Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s sphere of influence could expand into the state legislature in Albany.
Jonathan Soto, a former campaign aide for Ocasio-Cortez, is attempting to overthrow veteran Bronx Rep. Michael Benedetto in the June 28 Democratic primary.
“I’m definitely seeking congressional approval,” Soto, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, told The Post.
He has the blessing of the Ocasio-Cortez Courage to Change political action committee and the Working Families Party.
The 37-year-old insurgent has taken positions aligned with the progressive left and the DSA – supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel and the Defund the Police movement.
Soto also opposes tightening the no-cash bail law and expanding the law that gives the mayor powers to oversee the public school system, saying the city hall has too much power over education.
He was critical of Mayor Eric Adams, particularly criticizing Hizzoner’s description of low-wage workers as “low-skilled.”
“This mayor is Trump 2.0. There are no ifs, ands, or buts,” Soto said in a recent Instagram interview with Harlem Councilwoman Kristin Richardson.
Soto, the son of Pentecostal ministers who previously oversaw former Mayor Bill de Blasoi’s faith-based program and ran Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign homework help program, told The Post that he thinks resources are being diverted to youth and other crime prevention programs should be.
“Our political budgets are too high,” he said.
Soto, whose daughter is in elementary school, also said he supports term limits, arguing that long-term tenure has “ossified the democratic system.”
“We have a terrible turnout because we keep having the same people,” he said.
The 82nd Assembly District, represented by Benedetto since 2005, is one of the most moderate to conservative in the Bronx and includes the neighborhoods of Throgs Neck and City Island, as well as Co-Op City.
The district overlaps with three congressional districts, including leftist Congressman Jamaal Bowman’s and Ocasio-Cortez’s. Soto said he seeks the support of both Poles but admitted he has never met with Ocasio-Cortez since their 2018 election.
Benedetto, a close ally of congregation spokesman Carl Heastie, said Sunday Soto stands too far to the left of the district’s constituency, which has one of the highest percentages of residents with law enforcement ties in the city.
“We are dealing with an increase in crime. I don’t know why you want to disappoint the police,” said the MP and retired teacher.
Like Soto, Benedetto is opposed to tightening the no-cash bail law. The MP said he would accept endorsements from law enforcement unions.
Both oppose raising the state cap to allow more charter schools to open in New York City.
But unlike Soto, Benedetto supports expanding the mayor’s control over city schools.
“The mayor should be responsible and accountable for the schools,” he said.
Benedetto raped Soto for supporting the BDS movement against Israel.
“Israel is our most important ally in this part of the world. The people who want to separate from Israel are no longer in touch,” he said.
Soto invoked the Palestinians’ right to free speech in defense of his BDS position and slapped Benedetto for voting against a bill that would have required the state Department of Education to investigate whether school districts taught about the Holocaust.
Benedetto said the bill was a redundant and unfunded mandate.
Soto, meanwhile, slammed Benedetto for receiving a $6,000 donation from former President Donald Trump seven years prior to his presidency.
Benedetto, whose district includes Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, admitted he felt “embarrassed” by Trump’s post and said he forwarded it to the New York Immigration Coalition.
A spokeswoman for Ocasio-Cortez said she has not yet made a decision on local endorsements.
Heastie said through a spokesman that he supports Benedetto’s re-election. Heastie could direct the Democratic Assembly’s campaign committee to help Benedetto defeat the Soto challenge.
“I am very proud of the service I have rendered to my community,” said Benedetto. “I have an interview every two years. I’m ready for it.”
https://nypost.com/2022/03/27/aoc-pal-in-bid-to-topple-bronx-assemblyman-mike-benedetto/ AOC pals trying to topple Bronx Rep. Mike Benedetto