Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/marcos-crespo 2017-10-17T09:53:18+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Former Informant, Out; Candidate Indicted on Voter Fraud, In 2016-07-13T04:00:00+00:00 2016-07-13T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6436:former-informant-out-candidate-indicted-on-voter-fraud-in Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Hector_Ramirez_petitioning.jpg" alt="Hector Ramirez petitioning" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Hector Ramirez petitioning in the Bronx (photo <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1156003124439040&amp;set=a.332382103467817.73262.100000880915756&amp;type=3&amp;theater" target="_blank">via Facebook</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>Bronx Assemblymember Victor Pichardo will no longer be facing former Assemblymember Nelson Castro, a onetime federal informant who helped dig up dirt on fellow electeds in an attempt to reduce charges he was facing for election-related perjury, in the upcoming Democratic primary.</p> <p>Instead, Pichardo will again be opposed by Bronx activist Hector Ramirez, who is facing a 242-count indictment for voter fraud in relation to his activities in his last race against Pichardo.</p> <p>According to the Bronx District Attorney&rsquo;s office Ramirez has a date in court before Bronx Supreme Court Justice Steven Barrett on September 13, the day of the Democratic primary.</p> <p>While Castro has dropped <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6383-former-government-informant-to-run-for-old-assembly-seat" target="_blank">his plans to run</a>, Ramirez presents a stiffer challenge to the incumbent as the former districts leader&rsquo;s name has appeared on ballots in the Bronx for over 20 years and he recently challenged Pichardo in the special election to replace Castro in 2013 and during the Democratic primary in 2014.</p> <p>Ramirez&rsquo;s entrance into the race is another chapter for the 86th Assembly District, which has been rocked by scandal and infighting <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/4521-the-castro-legacy-corruption-haunts-assembly-district-race" target="_blank">for years</a>. Castro served two terms in the Assembly while also working as an informant before abruptly resigning in April 2013. Ramirez announced his candidacy in a press release on Tuesday night touting that he had filed three times the required signatures to get on the ballot.</p> <p>Pichardo&rsquo;s camp is expected to challenge Ramirez&rsquo;s petitions, with the possibility of knocking him off the ballot.</p> <p>Castro told Gotham Gazette that he decided to bow out of the race after collecting 2,300 signatures petitioning because it was difficult to raise money. He said he now expects to back Ramirez. &ldquo;I decided to stay out, but I think I will be endorsing Hector Ramirez,&rdquo; Castro said. Asked if the indictment against Ramirez concerns him at all, Castro replied: &ldquo;I haven&rsquo;t endorsed yet. He&rsquo;s not guilty until proven guilty in a court of law.&rdquo;</p> <p>Ramirez, who has clashed with county Democrats, is positioning himself as a man of the people running against Pichardo, who he has labeled the establishment candidate and an outsider. "[T]he first step in having our voice and concerns heard in Albany is allowing the people of the district to exercise their constitutional right of electing whomever they want fighting for them in Albany, not a poppet [sic] imposed by politicians," Ramirez said in the statement.</p> <p>Pichardo reacted to Ramirez&rsquo;s announcement by requesting the Department of Justice monitor the contest. "This announcement is yet another example of both Hector Ramirez&rsquo;s contempt for the law and his lack of respect for the voters of the 86th Assembly district,&rdquo; Pichardo said in a statement.</p> <p>In 2014, dozens of witnesses <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/bronx-politician-hector-ramirez-busted-fraud-charges-article-1.2229187" target="_blank">told the Bronx DA</a> office that Ramirez and his staffers duped them into handing over their absentee ballots - some of which Ramirez&rsquo;s staff then filed as votes for their candidate. After the first tally Ramirez led Pichardo by 11 votes out of over 3,500 ballots cast. A hand recount put Pichardo ahead by only two votes.</p> <p><a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/machine-politics-fraud-filled-bronx-race-article-1.1454279" target="_blank">At the time</a>, Ramirez accused Pichardo of election fraud because Pichardo&rsquo;s mother was active as a poll worker in the district. Further, Ramirez and other candidates complained that levers were missing on voting machines making it impossible to cast a ballot for Ramirez. The Board of Elections said that anyone who encountered a problem was offered a paper ballot.</p> <p>Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, chair of the Bronx County Democrats, said he believes Pichardo will defeat any challenge because &ldquo;Victor brings integrity to the job.&rdquo; He said, &ldquo;The Bronx deserves better than this continual parade of candidates with clouds around them.&rdquo;</p> <p>Crespo added that he thinks candidates should wait to run until &ldquo;their legal issues are behind them.&rdquo;</p> <p>Ramirez was not immediately made available for an interview for this story.</p> <p>Castro said he feels Pichardo and Ramirez have something to settle. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a matter of principle. Hector won those elections but apparently after they counted paper ballots Pichardo won by two votes. I decided to stay out to let them duke it out. They have something there to work out.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Hector_Ramirez_petitioning.jpg" alt="Hector Ramirez petitioning" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Hector Ramirez petitioning in the Bronx (photo <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1156003124439040&amp;set=a.332382103467817.73262.100000880915756&amp;type=3&amp;theater" target="_blank">via Facebook</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>Bronx Assemblymember Victor Pichardo will no longer be facing former Assemblymember Nelson Castro, a onetime federal informant who helped dig up dirt on fellow electeds in an attempt to reduce charges he was facing for election-related perjury, in the upcoming Democratic primary.</p> <p>Instead, Pichardo will again be opposed by Bronx activist Hector Ramirez, who is facing a 242-count indictment for voter fraud in relation to his activities in his last race against Pichardo.</p> <p>According to the Bronx District Attorney&rsquo;s office Ramirez has a date in court before Bronx Supreme Court Justice Steven Barrett on September 13, the day of the Democratic primary.</p> <p>While Castro has dropped <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6383-former-government-informant-to-run-for-old-assembly-seat" target="_blank">his plans to run</a>, Ramirez presents a stiffer challenge to the incumbent as the former districts leader&rsquo;s name has appeared on ballots in the Bronx for over 20 years and he recently challenged Pichardo in the special election to replace Castro in 2013 and during the Democratic primary in 2014.</p> <p>Ramirez&rsquo;s entrance into the race is another chapter for the 86th Assembly District, which has been rocked by scandal and infighting <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/4521-the-castro-legacy-corruption-haunts-assembly-district-race" target="_blank">for years</a>. Castro served two terms in the Assembly while also working as an informant before abruptly resigning in April 2013. Ramirez announced his candidacy in a press release on Tuesday night touting that he had filed three times the required signatures to get on the ballot.</p> <p>Pichardo&rsquo;s camp is expected to challenge Ramirez&rsquo;s petitions, with the possibility of knocking him off the ballot.</p> <p>Castro told Gotham Gazette that he decided to bow out of the race after collecting 2,300 signatures petitioning because it was difficult to raise money. He said he now expects to back Ramirez. &ldquo;I decided to stay out, but I think I will be endorsing Hector Ramirez,&rdquo; Castro said. Asked if the indictment against Ramirez concerns him at all, Castro replied: &ldquo;I haven&rsquo;t endorsed yet. He&rsquo;s not guilty until proven guilty in a court of law.&rdquo;</p> <p>Ramirez, who has clashed with county Democrats, is positioning himself as a man of the people running against Pichardo, who he has labeled the establishment candidate and an outsider. "[T]he first step in having our voice and concerns heard in Albany is allowing the people of the district to exercise their constitutional right of electing whomever they want fighting for them in Albany, not a poppet [sic] imposed by politicians," Ramirez said in the statement.</p> <p>Pichardo reacted to Ramirez&rsquo;s announcement by requesting the Department of Justice monitor the contest. "This announcement is yet another example of both Hector Ramirez&rsquo;s contempt for the law and his lack of respect for the voters of the 86th Assembly district,&rdquo; Pichardo said in a statement.</p> <p>In 2014, dozens of witnesses <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/bronx-politician-hector-ramirez-busted-fraud-charges-article-1.2229187" target="_blank">told the Bronx DA</a> office that Ramirez and his staffers duped them into handing over their absentee ballots - some of which Ramirez&rsquo;s staff then filed as votes for their candidate. After the first tally Ramirez led Pichardo by 11 votes out of over 3,500 ballots cast. A hand recount put Pichardo ahead by only two votes.</p> <p><a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/machine-politics-fraud-filled-bronx-race-article-1.1454279" target="_blank">At the time</a>, Ramirez accused Pichardo of election fraud because Pichardo&rsquo;s mother was active as a poll worker in the district. Further, Ramirez and other candidates complained that levers were missing on voting machines making it impossible to cast a ballot for Ramirez. The Board of Elections said that anyone who encountered a problem was offered a paper ballot.</p> <p>Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, chair of the Bronx County Democrats, said he believes Pichardo will defeat any challenge because &ldquo;Victor brings integrity to the job.&rdquo; He said, &ldquo;The Bronx deserves better than this continual parade of candidates with clouds around them.&rdquo;</p> <p>Crespo added that he thinks candidates should wait to run until &ldquo;their legal issues are behind them.&rdquo;</p> <p>Ramirez was not immediately made available for an interview for this story.</p> <p>Castro said he feels Pichardo and Ramirez have something to settle. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a matter of principle. Hector won those elections but apparently after they counted paper ballots Pichardo won by two votes. I decided to stay out to let them duke it out. They have something there to work out.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Bronx Council Member Preparing to Again Challenge Incumbent State Senator 2016-06-09T00:00:00+00:00 2016-06-09T00:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6386:bronx-council-member-preparing-to-again-challenge-incumbent-state-senator Amanda Sherwin <p><img alt="16005101264 d25557eee7 z" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2015/16005101264_d25557eee7_z.jpg" height="427" width="640" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">City Council Member Cabrera (photo: William Alatriste)<a target="_blank" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nyccouncil/16005101264/in/photolist-qojjZN-ri14fb-r3SVjT-ri14eu-r3SVxi-r3KPts-r3SVxt-r3SVkp-qowHex-noMQYc-j6yoaj-ifVoWb-ifV5tt-ifVxsN-b8D3RZ-b8EH6i-b8D45D-b8EDzz-9C4U9Y-b8D4hc-b8EHmt-b8EGQp-b8D4TT-b8EJ1T-b8D4ri-9C21Wx-9C228K-9C23wr-9C21EH-9C4VSE-9C21gr-9C4XUs-9C1ZBc-9C4VdL-9C4VEj-9C21rn-9C4Um3-9C4YJQ-9C214T-9C5mVN-9patVu-9yknA7-9iL87C-7DJrjk-9p7sz4-9yhpmt-9paueY-9p7rsv-9p7sde-9iL9ef"><br /></a></span></p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Fernando Cabrera is preparing for a rematch with incumbent State Senator Gustavo Rivera in the 33rd Senate District in the Bronx, according to sources familiar with Cabrera’s intentions.</p> <p>Cabrera did not have an easy go of things when he first challenged Rivera in the 2014 Democratic primary. Reports by various publications <a target="_blank" href="http://observer.com/2014/06/fernando-cabrera-draws-fire-for-ties-to-hate-group/">highlighted</a> Cabrera’s connections to extreme anti-gay groups like The Family Research Council, his praise of Ugandan anti-gay laws, and his <a target="_blank" href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5138-cabrera-conservative-credentials-klein-litmus-test-idc">conservative voting record</a>.</p> <p>Cabrera lost the 2014 primary by 20 points. He <a target="_blank" href="http://observer.com/2014/09/fernando-cabrera-blames-liberal-media-for-senate-loss/">told The Observer</a> that he believed his loss was due to “the liberal media.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“He had the mayor, he had the borough president, he had county, he had all the unions, he had liberal media, he had the LGBT community–what was left?” Cabrera said, according to The Observer. “It was absolutely unfair. I think [the media] was very biased. It was clear, every time we tried to put our message out, it was not being put forth correctly or misrepresented.”</p> <p>According to five sources familiar with his intentions, Cabrera plans to again challenge Rivera this year - a move that is causing tension with the Bronx Democratic County Committee, whose leaders were hoping to maintain peace between their elected Council member and senator.</p> <p>Cabrera and his office did not respond to multiple requests for comment. He is in the midst of his second four-year term as a Council member and can run for one more in 2017. State Senators serve two-year terms and have no term limits.</p> <p>“Whatever decision [Cabrera] makes the results from the last election are what they are, and I’m not sure they could be any different,” said Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, who heads the Bronx County Democratic Committee.</p> <p>Asked whether he shares concerns voiced by other insiders that the time and resources of both elected officials, Cabrera and Rivera, would be better spent representing their shared constituents rather than battling each other, Crespo replied; “I would agree with that statement.”</p> <p>Rivera said that while he welcomed all challengers he is taken aback by Cabrera’s candidacy because he thinks Cabrera’s beliefs fly in the face of those of Senate Democrats.</p> <p>“Since I defeated Pedro Espada in 2010 I’ve been working consistently to return the Democrats to the Senate Majority, I’ve been fighting for my constituents, for tenants rights, for equality. We saw before how the Democratic majority was undone by a backroom deal,” Rivera said. “My opponent is someone who changed registration from Republican to Democrat, is anti-choice, anti-women, has dangerous views on the LGBT community, and has taken major donations from landlords while the rent laws are up [for reauthorization] next year.”</p> <p>Rivera said he feels that Cabrera is the kind of politician who could jeopardize a Democratic majority, which the party is hoping for through this fall’s elections.</p> <p>“We want to make sure when we get to the majority we can can do the right thing, and this endangers that,” Rivera said of Cabrera’s challenge.</p> <p>Rivera is seen by many as an outsider to the Bronx County Democrats. He has openly clashed with Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., who holds conservative views similar to Cabrera’s, and has warred with Independent Democratic Conference leader Sen. Jeff Klein over Klein’s decision to split from mainline Democrats and essentially give Republicans rule over the chamber (even after Democrats won a numerical majority).</p> <p>Rivera was further seen to have rankled the county machine when he supported his chief of staff, Katrina Asante, in the race to replace Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who was recently hired by the Cuomo administration, creating an open seat. County Democrats have rallied behind District Leader Jamaal Bailey, who is seen as a protege of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who has endorsed him. Asante officially dropped her bid on Wednesday.</p> <p>Norwood News <a target="_blank" href="http://www.norwoodnews.org/id=20957&amp;story=announcement-of-senate-candidacy-in-the-bronx-doubles-as-endorsement/">reported</a> in April that some involved in Bronx politics see Hassell-Thompson’s hiring and Heastie’s endorsement of Bailey as an undemocratic conspiracy parallel to&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5891-rumored-scheme-brings-scrutiny-to-bronx-political-machine">the backroom maneuvering</a> that allowed Bronx County Democrats to replace former Bronx County District Attorney Robert Johnson on the ballot with Darcel Clark, a Heastie ally.</p> <p>Crespo refuted the idea, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.norwoodnews.org/id=20957&amp;story=announcement-of-senate-candidacy-in-the-bronx-doubles-as-endorsement/">telling Norwood News</a>, “The notion that the only way Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson could get something is by somebody asking, that’s nonsense. People either have too much fun believing somehow running strings everywhere."</p> <p>While some insiders say Asante faced trouble raising funds due to Heastie’s support of Bailey, most insiders Gotham Gazette spoke to said they see Cabrera’s planned challenge to Rivera as unrelated.</p> <p>During his last run for Senate, Cabrera voiced interest in joining Klein in the IDC and appeared to benefit from many of Klein’s donors. This year, with control of the Senate extremely tenuous, it appears unlikely the IDC will get involved in the race.</p> <p>Gary Axelbank, a political observer and host of BronxTalk, said that he sees Cabrera’s run against Rivera as a boon for constituents. “When two elected officials from one district oppose each other, it's very healthy for constituents to have that sort of high-level choice. It speaks to the best of our participatory democracy.”</p> <p>However, Axelbank noted that Cabrera turned down his invitation to a televised debate with Rivera in 2014. “We invited Councilman Cabrera to participate in a debate the last time these two ran against each other, but he declined to participate, which we found to be very disappointing. We plan to invite both the candidates to debate again this summer and we hope and expect that Councilman Cabrera will join us so that the voters have the best chance to make their choice."</p> <p>Meanwhile, Rivera is not hiding the fact that he takes Cabrera’s challenge as an affront to not only his work but the work done by all elected Senate Democrats to win back the majority from Senate Republicans.</p> <p>“It's more than a little offensive that this person is more interested in his political future than serving our constituents,” Rivera said.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img alt="16005101264 d25557eee7 z" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2015/16005101264_d25557eee7_z.jpg" height="427" width="640" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">City Council Member Cabrera (photo: William Alatriste)<a target="_blank" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nyccouncil/16005101264/in/photolist-qojjZN-ri14fb-r3SVjT-ri14eu-r3SVxi-r3KPts-r3SVxt-r3SVkp-qowHex-noMQYc-j6yoaj-ifVoWb-ifV5tt-ifVxsN-b8D3RZ-b8EH6i-b8D45D-b8EDzz-9C4U9Y-b8D4hc-b8EHmt-b8EGQp-b8D4TT-b8EJ1T-b8D4ri-9C21Wx-9C228K-9C23wr-9C21EH-9C4VSE-9C21gr-9C4XUs-9C1ZBc-9C4VdL-9C4VEj-9C21rn-9C4Um3-9C4YJQ-9C214T-9C5mVN-9patVu-9yknA7-9iL87C-7DJrjk-9p7sz4-9yhpmt-9paueY-9p7rsv-9p7sde-9iL9ef"><br /></a></span></p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Fernando Cabrera is preparing for a rematch with incumbent State Senator Gustavo Rivera in the 33rd Senate District in the Bronx, according to sources familiar with Cabrera’s intentions.</p> <p>Cabrera did not have an easy go of things when he first challenged Rivera in the 2014 Democratic primary. Reports by various publications <a target="_blank" href="http://observer.com/2014/06/fernando-cabrera-draws-fire-for-ties-to-hate-group/">highlighted</a> Cabrera’s connections to extreme anti-gay groups like The Family Research Council, his praise of Ugandan anti-gay laws, and his <a target="_blank" href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5138-cabrera-conservative-credentials-klein-litmus-test-idc">conservative voting record</a>.</p> <p>Cabrera lost the 2014 primary by 20 points. He <a target="_blank" href="http://observer.com/2014/09/fernando-cabrera-blames-liberal-media-for-senate-loss/">told The Observer</a> that he believed his loss was due to “the liberal media.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“He had the mayor, he had the borough president, he had county, he had all the unions, he had liberal media, he had the LGBT community–what was left?” Cabrera said, according to The Observer. “It was absolutely unfair. I think [the media] was very biased. It was clear, every time we tried to put our message out, it was not being put forth correctly or misrepresented.”</p> <p>According to five sources familiar with his intentions, Cabrera plans to again challenge Rivera this year - a move that is causing tension with the Bronx Democratic County Committee, whose leaders were hoping to maintain peace between their elected Council member and senator.</p> <p>Cabrera and his office did not respond to multiple requests for comment. He is in the midst of his second four-year term as a Council member and can run for one more in 2017. State Senators serve two-year terms and have no term limits.</p> <p>“Whatever decision [Cabrera] makes the results from the last election are what they are, and I’m not sure they could be any different,” said Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, who heads the Bronx County Democratic Committee.</p> <p>Asked whether he shares concerns voiced by other insiders that the time and resources of both elected officials, Cabrera and Rivera, would be better spent representing their shared constituents rather than battling each other, Crespo replied; “I would agree with that statement.”</p> <p>Rivera said that while he welcomed all challengers he is taken aback by Cabrera’s candidacy because he thinks Cabrera’s beliefs fly in the face of those of Senate Democrats.</p> <p>“Since I defeated Pedro Espada in 2010 I’ve been working consistently to return the Democrats to the Senate Majority, I’ve been fighting for my constituents, for tenants rights, for equality. We saw before how the Democratic majority was undone by a backroom deal,” Rivera said. “My opponent is someone who changed registration from Republican to Democrat, is anti-choice, anti-women, has dangerous views on the LGBT community, and has taken major donations from landlords while the rent laws are up [for reauthorization] next year.”</p> <p>Rivera said he feels that Cabrera is the kind of politician who could jeopardize a Democratic majority, which the party is hoping for through this fall’s elections.</p> <p>“We want to make sure when we get to the majority we can can do the right thing, and this endangers that,” Rivera said of Cabrera’s challenge.</p> <p>Rivera is seen by many as an outsider to the Bronx County Democrats. He has openly clashed with Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., who holds conservative views similar to Cabrera’s, and has warred with Independent Democratic Conference leader Sen. Jeff Klein over Klein’s decision to split from mainline Democrats and essentially give Republicans rule over the chamber (even after Democrats won a numerical majority).</p> <p>Rivera was further seen to have rankled the county machine when he supported his chief of staff, Katrina Asante, in the race to replace Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who was recently hired by the Cuomo administration, creating an open seat. County Democrats have rallied behind District Leader Jamaal Bailey, who is seen as a protege of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who has endorsed him. Asante officially dropped her bid on Wednesday.</p> <p>Norwood News <a target="_blank" href="http://www.norwoodnews.org/id=20957&amp;story=announcement-of-senate-candidacy-in-the-bronx-doubles-as-endorsement/">reported</a> in April that some involved in Bronx politics see Hassell-Thompson’s hiring and Heastie’s endorsement of Bailey as an undemocratic conspiracy parallel to&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5891-rumored-scheme-brings-scrutiny-to-bronx-political-machine">the backroom maneuvering</a> that allowed Bronx County Democrats to replace former Bronx County District Attorney Robert Johnson on the ballot with Darcel Clark, a Heastie ally.</p> <p>Crespo refuted the idea, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.norwoodnews.org/id=20957&amp;story=announcement-of-senate-candidacy-in-the-bronx-doubles-as-endorsement/">telling Norwood News</a>, “The notion that the only way Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson could get something is by somebody asking, that’s nonsense. People either have too much fun believing somehow running strings everywhere."</p> <p>While some insiders say Asante faced trouble raising funds due to Heastie’s support of Bailey, most insiders Gotham Gazette spoke to said they see Cabrera’s planned challenge to Rivera as unrelated.</p> <p>During his last run for Senate, Cabrera voiced interest in joining Klein in the IDC and appeared to benefit from many of Klein’s donors. This year, with control of the Senate extremely tenuous, it appears unlikely the IDC will get involved in the race.</p> <p>Gary Axelbank, a political observer and host of BronxTalk, said that he sees Cabrera’s run against Rivera as a boon for constituents. “When two elected officials from one district oppose each other, it's very healthy for constituents to have that sort of high-level choice. It speaks to the best of our participatory democracy.”</p> <p>However, Axelbank noted that Cabrera turned down his invitation to a televised debate with Rivera in 2014. “We invited Councilman Cabrera to participate in a debate the last time these two ran against each other, but he declined to participate, which we found to be very disappointing. We plan to invite both the candidates to debate again this summer and we hope and expect that Councilman Cabrera will join us so that the voters have the best chance to make their choice."</p> <p>Meanwhile, Rivera is not hiding the fact that he takes Cabrera’s challenge as an affront to not only his work but the work done by all elected Senate Democrats to win back the majority from Senate Republicans.</p> <p>“It's more than a little offensive that this person is more interested in his political future than serving our constituents,” Rivera said.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Special Election Spotlights Machine Politics in The Bronx 2016-01-15T01:19:10+00:00 2016-01-15T01:19:10+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6091:special-election-spotlights-machine-politics-in-the-bronx Carmen Russo <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/heastie_diaz_jr_crespo.jpg" alt="heastie diaz jr crespo" height="473" width="600" /></p> <p>Heastie, Diaz Jr., Crespo (l-r)</p> <hr /> <p>By the time Julio Pabón got called in for his interview with the Bronx Democratic County Committee, he had heard all the chatter. Political insiders were saying that party leadership had already chosen a candidate. What's more, Pabón had seen a telling flyer for a Christmas event to be held at a local public school. It had been emailed, on Dec. 8, from the state Senate account of Ruben Diaz Sr. At the head of the flyer were portraits of New York Republican Party Chair Ed Cox and the senator himself, alongside a relatively unknown community board manager—Rafael Salamanca—the rumored choice of the county organization in the upcoming special election for the District 17 City Council seat, from which Maria del Carmen Arroyo recently resigned.</p> <p>Present at the interview, conducted on Dec. 11 at the Bronx Democratic County Committee headquarters, were a handful of elected officials, including Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, the committee chair, Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz, City Council Member Annabel Palma, along with other committee members and Democratic club members. Stanley Schlein, a Bronx attorney and long-time Democratic operative, made an appearance toward the end of the interview, according to Pabón.</p> <p>In Pabón's retelling, Crespo opened the interview with an assurance that, contrary to what he may have heard, the committee was yet to settle on a candidate. It was how the interview ended, however, that further cemented Pabón's belief that the opposite was in fact true. Crespo asked him, Pabón recalled to Gotham Gazette, whether he would step aside if the committee chose to support another candidate.</p> <table style="width: 600px;" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="5"> <tbody> <tr> <td><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/BX_Christmas_Cox_Diaz_Sr_Salamanca_Flyer.jpg" alt="BX Christmas Cox Diaz Sr Salamanca Flyer" style="text-align: justify;" height="325" width="250" /></td> <td><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/BX_Three_Kings_flyer_Salamanca_Crespo_others.jpg" alt="BX Three Kings flyer Salamanca Crespo others" style="text-align: justify;" height="325" width="252" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>One week later, on Dec. 18, at a holiday event hosted by party leaders in the Bronx, Diaz Sr. and Crespo all but endorsed Salamanca, whose candidacy was still unofficial, before the assembled crowd. Pabón, in the meantime, got word from an influential stakeholder that the county chair had called to solicit support for the district manager. On Dec. 29, Diaz Sr. sent another flyer, this one for a Three Kings Day event, with Rafael Salamanca alongside the senator, Crespo, and Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda.&nbsp;</p> <p>Salamanca, who was officially endorsed by the county committee on Jan. 6, told Gotham Gazette that he received no preferential treatment.</p> <p>"I put in work to get to where I'm at," the Community Board 2 district manager said. "And I'm pretty sure...I went through the interview process just as everyone else went through the interview process, and I had to wait to get a phone call to tell me, 'Hey Raf, the committee has met and decided that you are the best-qualified individual for the seat.' I was home sweating like, 'Oh my God, what's going on?'"</p> <p>For Pabón, however, there was never any suspense. Earlier in the year, he had met Crespo for lunch to discuss his interest in running for the District 17 seat in 2017, when Arroyo would have been term-limited. During that meeting, Pabón told Gotham Gazette, the newly minted Democratic chair asked him: "What would happen if we were to endorse you and you have a different position than the borough president or my own?"</p> <p>"They are totally afraid of differences," said Pabón (pictured below), a community activist and entrepreneur who, in 2013, challenged the incumbent Arroyo in the Democratic primary for the District 17 seat. "They want a candidate they can easily mold, rather than one who thinks independently. They think their plan for the Bronx can only happen if they have total control."</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/ourownjuliopabon-org.jpg" alt="pabon" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="323" width="400" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Crespo did not respond to a request for comment about the interview process for the vacant District 17 seat.&nbsp;Given the advantages in resources they normally enjoy, county-backed candidates rarely lose local elections—and institutional support can prove even more critical in expedited special elections, which are typically marked by low voter turnout.</p> <p>In the Bronx, concerns around open democracy, which have been present for decades, surfaced anew last November, when Democratic county leadership was widely criticized for orchestrating a backroom deal to replace then-District Attorney Robert Johnson. With Johnson resigning from the ballot after he had won the district attorney primary, Democratic leaders were allowed to handpick a candidate to replace him on the ballot. Current DA Darcel Clark was added to the district attorney ballot while Johnson landed in a judge's seat in the state Supreme Court.</p> <p>"My contention has always been that it's a facade," Pabón said. "County leadership is trying to show that they are different from past organizations, which were all about exclusion and nepotism. But where else do you have a borough that is essentially run by four families? Where are the reformers in the Bronx?"</p> <p>The current leadership took control of the Bronx Democratic organization in a 2008 insurgency that came to be known as the "Rainbow" rebellion. The overthrow of former party chairman, Assemblymember José Rivera, would give rise to a new era of party politics, so the new leaders claimed—one more committed to inclusion and welcoming of diversity.</p> <p>Yet numerous sources interviewed for this article see that promise as unfulfilled. "For the most part, there has not been a major change in terms of how inclusive the whole process is," Angelo Falcón, a political scientist and founder of the Institute for Puerto Rican Policy, told Gotham Gazette. "It's not necessarily a process of democratization, but more a transition from one set of elites to another. You have a certain disruption: new players come in, old players move out."</p> <p>"In the Bronx," Falcón added, "you still have a relatively small number of politicians controlling everything, and mechanisms like community boards are not very strong."</p> <p>Critics of the Bronx establishment argue that community boards serve as rubber stamps for the borough president, currently Ruben Diaz Jr. "Salamanca is, in essence, already an employee," said Aubrey-Eric Smith, vice president of the South Bronx Community Association, who is advising the Pabón campaign. "[Salamanca] serves at the pleasure of the borough president."</p> <p>In a Jan. 7 phone interview, Gotham Gazette asked Salamanca whether he had ever been in disagreement, philosophically or on a particular project, with the borough president. "I can tell you what I disagreed with the mayor on," Salamanca responded. "That I can speak on."</p> <p>Salamanca, who cited affordable housing and public safety as centerpieces of his platform, did not provide any instances of past disagreement with Diaz Jr.</p> <p>Since the "Rainbow" rebellion, the leaders of the Bronx Democratic party have catapulted to the fore of city and state politics. Assemblymember Carl Heastie, Crespo's predecessor as county chair, is currently the speaker of the Assembly, and Sen. Jeff Klein, the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference in the state Senate. Ruben Diaz Jr., the borough president, is seen by some as a potential mayoral candidate. As the leaders of the "Rainbow" coalition have grown in stature, a handful of their candidates have been elected into public office, further strengthening the base from which they were able to take control of the party apparatus.</p> <p>County leadership, many believe, is looking to solidify its base and consolidate all the players in the Bronx, to control policy and programming, and in preparation for a future Diaz Jr. run for higher office.</p> <p>"They need to have as many individuals beholden to them as possible," Smith said.</p> <p>In the 2013 primary for the same City Council seat, Pabón, the only Democratic challenger to the county-backed Arroyo, received some 2,000 primary votes—slightly over 30 percent of the total. That race is mostly remembered, however, for drama that played out in the courts, when the Pabón campaign challenged thousands of Arroyo nominating petitions, which included fraudulent signatures of "Derek Jeter" and "Kate Moss," among other public figures.</p> <p>Pabón succeeded in invalidating more than half of Arroyo's 3,200 petition signatures as forgeries committed by three campaign employees (including an Arroyo nephew), two of whom had worked for the candidate and her Assemblymember mother in previous elections. Pabón's attorney at the time argued that the extent of the forgery should have been enough to knock the incumbent off the ballot based on "permeation of fraud," and his campaign maintains that the legal fight, which ultimately went to the Appellate Court for the First Department, raised questions about the independence of the borough's Board of Elections, as well as the separation of its legislative and judiciary branches.</p> <p>"You're not going to beat a county-backed candidate in court," Aubrey-Eric Smith said. "The judiciary is not set up to make upsets of incumbents."</p> <p>"The DA [Robert Johnson] could have gone after Ms. Arroyo, or investigated someone other than just the three low-level individuals," Donald Dunn, Pabón's attorney in 2013, told Gotham Gazette. "I think what they did was more of a dog and pony show than any real investigation."<br />With the Council seat now vacant, a handful of candidates have thrown their hats in the ring. One contender, Amanda Septimo, is district director for Congressional Rep. José Serrano. Septimo, whose age, 25, has grabbed attention, told Gotham Gazette that environmental and social justice are signature issues of her campaign. According to political insiders, a friendly office holder in District 17 could help buttress the increasingly vulnerable congressman against a primary challenge.</p> <p>"Serrano hasn't had any real challenge in a long time, and if you look at his finances, he's gotten himself reelected with around $30,000, so it's very little money," Angelo Falcón said. "He could be at his weakest politically at this point. He's had for a long time an understanding with the political machine, and they haven't really gone after him, but there have been some threats."</p> <p>Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. has in the past called on the long-serving congressman to step aside and, more recently, Council Member Palma contemplated her own challenge, but according to some insiders a more serious threat could emerge in the form of the borough president himself. Rep. Serrano reportedly ran afoul of Diaz Jr. for opposing $3.5 million in subsidies for the FreshDirect move to the Bronx.</p> <p>At the time, the congressman expressed "deep misgivings about this project because of its impact on the health of Bronx residents."</p> <p>(Septimo told Gotham Gazette that she has no position on the FreshDirect deal.)</p> <p>Another Council contender, George Alvarez, held his own in a three-way 2014 Assembly race against the eventual winner, former White House staffer Michael Blake, and a candidate endorsed by the Democratic county committee, Marsha Michaels. Alvarez won nearly 1,200 votes, nearly as many as Michaels, and proved himself capable as a fundraiser. Alvarez is expected to garner support among the growing Dominican-American population in this predominantly Hispanic, though traditionally Puerto Rican, district.</p> <p>Joann Otero, the long-time chief of staff to former Council Member Arroyo, is another leading contender for the District 17 seat. According to sources, Arroyo's first-choice successor was a Cablevision executive whose potential candidacy came against resistance from party leadership. Otero, who believes she is the candidate most able to "hit the ground running" in the middle of budget season, and touted her personal relationship with stakeholders in the district, confirmed to Gotham Gazette that she has not received the endorsement of her former boss. The candidate claimed that instead of succeeding her as a Council member, Arroyo proposed a "Let's go make cookies plan."</p> <p>"We never really discussed it," Otero explained, "other than that we were going to do something else. With all the knowledge and skills that I've obtained from both the nonprofit and government sector, she said that makes me a very marketable individual to do just about anything."</p> <p>Arroyo announced her resignation from the Council late last year, citing "pressing family needs," and has since joined the nonprofit Acacia Network. For the time being, it is unclear whether the former Council member will remain on the sidelines throughout the special election.</p> <p>One of many unfolding subplots of the race is the role of 1199 SEIU. Montefiore health care network, whose employees are represented by 1199, is the largest employer in the Bronx. One declared candidate, Helen Foreman-Hines, was a political project director at the union, but resigned from 1199 after announcing her intention to enter the race. According to sources, Hines is no lock for support of the union that could prove decisive in this special election, to be held on Feb. 23.</p> <p>As a nonpartisan special election, the District 17 race will last just 45 days in total. Many see the election as the first real test of Assemblymember Crespo's leadership in the Bronx Democratic party. The new chair is a protégé and close ally of the borough president. A defeat to a grassroots insurgent or other outsider could serve, some political insiders believe, as a symbolic blow to county leadership.</p> <p>"Generally, the machine has the control in a special election, because there's very low voter turnout," Falcón said. "When you have control of the basic machinery, the petitioning process; when you have control even of the judges that rule on the petitions and all that stuff—that's a lot to go up against."</p> <p>According to Falcón, political change in the Bronx has typically come in the wake of scandal, such as Gustavo Rivera's 2010 electoral victory over the subsequently convicted Pedro Espada Jr. "You need something extraordinary," he said. And even if a grassroots candidate were to buck history, and prevail in a special election, Falcón cautioned that the battle is not over.</p> <p>"Once you are in, the problem is there are a lot of ways they can control you," he said, "No matter how old you are, you really need to have an independent base."&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br />by Gabe Ponce de León for Gotham Gazette. Ponce de León is a freelance journalist covering politics and policy in New York.<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/heastie_diaz_jr_crespo.jpg" alt="heastie diaz jr crespo" height="473" width="600" /></p> <p>Heastie, Diaz Jr., Crespo (l-r)</p> <hr /> <p>By the time Julio Pabón got called in for his interview with the Bronx Democratic County Committee, he had heard all the chatter. Political insiders were saying that party leadership had already chosen a candidate. What's more, Pabón had seen a telling flyer for a Christmas event to be held at a local public school. It had been emailed, on Dec. 8, from the state Senate account of Ruben Diaz Sr. At the head of the flyer were portraits of New York Republican Party Chair Ed Cox and the senator himself, alongside a relatively unknown community board manager—Rafael Salamanca—the rumored choice of the county organization in the upcoming special election for the District 17 City Council seat, from which Maria del Carmen Arroyo recently resigned.</p> <p>Present at the interview, conducted on Dec. 11 at the Bronx Democratic County Committee headquarters, were a handful of elected officials, including Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, the committee chair, Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz, City Council Member Annabel Palma, along with other committee members and Democratic club members. Stanley Schlein, a Bronx attorney and long-time Democratic operative, made an appearance toward the end of the interview, according to Pabón.</p> <p>In Pabón's retelling, Crespo opened the interview with an assurance that, contrary to what he may have heard, the committee was yet to settle on a candidate. It was how the interview ended, however, that further cemented Pabón's belief that the opposite was in fact true. Crespo asked him, Pabón recalled to Gotham Gazette, whether he would step aside if the committee chose to support another candidate.</p> <table style="width: 600px;" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="5"> <tbody> <tr> <td><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/BX_Christmas_Cox_Diaz_Sr_Salamanca_Flyer.jpg" alt="BX Christmas Cox Diaz Sr Salamanca Flyer" style="text-align: justify;" height="325" width="250" /></td> <td><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/BX_Three_Kings_flyer_Salamanca_Crespo_others.jpg" alt="BX Three Kings flyer Salamanca Crespo others" style="text-align: justify;" height="325" width="252" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>One week later, on Dec. 18, at a holiday event hosted by party leaders in the Bronx, Diaz Sr. and Crespo all but endorsed Salamanca, whose candidacy was still unofficial, before the assembled crowd. Pabón, in the meantime, got word from an influential stakeholder that the county chair had called to solicit support for the district manager. On Dec. 29, Diaz Sr. sent another flyer, this one for a Three Kings Day event, with Rafael Salamanca alongside the senator, Crespo, and Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda.&nbsp;</p> <p>Salamanca, who was officially endorsed by the county committee on Jan. 6, told Gotham Gazette that he received no preferential treatment.</p> <p>"I put in work to get to where I'm at," the Community Board 2 district manager said. "And I'm pretty sure...I went through the interview process just as everyone else went through the interview process, and I had to wait to get a phone call to tell me, 'Hey Raf, the committee has met and decided that you are the best-qualified individual for the seat.' I was home sweating like, 'Oh my God, what's going on?'"</p> <p>For Pabón, however, there was never any suspense. Earlier in the year, he had met Crespo for lunch to discuss his interest in running for the District 17 seat in 2017, when Arroyo would have been term-limited. During that meeting, Pabón told Gotham Gazette, the newly minted Democratic chair asked him: "What would happen if we were to endorse you and you have a different position than the borough president or my own?"</p> <p>"They are totally afraid of differences," said Pabón (pictured below), a community activist and entrepreneur who, in 2013, challenged the incumbent Arroyo in the Democratic primary for the District 17 seat. "They want a candidate they can easily mold, rather than one who thinks independently. They think their plan for the Bronx can only happen if they have total control."</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/ourownjuliopabon-org.jpg" alt="pabon" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="323" width="400" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Crespo did not respond to a request for comment about the interview process for the vacant District 17 seat.&nbsp;Given the advantages in resources they normally enjoy, county-backed candidates rarely lose local elections—and institutional support can prove even more critical in expedited special elections, which are typically marked by low voter turnout.</p> <p>In the Bronx, concerns around open democracy, which have been present for decades, surfaced anew last November, when Democratic county leadership was widely criticized for orchestrating a backroom deal to replace then-District Attorney Robert Johnson. With Johnson resigning from the ballot after he had won the district attorney primary, Democratic leaders were allowed to handpick a candidate to replace him on the ballot. Current DA Darcel Clark was added to the district attorney ballot while Johnson landed in a judge's seat in the state Supreme Court.</p> <p>"My contention has always been that it's a facade," Pabón said. "County leadership is trying to show that they are different from past organizations, which were all about exclusion and nepotism. But where else do you have a borough that is essentially run by four families? Where are the reformers in the Bronx?"</p> <p>The current leadership took control of the Bronx Democratic organization in a 2008 insurgency that came to be known as the "Rainbow" rebellion. The overthrow of former party chairman, Assemblymember José Rivera, would give rise to a new era of party politics, so the new leaders claimed—one more committed to inclusion and welcoming of diversity.</p> <p>Yet numerous sources interviewed for this article see that promise as unfulfilled. "For the most part, there has not been a major change in terms of how inclusive the whole process is," Angelo Falcón, a political scientist and founder of the Institute for Puerto Rican Policy, told Gotham Gazette. "It's not necessarily a process of democratization, but more a transition from one set of elites to another. You have a certain disruption: new players come in, old players move out."</p> <p>"In the Bronx," Falcón added, "you still have a relatively small number of politicians controlling everything, and mechanisms like community boards are not very strong."</p> <p>Critics of the Bronx establishment argue that community boards serve as rubber stamps for the borough president, currently Ruben Diaz Jr. "Salamanca is, in essence, already an employee," said Aubrey-Eric Smith, vice president of the South Bronx Community Association, who is advising the Pabón campaign. "[Salamanca] serves at the pleasure of the borough president."</p> <p>In a Jan. 7 phone interview, Gotham Gazette asked Salamanca whether he had ever been in disagreement, philosophically or on a particular project, with the borough president. "I can tell you what I disagreed with the mayor on," Salamanca responded. "That I can speak on."</p> <p>Salamanca, who cited affordable housing and public safety as centerpieces of his platform, did not provide any instances of past disagreement with Diaz Jr.</p> <p>Since the "Rainbow" rebellion, the leaders of the Bronx Democratic party have catapulted to the fore of city and state politics. Assemblymember Carl Heastie, Crespo's predecessor as county chair, is currently the speaker of the Assembly, and Sen. Jeff Klein, the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference in the state Senate. Ruben Diaz Jr., the borough president, is seen by some as a potential mayoral candidate. As the leaders of the "Rainbow" coalition have grown in stature, a handful of their candidates have been elected into public office, further strengthening the base from which they were able to take control of the party apparatus.</p> <p>County leadership, many believe, is looking to solidify its base and consolidate all the players in the Bronx, to control policy and programming, and in preparation for a future Diaz Jr. run for higher office.</p> <p>"They need to have as many individuals beholden to them as possible," Smith said.</p> <p>In the 2013 primary for the same City Council seat, Pabón, the only Democratic challenger to the county-backed Arroyo, received some 2,000 primary votes—slightly over 30 percent of the total. That race is mostly remembered, however, for drama that played out in the courts, when the Pabón campaign challenged thousands of Arroyo nominating petitions, which included fraudulent signatures of "Derek Jeter" and "Kate Moss," among other public figures.</p> <p>Pabón succeeded in invalidating more than half of Arroyo's 3,200 petition signatures as forgeries committed by three campaign employees (including an Arroyo nephew), two of whom had worked for the candidate and her Assemblymember mother in previous elections. Pabón's attorney at the time argued that the extent of the forgery should have been enough to knock the incumbent off the ballot based on "permeation of fraud," and his campaign maintains that the legal fight, which ultimately went to the Appellate Court for the First Department, raised questions about the independence of the borough's Board of Elections, as well as the separation of its legislative and judiciary branches.</p> <p>"You're not going to beat a county-backed candidate in court," Aubrey-Eric Smith said. "The judiciary is not set up to make upsets of incumbents."</p> <p>"The DA [Robert Johnson] could have gone after Ms. Arroyo, or investigated someone other than just the three low-level individuals," Donald Dunn, Pabón's attorney in 2013, told Gotham Gazette. "I think what they did was more of a dog and pony show than any real investigation."<br />With the Council seat now vacant, a handful of candidates have thrown their hats in the ring. One contender, Amanda Septimo, is district director for Congressional Rep. José Serrano. Septimo, whose age, 25, has grabbed attention, told Gotham Gazette that environmental and social justice are signature issues of her campaign. According to political insiders, a friendly office holder in District 17 could help buttress the increasingly vulnerable congressman against a primary challenge.</p> <p>"Serrano hasn't had any real challenge in a long time, and if you look at his finances, he's gotten himself reelected with around $30,000, so it's very little money," Angelo Falcón said. "He could be at his weakest politically at this point. He's had for a long time an understanding with the political machine, and they haven't really gone after him, but there have been some threats."</p> <p>Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. has in the past called on the long-serving congressman to step aside and, more recently, Council Member Palma contemplated her own challenge, but according to some insiders a more serious threat could emerge in the form of the borough president himself. Rep. Serrano reportedly ran afoul of Diaz Jr. for opposing $3.5 million in subsidies for the FreshDirect move to the Bronx.</p> <p>At the time, the congressman expressed "deep misgivings about this project because of its impact on the health of Bronx residents."</p> <p>(Septimo told Gotham Gazette that she has no position on the FreshDirect deal.)</p> <p>Another Council contender, George Alvarez, held his own in a three-way 2014 Assembly race against the eventual winner, former White House staffer Michael Blake, and a candidate endorsed by the Democratic county committee, Marsha Michaels. Alvarez won nearly 1,200 votes, nearly as many as Michaels, and proved himself capable as a fundraiser. Alvarez is expected to garner support among the growing Dominican-American population in this predominantly Hispanic, though traditionally Puerto Rican, district.</p> <p>Joann Otero, the long-time chief of staff to former Council Member Arroyo, is another leading contender for the District 17 seat. According to sources, Arroyo's first-choice successor was a Cablevision executive whose potential candidacy came against resistance from party leadership. Otero, who believes she is the candidate most able to "hit the ground running" in the middle of budget season, and touted her personal relationship with stakeholders in the district, confirmed to Gotham Gazette that she has not received the endorsement of her former boss. The candidate claimed that instead of succeeding her as a Council member, Arroyo proposed a "Let's go make cookies plan."</p> <p>"We never really discussed it," Otero explained, "other than that we were going to do something else. With all the knowledge and skills that I've obtained from both the nonprofit and government sector, she said that makes me a very marketable individual to do just about anything."</p> <p>Arroyo announced her resignation from the Council late last year, citing "pressing family needs," and has since joined the nonprofit Acacia Network. For the time being, it is unclear whether the former Council member will remain on the sidelines throughout the special election.</p> <p>One of many unfolding subplots of the race is the role of 1199 SEIU. Montefiore health care network, whose employees are represented by 1199, is the largest employer in the Bronx. One declared candidate, Helen Foreman-Hines, was a political project director at the union, but resigned from 1199 after announcing her intention to enter the race. According to sources, Hines is no lock for support of the union that could prove decisive in this special election, to be held on Feb. 23.</p> <p>As a nonpartisan special election, the District 17 race will last just 45 days in total. Many see the election as the first real test of Assemblymember Crespo's leadership in the Bronx Democratic party. The new chair is a protégé and close ally of the borough president. A defeat to a grassroots insurgent or other outsider could serve, some political insiders believe, as a symbolic blow to county leadership.</p> <p>"Generally, the machine has the control in a special election, because there's very low voter turnout," Falcón said. "When you have control of the basic machinery, the petitioning process; when you have control even of the judges that rule on the petitions and all that stuff—that's a lot to go up against."</p> <p>According to Falcón, political change in the Bronx has typically come in the wake of scandal, such as Gustavo Rivera's 2010 electoral victory over the subsequently convicted Pedro Espada Jr. "You need something extraordinary," he said. And even if a grassroots candidate were to buck history, and prevail in a special election, Falcón cautioned that the battle is not over.</p> <p>"Once you are in, the problem is there are a lot of ways they can control you," he said, "No matter how old you are, you really need to have an independent base."&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br />by Gabe Ponce de León for Gotham Gazette. Ponce de León is a freelance journalist covering politics and policy in New York.<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> Rumored Scheme Brings Scrutiny to Bronx Political Machine 2015-09-17T23:24:55+00:00 2015-09-17T23:24:55+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5891:rumored-scheme-brings-scrutiny-to-bronx-political-machine Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/daiz_jr_heastie_crespo.jpg" alt="diaz jr heastie crespo" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p>Diaz Jr., Heastie, Crespo (l-r) (<a href="https://twitter.com/CarlHeastie/status/641564040783876097" target="_blank">photo</a>: @rubendiazjr)</p> <hr /> <p>By all reasonable indicators, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5845-progress-elusive-as-bronx-da-cruises-toward-reelection" target="_blank">should cruise to reelection</a> this November despite his low conviction rate, notoriously slow pace in filing charges, and apparent lack of serious fundraising. But many are watching closely to see if Johnson drops off the ballot this month and makes himself eligible to be appointed to a judgeship--thereby allowing the Bronx County Democrats to name his replacement.</p> <p>As rumors and suspicions swirl, the notion of Johnson and other longtime Bronx party leaders manipulating the electoral system to their advantage comes as little surprise to those who've seen the Bronx machine at work. But, with powerful Bronx elected officials newly more prominent, the risks of such machinations are greater than in the past.</p> <p>District Attorney Johnson has been in a unique situation for decades. Thanks to the support of the Bronx County Democratic Party, he has faced few serious political challenges since taking office in 1989 and is running this year on the Democratic, Conservative, and Republican ballot lines.</p> <p>Bronx insiders are convinced that Bronx County Democratic Chair Marcos Crespo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (Crespo's predecessor as county chair) have decided to appoint Johnson to a judgeship and then replace him on the ticket with one of their allies, thereby subverting the democratic process.</p> <p>The technique that could be used to replace Johnson isn't unique; it has been used time and time again across the city to, basically, gift seats to party-friendly candidates. The Bronx has long been a haven for the workings of the County Democratic machine, but with Heastie's ascent to one of the post powerful positions in the state and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.'s rising profile, it appears it will be much more difficult to pull off such maneuvers without paying a price.</p> <p>Actions in the Bronx are now linked to the larger political aspirations of these rising stars and they've earned the attention of good government groups and media outside the borough.</p> <p>What is particularly concerning to reformers inside and outside of government is that Crespo, Heastie, and Diaz would essentially be appointing the person who is, in part, supposed to police their actions. Johnson's record on corruption busting is suspicious to many. He has pursued cases against former Assemblymember Nelson Castro and former Senator Pedro Espada, but at the time both men were out of the county party's good graces. In fact, they were known for causing Bronx Democrats nasty headaches.</p> <p>With Heastie, who this year replaced the indicted Sheldon Silver as speaker, pledging transparency and reform in the Assembly, some observers wonder if he isn't trying to avoid future embarrassment by being directly responsible for appointing the new district attorney.</p> <p>"The bottom line is that it is always nice to have your derriere covered by a prosecutor that owes you their job," said Douglas Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College.</p> <p>Johnson's office has refused to comment for this story. Heastie has told other reporters that he gave up decision-making abilities as the chair of the Bronx County Democrats when he became Assembly speaker. And Assemblymember Crespo has avoided responding to queries from numerous outlets, including Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>It stands to reason that Bronx Borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr., who would also have a say in the matter given his relationship with Heastie and his quest to run, eventually, for mayor. Diaz Jr.'s office also ignored requests for comment.</p> <p>The scenario has been further complicated by Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda, who has made it no secret that he is interested the district attorney position. Sepulveda is said to have informed Johnson he would be challenging him down the road, even while helping him collect petitions for his reelection this summer.</p> <p>Bob Kappstatter, a prolific Bronx journalist who currently works as a political consultant and counts Sepulveda as a client, took to Facebook to decry the behind-the-scenes machinations that may be afoot.</p> <p>"We can count on one hand how many Bronx politicians Rob Johnson has gone after, with most of those being County's enemies. Meanwhile the feds have vacuumed the borough ALMOST clean," Kappstatter wrote on Facebook. "Carl [Heastie], whom we hear didn't expect all this heat from the media and good government groups, has dumped the deal in the lap of new County Leader Marcos Crespo, an honest, decent guy who will have to take the heat if it goes through. Marcos is already looking like Heastie's puppet, diminishing his power among the city's four other Dem county leaders while Carl still pulls County's strings."</p> <p>Sepulveda's interest in the DA position has angered the Bronx County Democrats. Earlier this month the Daily News ran a story detailing how Sepulveda's estranged wife sought an order of protection from him earlier this summer. Both Luis and his wife told the Daily News that she withdrew the request. Insiders see it as retaliation from County for his interest in Johnson's job.</p> <p>Exposing any deal among Johnson and other officials could benefit Sepulveda, because outside pressure might lead to Johnson stepping down after the election rather than before.</p> <p>The process Bronx County Democrats could use to replace Johnson is particularly effective because Democratic enrollment in the borough greatly eclipses that of all other parties.</p> <p>Democratic voters decide the election during the September primary, with the November election essentially being a formality - not that Johnson was challenged in the primary. If Johnson steps down before Election Day, his county-picked replacement would move into office with all the benefits of incumbency and the backing of the establishment. Any future primary challenger would face a well-known, well-financed incumbent who hadn't actually been elected by a significant number of voters.</p> <p>"This is a fairly common practice in New York politics," said Gerald Benjamin, professor of political science at SUNY New Paltz. "It is anti-competitive and it allows the newly appointed incumbent to use that incumbency to defeat their next challenger."</p> <p>"As a general principle of government, it stinks," said Gene Russianoff of The New York Public Interest Research Group. "The primary election process might not be perfect but at least it offers hope. Forgoing it is a thumb in the eye to voters."</p> <p>Johnson would have to submit a letter to the Board of Elections asking to be removed from the ballot by Monday, September 21.</p> <p>If Johnson resigns after he is elected in November, Gov. Andrew Cuomo could name an interim district attorney and would eventually set a date for a special election. This would likely allow Sepulveda and other hopefuls a chance to actually vie for the seat.</p> <p>Professor Benjamin said that voters should be especially concerned about the machinations involved in Johnson's possible replacement and appointment to a judgeship given what The New York Times described as "an unusual string of legal lapses" that allowed Heastie to keep a home his mother purchased with embezzled funds.</p> <p>Heastie agreed to sell the house as part of a deal that allowed Heastie's mother to avoid jail time. His mother died three weeks after being sentenced and Heastie stopped trying to sell the home. He sold it six years later at a profit of $200,000.</p> <p>"Carelessness of those involved in the case could be to blame, or something more questionable could have occurred, given the Bronx Democratic Party's influence on the court system and its long history of back-room deal-making," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/21/nyregion/carl-heastie-new-york-assembly-speaker-benefited-from-mothers-embezzling.html" target="_blank">wrote the Times</a>.</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/daiz_jr_heastie_crespo.jpg" alt="diaz jr heastie crespo" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p>Diaz Jr., Heastie, Crespo (l-r) (<a href="https://twitter.com/CarlHeastie/status/641564040783876097" target="_blank">photo</a>: @rubendiazjr)</p> <hr /> <p>By all reasonable indicators, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5845-progress-elusive-as-bronx-da-cruises-toward-reelection" target="_blank">should cruise to reelection</a> this November despite his low conviction rate, notoriously slow pace in filing charges, and apparent lack of serious fundraising. But many are watching closely to see if Johnson drops off the ballot this month and makes himself eligible to be appointed to a judgeship--thereby allowing the Bronx County Democrats to name his replacement.</p> <p>As rumors and suspicions swirl, the notion of Johnson and other longtime Bronx party leaders manipulating the electoral system to their advantage comes as little surprise to those who've seen the Bronx machine at work. But, with powerful Bronx elected officials newly more prominent, the risks of such machinations are greater than in the past.</p> <p>District Attorney Johnson has been in a unique situation for decades. Thanks to the support of the Bronx County Democratic Party, he has faced few serious political challenges since taking office in 1989 and is running this year on the Democratic, Conservative, and Republican ballot lines.</p> <p>Bronx insiders are convinced that Bronx County Democratic Chair Marcos Crespo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (Crespo's predecessor as county chair) have decided to appoint Johnson to a judgeship and then replace him on the ticket with one of their allies, thereby subverting the democratic process.</p> <p>The technique that could be used to replace Johnson isn't unique; it has been used time and time again across the city to, basically, gift seats to party-friendly candidates. The Bronx has long been a haven for the workings of the County Democratic machine, but with Heastie's ascent to one of the post powerful positions in the state and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.'s rising profile, it appears it will be much more difficult to pull off such maneuvers without paying a price.</p> <p>Actions in the Bronx are now linked to the larger political aspirations of these rising stars and they've earned the attention of good government groups and media outside the borough.</p> <p>What is particularly concerning to reformers inside and outside of government is that Crespo, Heastie, and Diaz would essentially be appointing the person who is, in part, supposed to police their actions. Johnson's record on corruption busting is suspicious to many. He has pursued cases against former Assemblymember Nelson Castro and former Senator Pedro Espada, but at the time both men were out of the county party's good graces. In fact, they were known for causing Bronx Democrats nasty headaches.</p> <p>With Heastie, who this year replaced the indicted Sheldon Silver as speaker, pledging transparency and reform in the Assembly, some observers wonder if he isn't trying to avoid future embarrassment by being directly responsible for appointing the new district attorney.</p> <p>"The bottom line is that it is always nice to have your derriere covered by a prosecutor that owes you their job," said Douglas Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College.</p> <p>Johnson's office has refused to comment for this story. Heastie has told other reporters that he gave up decision-making abilities as the chair of the Bronx County Democrats when he became Assembly speaker. And Assemblymember Crespo has avoided responding to queries from numerous outlets, including Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>It stands to reason that Bronx Borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr., who would also have a say in the matter given his relationship with Heastie and his quest to run, eventually, for mayor. Diaz Jr.'s office also ignored requests for comment.</p> <p>The scenario has been further complicated by Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda, who has made it no secret that he is interested the district attorney position. Sepulveda is said to have informed Johnson he would be challenging him down the road, even while helping him collect petitions for his reelection this summer.</p> <p>Bob Kappstatter, a prolific Bronx journalist who currently works as a political consultant and counts Sepulveda as a client, took to Facebook to decry the behind-the-scenes machinations that may be afoot.</p> <p>"We can count on one hand how many Bronx politicians Rob Johnson has gone after, with most of those being County's enemies. Meanwhile the feds have vacuumed the borough ALMOST clean," Kappstatter wrote on Facebook. "Carl [Heastie], whom we hear didn't expect all this heat from the media and good government groups, has dumped the deal in the lap of new County Leader Marcos Crespo, an honest, decent guy who will have to take the heat if it goes through. Marcos is already looking like Heastie's puppet, diminishing his power among the city's four other Dem county leaders while Carl still pulls County's strings."</p> <p>Sepulveda's interest in the DA position has angered the Bronx County Democrats. Earlier this month the Daily News ran a story detailing how Sepulveda's estranged wife sought an order of protection from him earlier this summer. Both Luis and his wife told the Daily News that she withdrew the request. Insiders see it as retaliation from County for his interest in Johnson's job.</p> <p>Exposing any deal among Johnson and other officials could benefit Sepulveda, because outside pressure might lead to Johnson stepping down after the election rather than before.</p> <p>The process Bronx County Democrats could use to replace Johnson is particularly effective because Democratic enrollment in the borough greatly eclipses that of all other parties.</p> <p>Democratic voters decide the election during the September primary, with the November election essentially being a formality - not that Johnson was challenged in the primary. If Johnson steps down before Election Day, his county-picked replacement would move into office with all the benefits of incumbency and the backing of the establishment. Any future primary challenger would face a well-known, well-financed incumbent who hadn't actually been elected by a significant number of voters.</p> <p>"This is a fairly common practice in New York politics," said Gerald Benjamin, professor of political science at SUNY New Paltz. "It is anti-competitive and it allows the newly appointed incumbent to use that incumbency to defeat their next challenger."</p> <p>"As a general principle of government, it stinks," said Gene Russianoff of The New York Public Interest Research Group. "The primary election process might not be perfect but at least it offers hope. Forgoing it is a thumb in the eye to voters."</p> <p>Johnson would have to submit a letter to the Board of Elections asking to be removed from the ballot by Monday, September 21.</p> <p>If Johnson resigns after he is elected in November, Gov. Andrew Cuomo could name an interim district attorney and would eventually set a date for a special election. This would likely allow Sepulveda and other hopefuls a chance to actually vie for the seat.</p> <p>Professor Benjamin said that voters should be especially concerned about the machinations involved in Johnson's possible replacement and appointment to a judgeship given what The New York Times described as "an unusual string of legal lapses" that allowed Heastie to keep a home his mother purchased with embezzled funds.</p> <p>Heastie agreed to sell the house as part of a deal that allowed Heastie's mother to avoid jail time. His mother died three weeks after being sentenced and Heastie stopped trying to sell the home. He sold it six years later at a profit of $200,000.</p> <p>"Carelessness of those involved in the case could be to blame, or something more questionable could have occurred, given the Bronx Democratic Party's influence on the court system and its long history of back-room deal-making," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/21/nyregion/carl-heastie-new-york-assembly-speaker-benefited-from-mothers-embezzling.html" target="_blank">wrote the Times</a>.</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p>