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NY primaries have it all: Democratic Socialist upstarts, underdog pol targeting AOC and even an ex-con

By Carl Campanile

Published June 16, 2024, 5:00 p.m. ET

Upstart Democratic Socialists, an underdog businessman seeking to topple Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and ex-con Hiram Monserrate are among those seeking office in New York’s primary elections June 25.

The primary’s nine days of early voting started Saturday.

Lefty Democratic Socialist incumbent Ocasio-Cortez faces off against little known moderate retired Wall Street banker Marty Dolan in the 14th Congressional District covering parts of The Bronx and Queens.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is facing a primary challenge from retired Wall Street banker Marty Dolan.

AOC has tried to ignore her opponent — refusing to debate him — while running TV ads promoting her re-election bid.

She has instead chosen to focus much of her attention on re-electing embattled fellow “Squad” member Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who faces a formidable challenge from moderate George Latimer, the Westchester County executive.

AOC is organizing a rally for Bowman on Saturday with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman greeting people on Westchester’s first day of early voting in New Rochelle on June 15, 2024.

In the 1st Congressional District, which covers most of Suffolk County on Long Island — including its tony East End — several Democrats are hoping to win the party nod to run for Republican Lee Zeldin’s former House seat and take on first-term GOP incumbent Nick LaLota.

Centrist John Avlon — a former Rudy Giuliani mayoral speech writer and CNN analyst — will be facing off against liberal Stony Brook University Professor Nancy Goroff in the primary.

Zeldin defeated Goroff in 2020 before relinquishing his seat to run for governor in 2022.

Avlon has won the support of moderates such as Reps. Tom Suozzi of Long Island, Gregory Meeks of Queens and Dan Goldman of lower Manhattan/Brooklyn, as well as state Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs, also the neighboring Democratic leader in Nassau County.

John Avlon is running in the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District on Long Island.John Avlon

Women’s groups, including Emily’s List, are backing Goroff.

Meanwhile, Democratic Socialist candidates are trying to topple incumbents in the state Assembly, and there is a Conservative Party primary fight that could impact a state Senate race in the Hudson Valley.

A primary battle in the 56th Assembly District in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant is pitting two-term incumbent Assemblywoman Stefani Zinerman against her DSA-backed opponent, Eon Huntley.

Brooklyn Assemblywoman Stefani Zinerman is being challenged by Eon Huntley in her Bedford-Stuyvesant district.Paul Martinka

Much of the African-American leadership in Brooklyn has rallied around Zinerman, including House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, state Attorney General Letitia James and Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairwoman Rodneyse Bichotte.

Huntley is backed by the DSA, state Sen. Jabari Brisport and the left-leaning New Kings Democrats, who say the challenger will be stronger champion for tenants.

Real-estate interests are funding a Super Pac backing Zinerman.   

Huntley is supported by the DSA.

In a rematch in the Bronx’s 82nd District — which covers Co-op City, Throgs, Neck, Pelham Bay, Country Club, Westchester Square and City Island — DSA-backed challenger Jonathan Soto is again trying to topple veteran Dem Assemblyman Michael Benedetto.

Benedetto is confident he will prevail again.

“My opponent is backed by the Democratic Socialists and supports defunding the police. Public safety is a big issue,” said Benedetto, 76, a retired teacher first elected in 2004 and chairman of the assembly’s Education Committee.

Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benedetto has also faced a DSA-backed primary opponent.Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Benedetto bashed Jonathan Soto for supporting the “defund the police” movement.YouTube / MNN NYC

Assemblyman Ron Kim — who has represented the Flushing-Bayside area in the 40th CD in Queens since 2012 and is seeking a seventh term — faces a formidable primary challenge from businessman Yi Andy Chen.

Kim, the first Korean-American elected to the legislature, took on ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo over COVID-linked nursing home deaths — including that of his uncle — as the Assembly Aging Committee chairman.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams endorsed Kim at a rally Saturday, and the candidate is also backed by state Sen. John Liu, the former city comptroller, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.    

Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim is being challenged by local businessman Yi Andy Chen.AP

But some of his positions are to the left of his conservative Korean-Chinese American constituency, and he barely won re-election against a Republican two-years ago.

A Super PAC backed by real-estate interests supports Chen, a healthcare executive, as does the NYC Police Benevolent Association.   

Chen’s support from a business group with ties to China’s communist government — the  American Chinese Commerce Association — has raised eyebrows. Republican Assembly members made a “friendship delegation” trip to China last year, which was paid for by the same group.

Chen is supported by the NYC Police Benevolent Association. 

Convicted felon Hiram Monserrate, a former city councilman and ex-state senator from Queens attempting another comeback in the vacant 35th Assembly District covering Elmhurst and Corona, is challenging party favorite Larinda Hooks.

The seat is up for grabs after the retirement of Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry.

In Queens’ 37th AD, first-term Dem incumbent Assemblyman Juan Ardila, tarnished by sex-abuse accusations, is being challenged by party-backed candidate Johanna Carmona and DSA-supported Claire Valdez.

Assembly candidate Hiram Monserrate (center) at a rally against a migrant hotel in Queens on June 9, 2024.

A Conservative Party primary in the 42nd state senatorial district in the Hudson Valley could have an impact on who wins the general election for the seat.

Democratic Sen. James Skoufis, who is running for election to a fourth term, has an expected rematch against Republican Dorey Houle, whom he defeated narrowly by 1,400 votes in 2022.

The Conservative Party in Orange County has cross-endorsed Houle, who ran on the party’s ballot line in 2022.

But she faces a Conservative Party primary challenge from Tim Mitts, a tax preparer who was convicted of filing fraudulent returns in Kentucky in 2008.

State Conservative Party Chairman Gerard Kassar said Mitts could play spoiler by siphoning votes from Houle if he wins the Conservative Party’s primary, leaving both of them on the general election ballot, although for different parties.

“Mitts came out of nowhere. He only helps Skoufis if he wins the primary. He hurts our candidate, Dorey,” Kassar said.

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