Cesar Zuniga announces run for 51st Assembly District seat

Campaign season has begun for the Assembly District 51 seat representing Sunset Park, Red Hook, Greenwood Heights and part of Gowanus.

Ceasar Zuniga (known as Cesar), board member and former officer at Community Board 7, announced that he is throwing his hat in the ring in a race that will see him up against 20-year incumbent Assemblymember Felix Ortiz.

Zuniga acknowledged that it will be a challenge to unseat an incumbent, but he hopes to “give people a choice.

“I don’t have anything personal against Felix; he should be commended for his service, but I am going to tell people my story, my vision, my priorities,” said Zuniga. “And I feel that what I have to offer is going to resonate.”

Zuniga, 41, announced his candidacy on Saturday, April 4, in front of Tacos Matamoros at 45th Street and Fifth Avenue. He stated that he was motivated to enter the race after observing both the good and the not-so-good in the community, and realizing that he had knowledge that could be used to make improvements.

“Since I joined [CB 7] in 2009, I’ve been present and have had the privilege of working with community members and different organizations” on issues that affect residents, explained Zuniga. “I realized early on there was so much more we could do.

“There was so much more potential if only we could get the right mix of [outreach and effort with] public officials,” he went on, “And I thought to myself, I could be this bridge to bring local issues to the state level.”

During his speech, Zuniga mentioned many issues that he plans to work on should he be victorious. These include his six core items: affordable housing, job development, transportation, immigration, Sandy recovery, and, perhaps most meaningful to him, early childhood education.

A father of two and director of research and evaluation for the Parent-Child Home Program, Zuniga said that he is happy with strides made by Mayor Bill de Blasio towards providing universal pre-kindergarten and hopes to work with him in the future.

“I applaud his effort to get $300 million, but we have to [take it further],” he said. “We’re a first world country. We can afford investment in childhood education.”

Many of Zuniga’s supporters believe he has his finger on the pulse of the local communities.

“I think Cesar embodies a lot of what this community has and needs,” said Jesus Perez, a Sunset Park resident since 1985. “He is a person who’s lived in the district and knows it [because] he’s participated with his neighbors and really has a sensibility of knowing where we need to go, especially in Albany.

“[Our elected officials] become just another politician and can get out of touch with the common folk,” said Perez. “We need someone who is going to be accountable for the people and communicate with them.We’re looking for public servants, not elected officials.”

Campaign volunteer Angel Morales agreed, noting, “I’ve seen his work over the years. He understands the issues of the community and what needs to be done. “

The Zuniga camp was impressed with the event’s turnout and looks forward to growing.

“To me it sends strong message that people want change and understand my commitment to the neighborhood,” said Zuniga. “This is just the beginning. We have a strong campaign and we will bring this all the way to [the primary election in] September.”

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