Jonathan Ortiz

First in a crowded field: a Mott Haven local joins the race for Congress

Jonathan Ortiz speaks with a prospective voter. 

On one of the first cold nights of the season, Jonathon Ortiz spent his evening after a day’s work as a financial planner to distribute flyers outside the Brook Avenue station in Mott Haven.

He was the first to officially run for Jose Serrano’s seat in the 15th congressional district. He planned on running against the nearly 20-year congressman unlike most of his opponents who filed after Serrano announced he wouldn’t seek reelection.

Ortiz says he brought his ideas for the Mott Haven community to Serrano and claims he was shut down,

“I already had the solutions,” he said, “all they do is talk,” he added.

He says the only way to realize his progressive platform of equitable housing, financial literacy in schools and a local green new deal is to become a congressman,

“In order to change the south Bronx, you need to start at the top,” he said.

But he says he doesn’t have the money to get his message out through traditional methods like broadcasting campaign ads or renting out billboards,

“Imagine $150,000 down the drain. We’re about $149,000 short,” he said.

With low funds, Ortiz relies on a volunteer network to help get his message into the community. He has about 25 friends, relatives and community members who donate their time after work and school to canvass with him.

He floated the idea of a truck adorned in signage driving through the neighborhood, with a speaker in the back blasting his campaign message,

“I do things the old school way,” he said, “a speaker that says Ortiz 2020, people will notice,” he said.

Ortiz also engages in emerging forms of campaigning. While his social media platform shares ideas and criticizes his opponents, he’s been known to post memes aimed at younger voters.

Ortiz shared picture on Instagram of Donald Trump wearing a cowboy hat with the caption, “Gonna tell my kids this was Rev Ruben Diaz.”

On the corner by the elote vendor, one woman stopped and spoke with Ortiz for a while in Spanish. Ortiz says being bilingual is a crucial to representing the Bronx,

“when you’re trying to represent a community with so many Latinos, it pays to speak Spanish,” he said, “you need to be multicultural,” he said.

The woman told him she forgot to vote in the last November election. Ortiz explained to her that he was running in a primary slated for June and she had plenty of time to vote in this race. She walked away smiling,

“That’s one vote,” he said, “you got about 30 smiles out of 35, that’s 30 votes,” he said.

It didn’t take long before Ortiz ran out of the 50 or so flyers he brought with him,

“Just like that, that’s how I do it,” he said.

Ortiz is careful to not be too pushy with the evening commuters, saying they’re tired after long workdays. One woman bundled with a thick down hood covering all but her nose and eyes takes a flyer,

“I can be your next congressman!” Ortiz shouts as she descends into the subway,

“You will be,” she shouts back.

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