The Bronx Democratic Party may have cut loose Councilwoman Maria Baez (they're supporting Fernando Cabrera, a pastor, in September's primary), but she still has friends in high places.
As she looks to secure a third term in office, Baez is being backed by mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, former Bronx BP Fernando Ferrer, and, we discovered yesterday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
"She's been a great friend to her district, a great friend to the Bronx, and a great and loyal friend to me," said Quinn, speaking at a morning rally outside Baez's campaign office on East 181st Street.
Also present to show their support were Assemblymen Jose Rivera and Nelson Castro, Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo and her mother Assemblywoman Carmen E. Arroyo, and two or three other pols from other boroughs.
Assemblywoman Arroyo said people have tried to convince her to throw her weight behind another candidate, but she's not interested. "I said 'bring me a person who could do better than Maria.' But they don't have that person. That person doesn't exist," she said.
The younger Arroyo talked about Baez's "strength, character, and integrity." She said she called her the "quiet storm" because she works "very quietly, very consistently."
Said Baez, who represents the 14th District: "I've been in this community for 40 years, 30 years politically. I will not stop fighting for this community. I'm not going anywhere."
The event was billed as a "Women for Baez" rally, and perhaps 80 percent of the 100-plus crowd were women. At a guess, I'd say most were in the 60-plus age bracket.
"She's done a lot for the seniors, the schools, and she's not stuck up, I'll put it like that," long-time Morris Avenue resident Willie Simmons told me.
"Maria has always been the kind of person who makes time for you," said Anna McQuilla, who's lived in Mount Hope for 40 years.
I could go on, but you get the picture - there was a lot of people saying a lot of nice things.
At the rally, Baez introduced her new campaign manager, Yesenia Polanco, who until recently was one of Baez's potential primary opponents. Polanco told me she decided not to run back in May, but this is the first we've heard.
She said she realized that now wasn't her time, and so she looked carefully at the other candidates and decided to support Baez, who later offered her a job. "As a young Latina woman... she's very inspiring," said Polanco, a former state legislative aide.
Hmm... I wonder if things really went down like that. One thing I did hear is that Baez's decision to hire her came out of the blue, surprising at least some of the councilwoman's staff and others working on her campaign.
Regardless, as of yesterday, there's officially five candidates in the race, not six.
TOP PHOTO: Baez is at the mic, Quinn is in the center, Councilwoman Arroyo is on the left. BOTTOM PHOTO: Yesenia Polanco