Three challenge Velazquez

By Sarina Trangle

Half of the candidates running for U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez’s (D-Brooklyn) seat live outside the 7th Congressional District, including the incumbent.

City Board of Elections records show Velazquez resides in Red Hook about three blocks away from the district she was elected to represent, which stretches from Sunset Park in Brooklyn through the southeastern tip of Manhattan and over to Maspeth and Woodhaven.

One of her three challengers, Republican Jose Luis Fernandez, lives in northeast Brooklyn, approximately five blocks out of the district, BOE records show. Allan Romaguera, the Conservative Party’s candidate, and Jeffrey Kurzon, a Democrat who will face Velazquez in a primary this summer, both live within the district in Brooklyn.

The state does not require representatives to reside within their districts, but Kurzon has pointed out that Velazquez’s primary residence is outside the boundaries.

The 37-year-old attorney described himself as a single-issue candidate bent on reforming the federal campaign finance system and shunning donations from political action committees.

But he took a break from discussing money to highlight his opponent’s home address.

“I’d say she’s out of touch … she lives just outside the district, so she’s not her representative,” Kurzon said. “When she takes money from corporate PACs and lobbyists, it creates this perception among voters that it’s all about money and then people on Election Day stay home.”

Besides pushing to create a public financing system for federal elections, Kurzon said he would create jobs through infrastructure projects, push for industry-specific trade programs in public schools and close a carried interest tax “loophole” to generate close to $5 million annually in each congressional district.

Velazquez’s campaign did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.

Her website notes that Velazquez was the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the House of Representatives in 1992. Since then she has become the ranking member of the House Small Business Committee and senior member of the Financial Services Committee.

The congresswoman, who filed petitions to run on the Democratic and Working Families lines, has focused on working with the U.S. Small Business Administration to get entrepreneurs the financing they need, particularly those in underserved communities, her website notes. She has also prioritized protecting the environment and improving access to affordable housing and a quality education.

Romaguella, an international banking consultant from Park Slope, said he is running mainly because the Brooklyn Conservative Party asked him to so the party could maintain a presence on the ballot.

“If I didn’t run, there would be no candidate and then there would be no work for the poll workers … it would probably go down a little bit,” said Romaguella, 58. “There’s a lot of people that depend on this election to make extra cash.”

Romaguella, who said he has made previous congressional, City Council and state Senate bids with the same partially committed philosophy, said he would conduct random samplings to gauge constituents’ stances and guide his voting if elected.

Fernandez, 35, did not respond to requests for an interview.

His campaign’s Facebook page notes that Fernandez was born in San Juan, P.R., studied music and piano performance at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music and then studied business administration.

He has worked as president of the Inter American Entrepreneurs Association and director of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce. Fernandez produced and hosted a Univision Radio show in New York and Puerto Rico that discussed federal legislation and policies’ impact on Hispanics.

Velazquez had about $132,705 on hand, as of the last campaign finance disclosure filing at the end of March. At that point, Kurzon had $41,336 in his war chest, Fernandez had $3,604 and Romaguella had not raised enough to require him to register a committee.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-e260-4546 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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