Trump-Supporting Democrat, ‘Opposite of AOC,’ Running in NY’s 15th District

Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty Images


Pastor Ruben Diaz Sr., a Trump-supporting Democrat on the city council in New York’s 18th Congressional District, has raised the concern of progressive party members after tossing his hat in the ring to run for the 15th district’s open House of Representatives seat.
According to feature in Newsweek:

 [Diaz is] a flamboyant, cowboy hat-wearing New York City councilman who immediately distinguished his views when he announced his run in 2019, saying “I am the opposite of AOC in the South Bronx.”

And that has national Democrats, opponents and progressives like Planned Parenthood and LGBT groups in a panic because the 77-year-old minister has a history of making inflammatory statements about homosexuals and strongly opposes abortion because of his religious beliefs.

“He would instantly become Donald Trump’s favorite New York congressman,” strategist Eric Koch of anti-Diaz super PAC Bronx United told Newsweek, adding that Diaz Sr. would be an unreliable Democratic vote in the House caucus.

Newsweek also wrote about Diaz’s son Ruben Diaz Jr., who is a Bronx borough president, is said to be popular, and  has sometimes publicly disagreed with his father, including when dad invited Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to visit the Bronx.

“But the consensus is that his son is a political plus for the Reverend,” Newsweek reported.

The 15th District borders the district represented by Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In 2012 Barack Obama got almost 97 percent of the vote there, Newsweek reported.

Diaz Sr. is Puerto Rican in his historic Puerto Rican New York neighborhood where evangelicals and seniors make up his political base.

Jennifer Blatus, a political strategist who interned with Diaz Jr., said in the Newsweek report:

He has always had a great constituent service mechanism. He’s really good at connecting with the community, he knows who his base is, he knows how to reach them, his son is wildly popular, they have the same name and half the people that vote for him might think they’re voting for Rubencito.

But “insiders” told Newsweek that Diaz senior is popular, stands out in a field of ten, and would probably win the seat if the election were held today.

One of his opponents calls that possibility a “cruel irony.”

”There’s a cruel irony that a Trump Republican could represent the most Democratic district in America,” Ritchie Torres said.

Newsweek reported:

While outside groups bristle at Diaz Sr.’s place in the modern Democratic Party, they don’t get a vote in the community where he has devoted his time and resources for decades. Diaz, who said he was a victim of anti-black discrimination while in the Army, was addicted to drugs and pleaded guilty to heroin and marijuana possession in 1965 before finding salvation in Jesus Christ, ministering to people who also needed to turn their lives around, and opening senior centers in the Bronx in the 1970s and 1980s.”

“The Diaz name has value not just because his son is the borough president, but because it has been a fixture in that community both politically and spiritually,” Hank Shienkopf, who is a veteran of New York politics since 1969, Newsweek reported.

Diaz Sr. has been at the center of controversy over the years, according to Newsweek, including for saying that the city council was “controlled by the homosexual community” last year.

It was also apparently a controversy that Diaz Sr. did not endorse Michael Bloomberg or Democrat Fernando Ferrer in the mayoral race in 2005 because their support for abortion and same-sex marriage meant, he said, “they have nothing to offer me, according to the Bible.”

And the leftists in his own party are gearing up to attack Diaz Sr. Newsweek reported:

A national coalition launched by Victory Fund last week, which backs LGBTQ candidates and supports Torres, included NARAL Pro-Choice America, Latino Victory Fund, Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Human Rights Campaign to raise the alarm that Diaz Sr. wants to represent a district they argue has politically moved away from him.

But while the coronavirus has hit the district hard, it might help Diaz Sr. win given that lockdowns have made all campaigns virtual.

“The district has been devastated by the virus, but also devastated by poverty for the last 25 years, so the question is where were these people when the Diaz’s were here?” Shienkopf said. “Who is standing up to scream about it? Diaz keeps proving he’s the one that can yell the loudest, so that gives him some standing.”

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.