Progressive Message of the Day: Stop Ruben Diaz, Sr.

There is a concerted nationwide progressive effort to thwart Ruben Diaz, Sr.’s bid for Congress ahead of the June 23 Democratic primary election.
New York City Council/ Emil Cohen

Nearly a dozen national political groups — including LGBTQ, women’s rights, Latinx, and Jewish organizations — are uniting to send a clear message to residents of the 15th Congressional District in the South Bronx: Do not vote for anti-LGBTQ Bronx City Councilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the LGBTQ Victory Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Latino Victory Fund, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, the Human Rights Campaign, Equality PAC, and People for the American Way sounded the alarm about the 77-year-old congressional candidate, pointing to his history of homophobia and opposition to reproductive rights.

In a May 15 announcement, which comes just weeks before the June 23 Democratic primary, the organizations sought to expose Diaz’s insensitive rhetoric over the years.

Nearly a dozen local, national groups warn of Bronx pol’s homophobia, anti-choice views, misogyny

Among many examples, the organizations pointed to times when Diaz, a Pentecostal minister, compared abortion rights to Hitler’s thinking, blasted same-sex marriage, described the City Council as being “controlled by the homosexual community,” and once made a scene during a City Council sexual harassment training when he said, “I’m not gonna rat” if he overheard a staffer sexually harassing another staffer. The groups also tore into Diaz for welcoming Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz to the Bronx ahead of the 2016 GOP presidential primary.

“Hitler was pro-choice,” Diaz said in a May 2012 edition of his classic “What You Should Know” newsletter, which he still produces today as a platform to ramble about political issues. “He chose to send the Jews to Auschwitz. That was not their choice that was Hitler’s choice… Murderers, assassins, and criminals are pro-choice. They choose to put a gun to your head and take your life.”

The groups also cited Diaz’s 2013 comments about same-sex marriage when, according to the Observer, he said, “The majority is not always right. Two-thousand years ago the majority chose the rabbi and rejected Jesus. Now, the majority are rejecting the Bible and not choosing Jesus. I know my conviction and I know I will not change my view.”

The groups consolidating against Diaz do not all agree on their preferred candidates in the race for the seat being vacated by José Serrano — the LGBTQ Victory Fund has backed out gay Councilmember Ritchie Torres, for example, while the Latino Victory Fund endorsed former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito — but they are putting aside their differences for this push, avoiding references to any candidates other than Diaz.

“This is among the most important Democratic congressional primaries of 2020, with voters deciding between a homophobic and anti-choice Democrat or candidates who champion equality and reproductive rights,” Annise Parker, the president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and a former three-term Houston mayor, said in a written statement accompanying the groups’ joint announcement. “Throughout his disgraceful career, Ruben Diaz, Sr., has used his positions of power to stigmatize and denigrate his own constituents because they are women or LGBTQ.”

Alexis McGill Johnson, the acting president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, also spoke out, saying Diaz is “the last thing we need in Congress”

“As a New Yorker, I know how out of step Diaz, Sr., is with the values of our city,” McGill argued in a written statement. “Our leaders in Congress must be determined to fight tirelessly for the rights of every American, not just those who share their ideology. Planned Parenthood Action Fund is committed to electing candidates who will protect and expand abortion and LGBTQ rights — and today that means standing against Ruben Diaz, Sr.”

The groups are ramping up their criticism of Diaz as the race enters the home stretch under unprecedented circumstances precipitated by the coronavirus crisis. While there is still more than a month until the election, many votes could be cast much earlier because the crisis has paved the way for mass mail-in voting to protect voters from exposure to the coronavirus.

The coordinated targeting of Diaz also coincides with Torres’ fresh attacks on the conservative former state senator. In a discussion with the LGBTQ Victory Fund on May 12, Torres slammed Diaz as a “Trump Republican” and “the leading homophobe in elected office in New York State.”

“When I think of Ruben Diaz, Sr., I think of him as the Donald Trump of New York City politics. He is every bit as bombastic and buffoonish,” Torres said. “Even though he calls himself a Democrat, he has a long history of aiding and abetting the Republican Party.”

In addition to Diaz, Torres, and Mark-Viverito, the crowded race to replace Serrano in NY-15 also includes Manhattan Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, Bronx State Assemblymember Michael Blake, Samelys López, who has the support of the Working Families Party and the Democratic Socialists of America, Black Lives Matter of Greater New York co-founder Chivona Renee Newsome, former Serrano intern Frangell Basora, and Tomas Ramos.

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