In a surprising turn of events, 32-year-old Carlos Menchaca bested Councilmember Sara Gonzalez in the Democratic primary for the council seat representing Sunset Park and Red Hook, securing over 57 percent of the vote.
In a race marked by low turnout, Menchaca – who is poised to be the first Mexican-American on the Council — got 3,997 votes compared to Gonzalez’s 2,946. If re-elected, Gonzalez would have been the most senior councilmember. There was a somber mood as she gathered with supporters at Tacos el Bronco restaurant.
“I feel concern for the future of the district, but I thank everyone who supported me. I have stayed in office a long time,” Gonzalez said. “I did an incredible job. I’m an educated woman and will go on to do something else, I’m sure.
“I love Sunset Park and Red Hook. I think we have a beautiful mosaic of residents,” she went on. “I grew up here, rode my bike here and now my granddaughter is here. I basically just want to do better and make sure that our children do better than we have.”
Gonzalez did have some advice for Menchaca. “You need to live, know, understand and fight for this community,” she said. “We are going to have to move forward.”
Over at Menchaca’s party, there was much fanfare as supporters, strobe lights and fog machines filled Saint Jacobi Evangelical Lutheran Church, just 10 blocks away from Gonzalez’s camp.
Menchaca, who is a former City Council and borough president aide, said that he was “unbelievably humbled and honored to be selected as the next city councilmember.
“We won by canvassing and talking to voters,” Menchaca said as the room erupted in cheers of “Si se puede!” or “Yes we can!”
“I am surrounded by unions, family and friends,” he said. “I am going to be visible and vocal. I will be someone on the streets who will be this voice…who will go to City Hall and demand that services be brought to Sunset Park. This district needed someone who will work to take care of the will of the people.”
Residents of Sunset Park had mixed feelings about the results.
Nate Sloan, a Menchaca volunteer for the past three months, could not hide his happiness.
“I knew he was going to do it,” he said. “I could tell he was going to win.”
However, Edgar Alvarez commented, “The district lost.”
The general election is November 5. Menchaca will face Henry LaValle, a retired Port Authority police officer, who is running on the Conservative line.