Assemblyman Nelson Castro on primary day (Photo: Alma Watkins)
Last Tuesday, Assemblyman Nelson Castro fought off a primary challenge from Hector Ramirez, a district leader who'd received the support of the Bronx Democratic Party, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and all the big unions.
In what was the tightest race in the borough, Castro secured 54 percent of the vote to Ramirez's 46, giving him a 269 vote victory margin.
While the certified results won't be released until all the absentee and affidavit ballots have been counted, and the voting machines re-canvassed, Ramirez has already called Castro to congratulate him. (The Board of Elections is expected to have these numbers tomorrow.)
Reached by phone yesterday, Castro was in high spirits. "I feel great. It's a great victory," he said. "Now going back to Albany I have a lot of expectations. I'm not a freshman anymore and so I should be able to ask for more and deliver more for my district."
Castro, who pulled in few endorsements himself, put his victory down to voters knowing him, liking him, and recognizing what he's done in the community.
While his opponent focused on attacking him (mailers were sent to voters reminding them of Castro's checkered past), Castro says he was out there talking to people.
"We put strategy over theatrics. All the negative stuff they did, they did to cover up the fact that he [Ramirez] hasn't done anything in the community," Castro said.
Sherman Browne, a primary opponent of Heastie's in 2008, and a former aide to ex-Councilwoman Maria Baez, worked on Castro's campaign and said they successfully identified his supporters and then made sure they voted. "We took a personal approach," Browne said.
Said Castro: "I myself even went out and picked up a couple of older ladies and drove them to the polls."
On primary night, Ramirez held what was supposed to be a victory party at a small restaurant on East Tremont Avenue. In the end, though, it was a rather somber occasion. With most precincts counted, the results favored Castro.
"I just want to say to Hector, no matter what happens tonight, you have always been my friend, and for that I will always be your friend," said Diaz in a brief speech.
He continued: "When it's all said and done, if you ask me as leader of this borough would I do it again, Yes! Yes! Yes!"
"Whatever happens tonight, I am not going to move from the District 86," said Ramirez. "I'm going to continue to fight to improve the quality of life for the people that live in the District 86, and the Bronx, and New York State."
Heastie added: "We need to give Hector a lot of credit, he ran tremendous race. It's tough to beat and incumbent, incumbency is a powerful tool."
Castro, who said he's spoken with Heastie and is now looking to move forward without "animosity," is holding a "community victory celebration" at the Luna Lounge on Webster Avenue this Sunday.