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New York City’s top police union has endorsed Democratic City Councilman Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr., a controversial figure known best for his conservative and anti-LGBTQ views, for an open congressional seat representing the South Bronx.
The Police Benevolent Association is backing Diaz, who is among among 10 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the 15th Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. José Serrano.
“Your commitment to [the] public and law enforcement are well recognized, and it would be an honor to have you representing our members in Congress,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a letter to Diaz. “We look forward to working with you towards our shared goal of a stronger, safer New York.”
Diaz graciously accepted the endorsement, adding: “I’ve always been a person who believes in law and order.”
The PBA’s endorsement of Diaz will likely be viewed a swipe at New York City’s progressive voters and the LGBTQ community due to his long record of opposing LGBTQ rights.
Diaz, a Pentecostal minister, was one of the chief voices opposing pro-LGBTQ bills, including one that legalized marriage equality in the Empire State, during his 14 years in the New York State Senate. Diaz held a rally denouncing the marriage equality bill prior to the vote.
Diaz also voted against a law to expand nondiscrimination protections to transgender New Yorkers, and even sued to stop an expansion of Harvey Milk High School, a school for LGBTQ students. In 2016, he invited presidential candidate Ted Cruz to his district, giving him a chance to pander to socially conservative voters, even though Cruz had previously decried so-called “New York values” as problematic.
As Councilman, Diaz was stripped of his position as chairman of the Council committee overseeing for-hire vehicles after he said the Council was “controlled by the homosexual community” in a Spanish-language TV program. He refused to apologize for the comments.
A PBA spokesperson did not respond to a request from Metro Weekly for comment as of press time.
Diaz’s opponents include openly gay Councilman Ritchie Torres, former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Assemblyman Michael Blake, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and community activist Samelys Lopez, who has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the neighboring 14th Congressional District.
Some activists have worried that Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement of Lopez will split the progressive vote between Lopez and Torres, allowing Diaz — who has a loyal base of followers and whose son, Ruben Jr., serves as Bronx Borough President and has enormous influence over the borough’s political machinery — to sneak through.
But Diaz told the New York Post he was planning to represent all of his would-be constituents and would not discriminate against anyone.
“I’m going to win this race. I’m going to serve everyone regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation,” he said.
However, Bronx United, a group formed to defeat Diaz, called him a “conservative extremist who would be Donald Trump’s favorite New York politician if he ever got to Washington.
“We are opposing [Diaz] because he’d be a destructive voice in Washington at a time when the South Bronx and New York City need real leadership,” the group said in a statement.
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