Challenger Trying to Unseat Assemblyman Félix Ortiz

Ceasar Zuniga. (Photo: Facebook)

Ceasar Zuniga. (Photo: Zuniga campaign)

A year after one incumbent was driven out of Sunset Park and Red Hook, another longtime lawmaker is being challenged.

Ceasar Zuniga, a member of the local community board, is set to challenge Assemblyman Félix Ortiz, hoping to seize upon the anti-incumbent fervor that elected Councilman Carlos Menchaca last year in an overlapping district.

“I don’t want to say things to make it about Félix but there comes a time for new ideas and a fresh perspective,” Mr. Zuniga told the Observer. “I want to work with my federal, state and local representatives and I don’t know if there’s been synergy between the three levels of government.”

Mr. Zuniga, a Democrat like Mr. Ortiz, formerly kicked off his campaign Saturday after first filing in late February. A director at the Parent-Child Home Program, Mr. Zuniga hopes to make access to early childcare, economic development and immigration reform top priorities if he makes it to Albany.

The insurgent has no illusions about the difficult task ahead of him. Mr. Ortiz, the president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, has held the seat since the 1990’s and enjoys superior name recognition in the Brooklyn district.

But Zuniga is hoping to raise $150,000 to $200,000 for the challenge–a lofty goal that he believes is attainable. He is also hoping to turn out many of the newer, younger voters that helped elected Mr. Menchaca in the heavily Hispanic and gentrifying area.

“It’s a new day in the district. People are receptive to change,” Mr. Zuniga said. “The data suggests a lot of new voters in very specific parts of the district. We’re going to be very aggressive in getting out there. We have a plan to get our message out there.”

Mr. Ortiz, however, pointed to many achievements during his tenure, including building new public schools, bringing a Costco to Sunset Park and helping secure state funding for universal prekindergarten.

“All that has been built under my tenure,” Mr. Ortiz said. “My record really speaks for itself.”

“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” he added.