June 24, 2020 at 4:09 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay NYC Council member defeats anti-LGBTQ challenger in congressional primary
Ritchie Torres (Photo via Twitter)

A member of the New York City Council is poised to become the first LGBTQ Latino person of African descent elected to Congress after he appears to have won his primary on Tuesday.

Initial results indicate Ritchie Torres defeated fellow City Council Member Rubén Díaz Sr., who vehemently opposes LGBTQ rights, by a 31-15 percent margin in the Democratic primary in New York’s 15th congressional district that includes the South Bronx. Former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is among the other Democrats who ran to succeed retiring Congressman José Serrano.

The New York Times reported a final vote count will take place on June 30 because of outstanding absentee ballots.

“I’m not prepared to declare victory until every vote is counted,” Torres told Juan Manuel Benítez of NY1 on Tuesday night. “But even if I win the election, it’s governing that matters. It’s delivering results for the everyday people of the South Bronx.”

“It would be the honor of my life to represent this borough,” added Torres. “It’s my home.”

The Human Rights Campaign and the LGBTQ Victory Fund are among the groups that endorsed Torres.

“Voters in the Bronx rejected the politics of bigotry and instead put Ritchie on track to become the first openly LGBTQ Afro-Latinx member of Congress,” said Victory Fund President Annise Parker in a statement. “At a time when our country is divided and we confront the realities of racism and police brutality, it is essential we have a voice like Ritchie’s fighting to turn the demands of protesters into legislative change at the federal level. While he will make history in November, we know Ritchie runs not to put his name in the record book, but to continue his work to expand and improve affordable housing and secure criminal justice reform for his constituents.”

Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who is the first openly transgender person elected to a state legislature in the U.S., also congratulated Torres.

“So stoked for Ritchie Torres,” tweeted Roem on Tuesday.

“I know what it’s like as an out LGBTQ candidate to go up against a long-time legislator who’s made his legacy on opposing your civil rights and win,” added Roem, who ousted then-state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) in 2017. “It’s a special moment many will celebrate, but only a handful will ever experience.”

Mondaire Jones on Tuesday won his primary in New York’s 17th congressional district. Jones and Torres would become the first Black LGBTQ members of Congress if they were to win the general election in November.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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