A Democratic candidate for a Bronx Council seat admitted this week that he’ll also run on the Republican line because the GOP promised him control over dozens of poll site jobs – a quid-pro-quo that might be illegal.
Joel R. Rivera, who is in a six-candidate race to replace term-limited Councilman Joel Rivera, no relation, in the Belmont, Bathgate, and Van Nest district, told a stunned crowd at a candidate forum Wednesday, “The Republicans offered me the line and I did accept it because it came with 70 jobs.”
After the forum, Rivera’s main rival for the seat, Ritchie Torres, called on the candidate to drop out.
“This guy isn’t fit for public office,” charged opponent Ritchie Torres. “Accepting the Republican line in exchange for jobs is illegal.”
Later, Rivera, a community liaison for Controller John Liu, backtracked, saying he misspoke.
“It wasn’t a quid pro quo thing,” he told the Daily News. “It wasn’t like that. There was no deal that was cut with these people.”
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It’s unclear what “jobs” Rivera was initially touting. Traditionally, poll sites are staffed with equal numbers of workers from the two major parties. But chairman of the Bronx Republican Party, a fringe group in the heavily Democratic Bronx, denied he conspired to give Rivera, 35, control of the hiring.
“We whole-heartedly back Mr. Rivera. He is a bright, energetic young candidate,” said John Greaney, whose party comprises just 9% of the borough’s registered voters. “Nobody has offered jobs. We don’t have jobs to offer.”
In any event, the deal ensures that Rivera will remain on the ballot on Election Day in November, even if he loses the all-important Sept. 10 Democratic primary.
But being the standardbearer for two opposing parties only invites inspection of Rivera’s positions. He claims to be a Democrat “at heart,” but admitted he sides with conservatives on issues such as gay marriage. He’s opposed to it.
Torres jumped on that, too.
“We need to elect real Democrats who will build a better Bronx, not Republicans who will enrich themselves and their friends,” said Torres.
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But Torres has been accused of having his own questionable friends.
Jobs for New York PAC, a real-estate industry group, has spent a staggering 5,487 to support the 24-year-old’s campaign.
The young candidate, who served as housing director for Council member James Vacca (D-Throgs Neck) for five years, has been knocked for not disavowing the special interest money.
“Ritchie Torres is taking the script from the Tea Party and accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from real estate tycoons who want to make sure the housing status quo stays in place,” said candidate Cynthia Thompkins.
Torres, who has campaigned on his record as a tenant advocate, did not responded to questions about the real estate PAC.
Albert Alvarez, Raquel Batista, and Joel Bauza round out the field in Tuesday’s District 15 primary.