By Emily Harris
One of New York City’s most prominent Latino politicians, Guillermo Linares, is facing a political battle to retain his seat in the state legislature.
“No one has served as long as I have in the Northattan community, considered the heart and soul of Dominican diaspora,” Linares said. He is the first Dominican ever to serve on city council, marked by his election in 1991, and has been in New York City politics for 25 years.
Linares spoke at the John F Kennedy High School polling station in Marble Hill, where he came to vote early this morning. While usually the incumbent goes uncontested, Linares is up against candidates George Ferndandez and Carmen De La Rosa in a fight for his current seat.
This comes after Linares lost to Adriano Espaillat in the Democratic congressional primary to replace Charles Rangel earlier this year. Espaillat has endorsed contender De La Rosa, who is also Dominican, to take his place, setting up the head-to-head vote that will test loyalties of local Latino voters.
“No one has been more of a champion of promoting young women exercising leadership in the public and private sector than me,” Linares said of his competition with De La Rosa, a longtime advocate for women’s rights. Linares cited the increase of women in leadership roles in education since he was first elected to the 72nd District Assembly in 2010.
De La Rosa also has the support of NYC Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. “She’s the one who will bring a strong, progressive voice… she will continue building a bridge that will connect people from all backgrounds,” Rodriguez said, claiming she will bring a fresh perspective to the role.
Linares, meanwhile, has experience. He championed a language policy that requires public services to provide translations during his time as Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. As NYS District 72 Assemblyman, he developed the Dream Act, a program to help undocumented teenagers get into college, and was later elected to the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.
“It takes experience, which I bring, but also political capital. When they see you, they know you command, a level of respect as a public servant. You can’t get that overnight,” Linares stated.
Never before has Linares’ position been so jeopardized as it is now, with the Latino vote split between him and De La Rosa. It is up to the voters today whether experience or a new set of eyes is what the NYS Assembly needs most.