Many people have been talking, and talking loudly about Fernando Cabrera, who's running to replace Maria Baez as the Council Member for District 14.
But yesterday, as he opened up his freezer and then fridge to offer me an ice cold soda, Cabrera assured the Bronx News Network that he, his wife and teenage son live in this apartment on Sedgwick Avenue, near 197th Street. Inside the ice box are leftovers in Tupperware and bags of frozen tamales made by his Mexican wife.
Trying to set the record straight, I toured the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, and living space, scouring for evidence of a quick move-in, such as the one neighbors claimed Espada did in preparation for a media visit. (He showed up the night before with vacation bags and suitcases.)
Cabrera, a Mercy College professor, also boasts he is on the advisory board for the building complex, and he seems to be on a first-name basis with the building's super.
Bronxites are also concerned Cabrera may not really be a Democrat. Up until last year, he was a registered Republican. He doesn't deny this. However, Cabrera, the pastor of New Life International Outreach Church on Morris Avenue, said he recently switched parties to sympathize with what he says are values more in line with his lifestyle.
"When I started to re-analyze the work I've done for the past 20 years and started to see the platform the Democratic Party has, I saw myself with the Democratic Party," said Cabrera, as he talked to me on couches in the seemingly lived-in common area he shares with his son, a Columbia University student studying English and computer science.
Cabrera, who is backed by the Bronx Democratic Party and the left-leaning Working Families Party, said what really made for the switch was the work he has done over the years -- counseling teens, being an educator and as a Community Board 7 member (2004-2006) -- that all align with the values Democrats put on social issues.
All the political leaders that came to his church, Cabrera said, were Democratic. And let's not forget new President Barack Obama, who Cabrera says he voted for and who also played a role in inspiring the former Republican to switch parties. "What I love about the Democratic Party is that they're a party of inclusion," he said.
The decision may have been momentous, but Fernando Aquino, Cabrera's campaign consultant, said Cabrera's decision is not that uncommon. "He's not the first person to be a Republican and then a Democrat," Aquino said. "A lot of people decide what they're going to be when they were young, or they have a parent that is and then later they realize they aren't."
Cabrera joked, "There is someone a lot of people might not remember: Hillary Clinton, she was a Republican and now look at how she's represented now, she's very proud of the fact that she is (a Democrat)."
For now, District 14 will continue to give Cabrera more careful scrutiny in the weeks leading up to the election. To learn more about Cabrera's positions, visit his Website.
For the record, Cabrera says he supports civil unions for homosexuals but not legal marriage (same as Obama); he supports abortion only in cases of rape or violence (unlike Obama who is decidedly pro-choice); he is a proponent of saving affordable housing; he supports more funding to help welfare recipients; and he doesn't think there is enough hunting being done in the Bronx to warrant some of its residents' gun collections.
We'll have a little more on all this in the next issue of the Norwood News -- it hits the streets and the Web on July 9.