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Primary Day 2011 would normally be a quiet election year with no statewide or federal offices up for grabs.
Earlier this year, Rep. Anthony Weiner stepped down from representing the 9th Congressional District under a cloud of scandal. Statewide, several Assembly seats are open. Due to events which opened several seats, Governor Andrew Cuomo has designated all open seats will be filled during a special election on September 13.
Locally, a special election will take place to fill the seat vacated by former Assemblyman Darryl Towns, who Cuomo named NYS Commissioner of Homes and Community Renewal, which develops affordable housing. The 54th Assembly District, which covers Bushwick, Cypress Hills, East New York, City Line and parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant, is being contested by Councilman Erik Martin Dilan’s Chief of Staff Rafael Espinal, Make the Road New York community organizer Jesus Gonzalez and Deidra Towns, daughter of Congressman Ed Towns and sister of Commissioner Darryl Towns.
Rafael Espinal is running on the Democratic line as determined by the Brooklyn Democratic County Committee and Conservative Party lines. Espinal attempted to run on the Republican Party line, but failed due to insufficient certification of nomination. He is also attempting nomination on the “United We Can” line.
According to published reports, Rafael Espinal accepted a joint $5,000 contribution from a known slumlord, Jay Wartski, and his brother. Wartski “has a history of charges for harassing and forcing out tenants and letting conditions
deteriorate at his SRO buildings.” 
Espinal Endorsements: City Council member Erik Martin Dilan, NY State Senator Martin Malave Dilan, NY State Assembly member Vito Lopez, Council member Fernando Cabrera, SEIU 32BJ, Plumbers Local 1, Uniformed Firefighters Association and Teamsters Joint Council 16, which represents more than 120,000 members from 33 Teamsters locals in metro NYC and Puerto Rico.
Jesus Gonzalez is running on the Working Families Party line. Gonzalez began public service as a youngster when, at age 12, he became a youth organizer with Make the Road New York. Gonzalez received an early jump-start when Rep. Nydia Velazquez endorsed his campaign. Brooklyn’s reform movement, led by District Leaders Chris Owens and Lincoln Restler, are also endorsing Gonzalez.
Gonzalez Endorsements: Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Assemblywoman Inez Barron, Council members Diana Renya and Charles Barron, 50th A.D. District Leader Lincoln Restler, 52nd A.D. Chris Owens, New Kings Democrats, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, Democracy for NYC, New York Communities for Change, Luis Garden Acosta, Mark Winston Griffith, District 1 of Communications Workers of America, Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board of Workers United, New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500.
Deidra Towns is running under the “Community First” line. Towns, a single parent of three, relies on her experience as executive director of the nonprofit Versie B. Towns Foundation. Published reports have found “The IRS has no record of any tax return from the foundation since it was incorporated in 1997, and revoked its tax-exempt status in June. The nonprofit appears to have never registered or filed an annual statement with the New York Attorney General’s Office.”
As of press deadline, Towns had no endorsements on her campaign Website.
The Independence and Green Parties declined to nominate anyone in the 54th A.D. special election.
The race is a battle between two political powerhouses. Espinal’s campaign is a proxy for the Dilan dynasty (and Brooklyn Democratic County Leader Vito Lopez) which for years has been trying to disrupt the Towns dynasty’s hold on the district. Gonzalez’s candidacy provides reformers an opportunity to chip away at the control of the Democratic County machine.
NY Daily News chose Jesus Gonzalez as the best pick in the 54th A.D. race.
Other special elections on September 13: 9th Congressional district in Brooklyn and Queens, 23rd A.D. in Queens, 27th A.D. in Queens, 73rd A.D. in Manhattan, 116th A.D. in Oneida, and 14th A.D. in Erie

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