Latinos make up one of the city’s largest ethnic groups, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is promising to turn them in support of Eric Adams in the Democratic primary race for mayor.
"For the Bronx, for Latinos and for all New Yorkers, the best choice is Eric Adams," Diaz Jr. said standing with a crowd of supporters at a rally in the Fordham section of the Bronx on Monday.
With the endorsement of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. — once considered a formidable candidate for mayor — Eric Adams is looking to make his case to a community that has yet to elect one of its own to City Hall.
"This is one of the most important mayoral races in the history of our city," Diaz Jr. said. “Our communities want to feel safe, our small businesses need help."
Diaz Jr. cited Adams’ time in state government and his work as a NYPD captain as primary reasons for his endorsement. Diaz Jr. and Adams’ relationship stretches back two decades. Both men met at a rally following the police killing of Amadou Diallo in the Bronx.
"I've been doing this for a while, you can critique my record because I have a record, you can’t critique other people’s records because they don’t have one,” Adams said.
Although they never said his name, both men threw digs at Andrew Yang, the frontrunner in the race, according to polls.
"We don’t need somebody who is just going to take pictures to post on social media,” Diaz Jr. said. “We don't need somebody who thinks this is a talent show. What we need is a leader who is going to run this city and not run from this city.”
So far, endorsements from prominent Latino leaders have been spread out throughout the primary field: Maya Wiley has the support of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Scott Stringer has the backing of Congressman Adriano Espaillat and Andrew Yang has been endorsed by Congressman Ritchie Torres. Earlier this month, Adams was endorsed by former Bronx Borough President and twice mayoral candidate, Fernando Ferrer.
That split in support is in some ways indicative of the fragmentation among Latino voters in the city.
John Mollenkopf, Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center, said any candidate who treats the Latino electorate as a monolithic bloc is making a mistake.
“The Latino vote is a potential that has been trying to be realized,” Mollenkopf said. “The reason it's hard to mobilize is that it's very fragmented. Thirty or 40 years ago the Latino vote and the Puerto Rican vote were pretty much synonymous more or less centered in the Bronx. That's really changed in the past few decades, the community is becoming more diverse and spread out in different areas of the city.”
Speaking to supporters Monday, Adams likened the Diaz Jr. endorsement to presidential politics.
"This is a Biden moment in Carolina," Adams said. "My Spanish is not the best, but one thing I do know is si se puede!"
Adams' presidential analogy is not so far-fetched, but that's assuming voters turn out. Diaz Jr. may prove pivotal in the Bronx, but it's unclear what effect he'll have in other parts of the city.
"With all due respect to the Bronx Borough President, I don’t think he's somebody who is known at all by residents in Latino neighborhoods of Queens or Brooklyn,” Mollenkopf said. “I really don’t know how far that endorsement might carry."
The city's Latino electorate is hardly a monolith. It spreads across different communities, cultural backgrounds and nationalities, whether or not they can coalesce behind one candidate remains to be seen.