent the essential workers of this borough—to represent the powerful mothers of this borough—it’s the culmination of a dream.”
— Niles Edward Francis (@NilesGApol) June 24, 2020
Since Torres’ district is one of the country’s most solidly Democratic districts, his win in November would be almost guaranteed. If elected, he’d join Mondaire Jones, a fellow New York politician, in becoming one of the first Black LGBTQ people—and the first Afro-Latinx LGBTQ person—elected to Congress.
In a media statement, Mayor Annise Parker of the LGBTQ Victory Fund celebrated Torres’ groundbreaking primary win:
At a time when our country is divided and we confront the realities of racism and police brutality, it is essential we have a voice like Ritchie’s fighting to turn the demands of protesters into legislative change at the federal level. While he will make history in November, we know Ritchie runs not to put his name in the record book, but to continue his work to expand and improve affordable housing and secure criminal justice reform for his constituents.
Ritchie and Mondaire have shattered a long-standing political barrier with their primary wins, putting them on-track to becoming the first two openly LGBTQ Black members of Congress. Black LGBTQ people—like all LGBTQ people—are severely underrepresented at every level of government, but this gives hope that we are moving toward building a U.S. Congress that is more representative of the people it serves.
Both Torres and Jones received endorsements and financial backing from the Victory Fund, which supports queer candidates running for elected positions nationwide.