Ritchie Torres, the Latino Candidate Who Wants to Break All the Schemes

Ritchie Torres BELatina

The candidate for the South Bronx 15th Congressional District, Ritchie Torres, is now one of the most influential figures in the generational and cultural change facing the country. 

At just 31, the young Latino has been the youngest member of the Bronx city council, the chairman of the Public Housing Committee, and the deputy majority leader. His profile has caught the attention of the country’s largest political organizations, which have given him support for his next goal: a seat in Congress.

The retirement of Rep. José Serrano leaves an open seat in one of the most heavily Latino districts in the Bronx, and Torres set his sights on it.

Now, the young candidate has the support of the PAC of the Hispanic Caucus in Congress, BOLD, which announced last Monday that it had decided to back Torres for the Democratic primaries.

“A proud son of the Bronx, Torres has proven to be an effective leader, and @BOLD Dems has no doubt that he will continue to be a champion for justice and the dignity of the people of New York,” said the group in a statement, arguing its decision to support the young Afro-Latino above other candidates such as former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr.

According to the New York Post, some people close to the Caucus said the decision to support Torres had to do with its efforts to block Diaz Sr., “the Pentecostal minister and former state senator who opposed abortion and voted against New York’s gay marriage law.”

And rightly so: Torres is a candidate who represents many voices through a single political proposal.

The son of a Puerto Rican and an African American mother, Torres was raised by his mother in a public housing project in the Throgs Neck neighborhood. Once he graduated from high school, he worked as an intern in the offices of the Mayor and Attorney General.

The young candidate has been openly homosexual since college and has been a strong advocate for marriage equality. 

At 25, he became the first openly gay political candidate in the Bronx to win a Democratic nomination for the New York City Council and, by winning, also became the first openly gay public official in the Bronx.

However, it has been his work on the City Council that has earned him the support of labor unions and Democrats alike.

He was a fierce advocate to improve public housing in the South Bronx, and he also fought from the Oversight and Investigations Committee for transparency in the taxi medallion market.

These and other successful campaigns have earned him the title of “champion for the urban poor,” just as he envisioned when he announced his attempt to move forward in politics.

In July 2019, Torres announced his candidacy for the seat, where he spoke openly of his fight against depression, his plans against the concentration of poverty, and his determination to overcome the homophobia that could take root in the district if his opponent wins.

“I remember when I first ran,” Torres said. “I had no ties to the party machine. I had no ties to a political dynasty. I was a 24-year-old, Afro-Latino, gay kid struggling to fully come to terms with his sexual identity, and terrified to run as an openly LGBT candidate because of the homophobic culture that people like Ruben Diaz Sr. created in the Bronx.”

“It’s personal,” Diaz added. “He made the experience of running for public office more terrifying for me.”

Torres has now the support of the Equality PAC, the Victory Fund and the Hispanic Caucus, with an important advantage in fundraising, according to Buzzfeed News. Through the last quarter, Torres has raised $878,084, at least $750,000 more than Diaz Sr.

However, the young Afro-Latino will face other opponents who will also run for the nomination, including Assembly Member Michael Blake, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, former New York City Council Vice President Melissa Mark-Viverito, and others.