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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Council Races Take Shape in Wake of Term Limits Vote

Busy day today so we weren't able to get to our News Roundup but here's a little taste of what you'll find in the issue of the Norwood News hitting the streets tomorrow ...

Lost, or at least partially obscured, in the tussle over term limits is the reality that the incumbents who are now eligible to run for a third term, including the mayor, have to actually run.

Many local insurgent candidates launched Web sites and have been fundraising for months.

Now faced with the probability of facing well-financed, well-known incumbents, candidates are reassessing their campaigns. A couple have already dropped out or signaled their intention to do so.

But after surveying the post-term limits political landscape in the 11th and 14th Council districts, it appears most candidates have not been cowed, meaning some spirited and competitive races may be coming next fall.

In the 11th District, which covers Riverdale, Kingsbridge Norwood, Bedford Park and Woodlawn, Council member Oliver Koppell was a prime advocate of efforts to change the term limit law. His staff counsel, Jamin Sewell, ended his bid to succeed Koppell immediately after the extension was approved. Koppell hasn’t publicly announced his plans, but Sewell’s withdrawal indicates Koppell will run for a third term, further extending a career in public office that began in 1970 in the state Assembly.

Sewell pledged loyalty to Koppell, calling him a “mentor,” and took some parting shots at his former rivals.

Anthony Cassino, an attorney and former chairman of Community Board 8, and Ari Hoffnung, a managing director at Bear Stearns, are keeping their hats firmly in the ring.

“I’m looking forward to another good race with Oliver and hopefully the results will be different this time,” said Hoffnung, who ran previously in 2005.

Cassino is opening his campaign office on Sunday in Riverdale.

Helen Morik, a vice president for community and government affairs at Columbia University, said she would reevaluate her campaign after Koppell makes an official announcement.

“Oliver hasn’t made his plans known yet,” she said. “So I’m still running.”

In the 14th District (Mount Hope, University Heights and Kingsbridge Heights), none of Maria Baez’s previously announced opponents seem scared off by the prospect of facing the incumbent.

“We’re moving forward,” said candidate Fernando Cabrera, pastor of New Life Ministries in North Fordham. “There is a need, a vacuum of leadership in District 14.”

Yudelka Tapia, a city auditor, is still committed to the race according to spokesman Jorge Javier. “Yudelka Tapia’s campaign is still going and she still plans on running for City Council in District 14,” Javier said.

Hector Ramirez, Democratic leader in the 86th Assembly District, was not available for comment by press time.

The battle for leadership of the Democratic Party will influence this race as well.

Tapia was expected to seek support from Jose Rivera, but now that his close ally (and former chief of staff) Baez is back in the race, it may not be coming her way.

Also, because of Baez’s relationship with Rivera, the leadership of the Rebel faction challenging Rivera, including Assemblymen Carl Heastie and Jeff Dinowitz, may make this race a priority. The Rebels reportedly back Ramirez. (A hearing to determine the fate of Bronx’s Democratic Leadership was taking place as we went to press. Look for updates online at westbronxnews.blogspot.com.)

Baez told the Mount Hope Monitor recently that she will run again and that the term limits extension will “give an opportunity for members like myself to finish projects.”

-Jordan Moss and James Fergusson


  1. Finish what project Baez? We need change and that's why I vote for Dr. Fernando Cabrera

  2. What we need is a fresh face with a steady hand for the challenges ahead that's why i'll be voting for Fernando Cabrera


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