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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bronx and Brooklyn Put Patronage Politcs on Parade

The combination of term limits and old-fashioned patronage politics has set off an intriguing inter-borough battle with myriad local ramifications.

The position of City Clerk, one of the most plum patronage prizes still left, is open. Bronx County Clerk Hector Diaz, the choice of Bronx Democratic Party chair Jose Rivera, seemed to be sailing to City Council confirmation until Rivera’s powerful Brooklyn counterpart, Vito Lopez, stepped in and delayed the vote.

Lopez again foiled Rivera, who was hoping to get term-limited councilwoman (and his former chief of staff) Maria Baez installed at the Board of Elections as deputy director in a package vote with Manhattan Republican Marcus Cederqvist. Her Council term expires at the end of 2009. But the Daily News reports that Lopez and the Republican and Democratic political leaders in each borough who get to decide voted against the package deal, though Cederqvist received unanimous support.

The push to get Baez another job has several implications. First, it was generally believed among political insiders and the Bronx punditocracy (to the extent there is such a thing) that Rivera would put up Baez to take the place of State Senator Efrain Gonzalez, if in fact he is convicted on corruption charges this spring. So, Rivera either doesn’t think Baez is suited to that job, which is 99 percent of the time is virtually a lifetime appointment. Or he’s betting Gonzalez is going to beat the rap. If it’s the former, who does Rivera have in mind for the Senate position?

On a related note, Andrew Wolf, in the New York Sun, shines a light on the family business that is Bronx politics.


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