SOUTH BRONX — Although this winter's race for the District 17 City Council seat attracted a stampede of candidates, the second election for the position in less a year is shaping up to be a much smaller affair.
As of Monday, just two candidates for the seat had filed mandatory disclosures with the New York City Campaign Finance Board: the incumbent City Councilman Rafael Salamanca and retired union leader Helen Foreman-Hines.
This is a far cry from the first race, sparked by former City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo's surprise resignation at the end of 2015, when more than 10 people rushed in to try filling her seat in a Feb. 23 special election.
Several of the candidates from then have said they are not interested in running this time around, including Rev. J. Loren Russell, Bronx Volunteer Coalition founding member Marlon Molina, and South Bronx activist and businessman Julio Pabón.
Pabón, who also ran against Arroyo in 2013, said he felt his campaigns had accomplished its goal of demonstrating that it was possible to run a serious race without the support of elected or party officials. He now wants to focus on other projects.
"You can do a reputable job doing that and then build on it," he said, "and I think we did a good job on that in those two runs in 2013 and 2016, and now it’s time for others to do it."
The 17th District covers a large swath of the South Bronx, including Hunts Point, Longwood and Melrose, and this is the second of three elections that will take place for the seat over two years. The third will occur in 2017, when Arroyo's term would have ended if she had not resigned.
Foreman-Hines and Salamanca will face off in the Democratic primary on Sept. 13, and the winner will go on to compete in the November general election. There is currently no GOP candidate running for the seat.
Salamanca was widely viewed as the front-runner throughout the initial race this winter and won handily, with roughly 39 percent of the vote, while Foreman-Hines did not make it onto the ballot because she had filed her paperwork late.
However, she said that her work history and her experience as a single mother made her a good fit for the position, and that she had a strong chance of defeating Salamanca this time around.
"I believe I have an excellent shot at it," she said. "I’ve been out canvassing, knocking on doors, talking to the constituents, and it’s time for a change."
Salamanca said he was still confident that he would hold onto his seat in the next election, maintaining that he had already delivered for the community during his brief time in office by bringing millions of dollars in capital projects to his district and having an attorney come in once a week to help constituents deal with immigration issues.
He also noted that he had received the endorsement of 1199 SEIU, Foreman-Hines' former union.
"I’m pumped up. I’m excited. In the last five months, we’ve been able to address a lot of issues for my entire council district," he said.
"I’m pretty passionate about this," he continued. "This is not a job. This is a way of life for me."