Out gay Bronx City Councilmember Ritchie Torres officially kicked off his campaign for Congress on July 15, saying in a video posted on YouTube that he is “running for Congress because the Bronx needs a fighter in Washington, DC.”
Torres ended months of speculation by formally entering what could be a three-way race to replace outgoing Representative José Serrano in the 15th district. He used his launch video to paint himself as a man who was “born and bred” in the borough he wants to represent on Capitol Hill while also taking shots both at a key opponent, homophobic Councilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr., and at President Donald Trump. He also now has a campaign website, torres.nyc.
Torres’ candidacy presents the opportunity to make history: He would be the first out LGBTQ black or Latinx person to be elected to Congress and the only out member of the New York City congressional delegation. He already made history when he became the first openly gay person elected to office in the history of the Bronx and the youngest member of the City Council.
In the Democratic primary slated for June 2020, the 31-year-old will most prominently face Diaz, as well as Assemblymember and Democratic National Committee vice chair Michael Blake. State Senator Gustavo Rivera formed a campaign committee and was floated as a potential candidate in the race, but announced on July 12 that he would remain in his current role.
Torres laid out the nuts and bolts of his campaign platform in a May interview with Gay City News when he made it clear that he plans to prioritize issues of healthcare and housing should he be elected to Congress. He explained that he is seeking higher office because the Council does not provide lawmakers with enough power to enact the change necessary to take on major issues such as the housing woes facing many of his constituents.
At that time, he also tore into Diaz, calling him a “leading voice of opposition to LGBT equality” and a “creature of the right.”
“The councilmember has a right to hold whatever beliefs he wants, but he is running in the wrong primary,” Torres said. “He should be running in the Republican primary.”
He maintained a similar message in his campaign launch video.
“The primary presents a stark choice between a progressive new guard and a reactionary old guard; between an LGBT trailblazer and a vicious homophobe; between a new generation of leadership and more of the same,” he said.
Torres spoke of the juxtaposition of growing up in mold-ridden public housing while Donald Trump’s nearby golf course raked in tens of millions in public dollars. He is also seen visiting his mother’s apartment, where she is heard asking, “Why are they treating us like, you know, we don’t matter?”
Torres quickly landed the endorsements of several fellow city councilmembers, including Brad Lander and Mark Treyger of Brooklyn, Antonio Reynoso of Brooklyn and Queens, and Keith Powers of Manhattan. In a tweet, Lander acknowledged that Torres will have his work cut out for him against Diaz, writing, “He’s going to need a lot of support to counter Diaz’ name recognition and popularity.”
Torres earned his first endorsement late last month when the Equality PAC — the political branch of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus — threw its support behind the councilmember. That PAC consists of more than 150 members of Congress.
Torres concluded his three-plus minute video with a message to the people of the district, saying, “I want my neighbors to say in the Bronx, ‘There’s no one who fights harder for us in Washington, DC.’”
“I’m not a miracle worker, but I’m a fighter and I’m going to fight my heart out to ensure that the Bronx gets its fair share,” he said. “And as the Bronx goes, so goes the country.”