Within minutes of State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. conceding defeat last night, his victorious opponent Gustavo Rivera arrived at the Monte Carlo Room on Jerome Avenue, where hundreds of his supporters had gathered.
He entered through a side door, to a chorus of roars and cheers, and made for the stage, hugging and high-fiving anyone in his way.
"Tonight, the people of the Northwest Bronx have spoken," said a pumped up Rivera, occasionally looking down at his prepared speech. "They've sent a clear message that will echo all across New York State: We want our government back, and we won't take no for an answer!"
"For far too long our community has been ill-served by a corrupt politics," he continued. "We've been the brunt of jokes and the object of ridicule. Well, tonight you had a choice. You had a choice between progress or patronage. You had a choice between honest policy or the politics of "me." You had a choice between ethics or indictments. Tonight, I am here to report that the people of the Bronx made the right choice!"
To hear Rivera's speech in full, click play on the video above. At about five minutes in, he starts thanking all the elected officials and organizations that backed him. It's a list that is long and impressive - from BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. and businessman Bill Samuels, to large unions (32BJ, 1199 SEIU, CIR/SEIU and more) and the Working Families Party - and it took Rivera a while to give everyone their due.
These were no half-hearted endorsements, as Rivera acknowledged. Just yesterday, the Working Familes Party, for example, had 105 people campaigning in the district, according to Executive Director Dan Cantor. 32BJ, meanwhile, had 200.
Speaking before the results were announced, Cantor described the race as the "most important in the state" and a major priority for his party. "The Senate coup was really a terrible thing he [Espada] did, and so this is payback, recompense," he said.
"I feel like I'm going to have a partner to work with on real issues like on housing," said Councilman Fernando Cabrera, after Rivera's victory was confirmed. "We are going to make a difference. We'll have a partnership the district actually deserves."
Cabrera and Diaz left the party early, heading instead to a more somber affair for Assembly candidate Hector Ramirez, at a restaurant on East Tremont Avenue. (While unconfirmed, the incumbent in that race, Nelson Castro, leads by a few percentage points, and has claimed victory.)
Rivera himself stayed behind with his supporters - an eclectic mix of millionnnaries (or at least one millionaire: Samuels), Bronxites of varying ages and races, and union members and organizers from across the city, most in their twenties and thirties. Late in the evening, Governor David Paterson also showed up to join in the fun.
Near everyone wore a huge smile, and there were long lines at the bar. Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" (Neeeew York! Neeeew York!) seemed to be on a loop, and the dance floor was packed. When we left at 12:30 the party was still going strong.
In November's election, Rivera faces Republican John McCarthy and John Reynolds of the Green Party. In a district with few registered Republicans, Rivera will be expected to secure an easy victory.
Additional reporting by Jordan Moss.