By JESSICA JUPITER
Manuel Ramos says he voted twice for Adolfo Carrión, Jr., for Bronx borough president when he ran as a Democrat, but he’s not ready to support him for mayor on the Independence Party line.
“He was fantastic, but my loyalty lies with my party, not an individual person,” said Ramos, 48.
Ramos, who has lived in the Bronx his entire life, said he was “disappointed to find out that Carrión had jumped ship” when he decided to run for New York City mayor as the Independence Party candidate.
“It just doesn’t make any sense to me. Moving from one party to the next gives me the assumption that you no longer agree with [Democratic] views and that is a problem,” Ramos added.
Ramos isn’t the only person who has expressed dismay over Carrión’s decision. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has also chimed in. At an endorsement event for Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, Diaz said of Carrión: “To abandon us for his own political and personal gain is something we won’t forget and we’re going to make him pay for it at the ballot box.”
Diaz said that much of Carrión’s success — he held positions as City Council member, borough president, and director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs policy — was made possible by the Democratic Party.
Not too long ago, Carrión was in Diaz’s shoes, however, winning landslide victories for Bronx borough president — holding office from 2002 to 2009. Now, the mayoral candidate trails far behind de Blasio and Republican candidate Joe Lhota with perhaps his path to independence to blame.
A Wall Street Journal-NBC 4 NY Marist Poll released on Oct. 11 gave Carrión just 2 percent of the vote — a dismal showing for a candidate who might at least have had a claim on Bronx votes.
Though running on the Independence ballot might have hindered any chances Carrión had to be a serious contender for mayor, the candidate continues to view his decision to switch parties as “an act of political honor.”
In response to Diaz’s remarks, Carrion said in a press release that the party he chooses to run under is not what is important during this election. Rather, he said, he’ll concentrate on bringing the issues he is passionate about to the forefront. These issues include more policing on city streets and an education reform that will lengthen school days and add more academic resources.
Carrión has also been making efforts to change the conversation by focusing on the Hispanic community. In the 2009 general elections, only 20 percent of registered Hispanics voted. As someone of Puerto Rican descent, Carrión argues that Hispanics have been far too passive in politics and argues it’s necessary for them to become more involved.
His presence in the Bronx has faded, according to Ramos. “People that know Carrion, know him as a Democrat and people that don’t, won’t ever know him because no one talks about the Independent candidate,” Ramos said.
Carrion seems to be aware of this and makes appearances in the borough quite often. The candidate walked proudly with supporters through Morris Park Avenue for the Columbus Day Parade on Oct. 13. Still, many were unfamiliar with him.
“I don’t hear about him on television as much as de Blasio so I can’t vote for someone I don’t know,” said Bronx resident Marcella Lopez.
Alan Aja, a Brooklyn College professor of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, said Carrion’s decision to switch parties was a primary reason for his lackluster campaign. He said Carrión would have been a likelier contender had he remained with the Democratic Party, benefiting from “Quinn’s decline and Weiner’s outlandish behavior,” referring to the failed campaigns of Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Aja said that Carrión has strongly underestimated the Hispanic voters. “Carrion made the false assumption that Latinos would simply back him because he is Latino,” he said. “We are not a monolithic group. While Latinos are among the fastest growing potential voting blocs in New York City, our potential as a demographic is limited by immigration status, income, wealth and other structural barriers.”
The Hispanic vote, which polls say belongs to de Blasio, isn’t all Carrión would need to change his luck around, but it could provide a base of support. However, after an exclusion from the final mayoral debates because of low poll numbers, garnering attention from the public has been quite difficult for Carrión.
Carrión portrays himself as unfazed by these obstacles, however, and said in an interview that he will have enough funds for a cable television commercial that targets Latinos and the Bronx community.
Regardless of the outcome for Carrión, and whether naysayers blame the candidate’s party as his downfall, the mayoral candidate shows no regret. In the NY1 mayoral debate with Lhota, Carrión made it clear: “I’m proud to embrace the Independence Party.”