Community Advocate Hector Santiago to Challenge Tasha Diaz for City Council

While a formal announcement is scheduled for later this week, Hector Santiago is running for Yonkers City Council. Under the new district maps, Santiago now lives within the third council district and will challenge the incumbent and Majority Leader, Tasha Diaz.

Hector’s History

Hector Santiago is most known for his “Stop and Shake” program. In 2015 Santiago founded this program as an effort to connect communities with their police. The premise is that people should stop and shake the hand of a police officer in an effort to improve relations. Acclaim from articles published in NPR and numerous commendations from the city, county, and state also came to Santiago for his work. This ultimately found Santiago appointed as a human rights commissioner for the City of Yonkers and later earned him the nickname, “Hector the Connector.” Hector is also active in fighting the climate crisis through his volunteerism with Groundwork Hudson Valley and city’s climate task force.

Hector Santiago with police
Hector Santiago – Facebook

The Opponent

The incumbent he is challenging, Tasha Diaz, has had a newsworthy first term representing the third district. She initially championed the affordable housing ordinance which increased the mandatory minimum from 10% to 20% per development. However, after a veto by Mayor Mike Spano, Diaz reversed her position – preventing an override. This reversal led some in the community to publicly chastise the Council Member. This was at at a food pantry she helps organize in conjunction with Feeding Westchester that she’s been volunteering at for many years. Diaz later became the majority leader as a result of the previous leader, Corazón Pineda-Isaac, not having enough votes to retain that position. Diaz’s most recent headline came from her fiery speech during term limits extension debate.

Footage from the public City of Yonkers feed.

The Challenge

Immediately following this exchange, Hector Santiago, who was present in the room to protest the extension, was forcibly escorted out of the council chambers by the Yonkers Police Department. During his expulsion, Hector was assaulted and arrested. He is currently defending himself in criminal court and plans to file a lawsuit against the city on the claim his civil rights were violated. It was perhaps this incident that provided the spark for Santiago to challenge Diaz by seeking that seat on the council for himself.

And serendipitously, the recent redistricting process – which at first saw near unanimous opposition from residents – enabled Santiago to run. Before the new maps were presented, Raquel Ali was expected to challenge Diaz for the seat. However, she was redistricted out of the third. Santiago, on the other hand, was moved into the newly drawn third district; thus allowing him to run. This entire matter could just be coincidence. Or perhaps it is karma if those drawing the maps sought to exclude Ali as they had initially with Ron Matten.

Regardless, the chessboard is now set. Hector Santiago will challenge Tasha Diaz to represent the third council district in the City of Yonkers. Santiago has hit the ground running already by seeking the endorsement of the Working Families Party and soliciting support from many local businesses. Diaz, however, has the massive institution of the Spano network in her corner. In politics, advantage goes to incumbency and money – which are evidently in favor of Diaz. But, Santiago’s name recognition and reputation is something money can’t buy. But, will that be enough is the question.

Petitioning and party endorsements will be underway in the coming weeks. The Democratic primary is June 23rd, 2023.

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