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Assembly District 68 - Harlem

by Gotham Gazette Staff, Jul 26, 2004
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PRIMARY ELECTION RESULT: Winner - Adam Clayton Powell IV (Dem)

PRIMARY ELECTION CANDIDATES

Incumbent:
Adam Clayton Powell IV (Dem)

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Challengers:
Eddie Baca (Dem)
John Ruiz (Dem)

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Amid Allegations, A Race

Over two dozen reporters and cameramen surrounded the steps of City Hall in mid-July for a press conference held by Adam Clayton Powell IV, the member of the New York State Assembly representing East Harlem. "We all know why weĂ­re here," began Powell, who is running for reelection. "We have yet to pass a budget in Albany. I hope to do so soon. Thank you." He turned as if to leave, eliciting laughter from the reporters. Powell, aware of the real reason his press conference had drawn a crowd, then went on to address the allegations of rape that have placed him in the media spotlight.

The race for Adam Clayton Powell's seat has so far featured little discussion of the issues affecting East Harlem. The candidates in the Democratic primary -- Adam Claytotn Powell, District Leader John Ruiz, and former chair of Community Board 11 Eddie Baca -- agree that the neighborhood needs more affordable housing, improved education, and greater attention to health issues, such as East Harlem's high rate of asthma. Each candidate is running on his record, and attacking the record -- and character -- of his opponents. A fourth candidate, Rubye Wright, declined to be interviewed for this story.

Adam Clayton Powell has had to defend not only his public record, but also allegations regarding his personal life. On July 3, Powell was accused of rape for the second time in less than two months. The first alleged victim, a 19-year-old Albany intern, later changed her story, saying that what took place between herself and Powell was consensual. The second, a 38-year-old acquaintance of Powell's, plans to press charges. Powell maintains his innocence on both counts. Following the second accusation, John Ruiz held a press conference on the steps of Powell's office calling for his resignation. "With all the problems he is having right now, he should take time to address those problems," said Ruiz. Eddie Baca said he would not comment on the charges against Powell until the legal process had run its course.

John Ruiz and Eddie Baca have both focused on what they see as PowellĂ­s failure to adequately represent the district. Both claim that Adam Clayton Powell is inaccessible, and that his office is not helpful to East Harlem residents.

Eddie Baca says that Adam Clayton Powell "has just not been present. ThereĂ­s a lack of interest. There has been no initiative, or anything of significance that you can point to as his."

"Being visible here in the street is so important," says John Ruiz. "If people have an issue, they want to know someoneĂ­s listening. We have had to scream and holler at Powell just to get him to come to cultural events."

Others in the community share similar sentiments. Melissa Mark-Viverito, who ran for City Council in 2003, has endorsed John Ruiz. "We need representatives that will be able to bring resources into the neighborhood," she said. "It's not happening."

Some in East Harlem say that Adam Clayton Powell has won more on the basis of his famous name than because of what he has done for his constituents. Powell is the son of former U.S. representative and famous civil rights activist Adam Clayton Powell Jr. "The unfortunate thing about him is that a lot of our people vote for the name, and he plays that up," said District Leader Keith Lilly. "If people actually looked at the record, they might make a different decision."

Adam Clayton Powell dismisses claims that he neglects the East Harlem community. He said in an interview that, while in the Assembly, he has secured funds for East Harlem senior citizen centers and basketball leagues, and has brought new housing to the neighborhood. He said he is most proud of his Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption legislation, which limits rent increases for seniors. He also claims to be "the most visible elected official in East Harlem." "People see me, and they know me," said Powell. Candy Vazquez, a district leader in East Harlem who has endorsed Powell, says she has seen him at several functions and events with seniors.

John Ruiz had originally planned to run for State Senate, but switched to the Assembly race after the second rape allegation against Powell. Eddie Baca said Ruiz only entered the Assembly race because "he was smelling blood." And Geoffrey Eaton, chief of staff for East Harlem city councilmember, Philip Reed, says John Ruiz switched to "save his own face" after a poor start in the Senate race.

John Ruiz, though, says he made the switch in response to requests from the community. "If I was an opportunist, I would have been in the first time Powell was accused," he said. "The first time, we gave him the benefit of the doubt. The second time it happened, you start to think 'there's a pattern here.' I stepped in to provide a choice."

If elected, John Ruiz says he will work for affordable housing and job training in East Harlem, as well as to provide senior care, obtain a living wage for workers and address the neighborhood's health issues. Ruiz points to his record of community service and his nearly 20 years as a New York City firefighter. For over ten years, Ruiz educated children and seniors about fire safety as "The Rappin' Fireman," for which he received several community service awards. Since becoming a district leader, he has worked to make his office accessible to constituents, and says the club will host community meetings once construction on its conference room is complete.

Baca says his top priority if elected will be reforming the foster care system. He plans to "put a spotlight" on the city Administration of ChildrenĂ­s Services, which, he says, does not put a "serious effort" into keeping families together or providing appropriate care for children. He said he has already dealt with the agency as chair of Community Board 11. He also wants East Harlem's new developments to be built by companies located in the area and to ensure that East Harlem's HIV positive residents and teen parents receive the proper attention.

It is unclear how East Harlem residents view the rape allegations against Adam Clayton Powell. John Ruiz believes that residents are outraged and want Powell out. Candy Vazquez says most of the people she has spoken to "believe the assemblyman has been set up."

Adam Clayton Powell, for one, is confident about his prospects in September. "There is a better chance of us getting a blizzard on primary day than me losing," he said.

Until then, predicts District Leader Bill Moore, "There will be plenty of mudslinging."

CANDIDATE BIOGRAPHIES

Candidate Biographies:
Eddie Baca is director of the Association of Community Architecture and Businesses, an organization that develops low-income housing. He served as chair of Community Board 11 from 1994 to 1997 and was co-chair of Mayor David Dinkins's Task Force on La Marqueta in 1994.

Adam Clayton Powell IV has represented the 68th Assembly district in the New York State Assembly since 2000. From 1992 to 1997, Powell served as a New York City Council member representing East Harlem and parts of the Upper West Side and the South Bronx.

John Ruiz is a Democratic district leader in the 68th Assembly district, a position to which he was elected in 2003. He served as a firefighter for nearly 20 years in East Harlem, Washington Heights, and Lower Manhattan. While a firefighter, Ruiz founded the Rappin' Fireman Safety Program to educate children about fire safety. He also founded Our Firefighter's Children's Foundation, which provides food and gift to low-income people.

CAMPAIGN TRAIL

10/21/04
Harlem Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, accused by two women earlier this year of alcohol-related sexual assaults, is holding a "tequila shots" fund-raiser next week with contributors asked, "How many can you do?" When told of the event, a law-enforcement official familiar with the charges leveled against Powell said, "Are you kidding?" (NY Post)

7/28/04
Manhattan state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, dogged by scandal, will not mount a previously expected primary challenge to veteran U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel of Harlem, according to election documents released yesterday. The Rangel race had been touted more than a year ago as a potential clash between an older Democratic stalwart and Powell, whose preacher father lost the seat three decades ago to Rangel and who had the support of the Rev. Al Sharpton. (Newsday)

7/15/04
Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell 4th publicly acknowledged yesterday having sex with the two women accusing him of rape - but said they agreed to it. "The sex was consensual," the 42-year-old Harlem lawmaker declared at a contentious news conference on the steps of City Hall. (Daily News)

7/14/04
Assembly member Adam Clayton Powell IV - who is accused of raping a Manhattan woman - passed two lie detector tests, the politician's lawyer said yesterday. Powell, who has called the allegation "outrageous," was given separate examinations last week by Richard Arthur, who once gave a test to Jack Ruby after Ruby killed JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. (New York Post)

7/10/04
Keith Wright, a former chair of the State Legislative Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Caucus, has denied allegations that he is actively working behind the scenes to have his colleague Adam Clayton Powell IV ousted. Wright's involvement in the alleged scheme came to light at a press conference held in front of Powell's East Harlem district office to demand his resignation stemming from two back-to-back rape allegations. (Amsterdam News)

7/08/04

Embattled state assembly member Adam Clayton Powell IV won't meet with prosecutors probing rape allegations against him unless he has to, his lawyer said yesterday. (New York Post)

7/07/04
Adam Clayton Powell IV is scheduled to meet with Manhattan prosecutors as soon as today, to respond to allegations that he raped an acquaintance in her Central Park West apartment late last week. (Daily News)

07/04/04

Manhattan assembly member Adam Clayton Powell IV yesterday strongly denied allegations that he raped a woman last week at a West Side apartment. Powell issued a brief written statement a day after law enforcement sources said that police were investigating him in a sexual assault case for the second time in two months. (Daily News)

07/03/04
Manhattan assembly member Adam Clayton Powell IV is being investigated on a rape accusation for the second time in as many months, law enforcement sources said yesterday. A woman told police that after meeting Powell at a party Thursday night, they went to her West Side apartment, where he raped her at about 8:30 p.m., police officials said. After he left, she called 911. (Daily News)

05/12/04
Top state lawmakers yesterday expressed dismay and concern that an East Harlem assembly member from an esteemed political family has been accused of providing alcohol to a 19-year-old intern during an alleged sexual encounter at a capital-area hotel. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D- Manhattan) said the allegations against Adam Clayton Powell IV, son of former U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., were "deeply upsetting and troubling" and vowed to review a 28-year-old program that brings interns to the Capitol. (Newsday)

03/11/04
Adam Clayton Powell IV, an assembly member from East Harlem with longstanding congressional aspirations, has formed an exploratory committee, conducted several fund-raising events and met with supporters and advisers throughout Harlem. But he still seems somewhat tentative about whether he will run in this year's Democratic primary against Representative Charles B. Rangel, the dean of New York's congressional delegation. (New York Times)

Learn More:
• Albany's Dysfunction
• Blame Albany
• How Albany Controls New York City
• Will Albany Scandals Lead to Reform?
• Albany Rules?
• Upstate Downstate Debate

Eye on Albany Campaign 2004 home


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