Well, we've arrived. The moment of truth. Tomorrow, primary voters in the Bronx will decide who they want to represent them in City Council. (We'd say there's still the matter of the general election, but let's be honest here.)
There are three, maybe four Council races in the borough that are worth watching because they could be close (or at least relatively so): the 14th, 11th, 12th and maybe the 16th. In each of those races, the incumbent is not guaranteed victory in tomorrow's primary. And if any of them go down, it will be an exception to the rule.
Last week, the NY Times, in a story about 14th District incumbent Maria Baez's perilous re-election battle -- she's facing two well-financed opponents, Fernando Cabrera and Yudelka Tapia -- reported that incumbents have won re-election in 97% of all Council races over the past 20 years. That means, if any of those incumbents gets knocked off we could be staring at history when the final results are tallied.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm excited to see some political competition.
Candidates ask us who we're endorsing in the various races. Our answer is always the same: we don't endorse. What we do endorse is informed voting and political engagement. And through our coverage and our debates we've hoped to foster that.
On that note, kudos to Oliver Koppell, the 11th District councilman, for being the only incumbent to engage his (or her) challenger(s) in a debate. Baez? A no show. Larry Seabrook (12th) and Helen Foster (16th)? Nope.
As a voter, you have to ask yourself: Why aren't these people willing to debate their opponents? It's not because they were too busy.
In any case, we're hoping some of the competition and campaigns have invigorated a Bronx voting bloc that is shockingly apathetic.
Last fall, Pedro Espada was voted in by less than 5,000 voters in a senate district with more than 100,000 registered voters. Four years ago, only 17% of those eligible actually voted in the 11th district.
So? Vote. That's all we're saying.
Here's a few last-minute snippets from the races.
- 11th District Challenger Tony Cassino read the Norwood News late last week and immediately sent out a flyer with Koppell's quote about why he's not a big fan of public referendums like the two that installed term limits. Basically, Koppell said the public isn't "sophisticated enough" to handle big decisions.
- Tapia was endorsed today by the Daily News.
- Cabrera was endorsed recently by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
- The Tapia campaign continues to attack Cabrera's campaign, while Cabrera focusses his sights on Baez. At the same time, Tapia's campaign continues to leave former strategists in its wake.
- In the last few days, Tapia's campaign has tried to say Cabrera had a poor attendance record during his tenure at Community Board 7. It's unclear exactly what his attendance was, Board 7 district manager Fernando Tirado, says records were not well kept during those years. While Cabrera's attendance record wasn't perfect, it wasn't atrocious either, Tirado says.
- Caberera's campaign is upset that Tapia is handing out literature linking her and Ruben Diaz Jr. who has endorsed Cabrera. Diaz released a statement saying, "While other candidates are trying to mislead the public by distributing material with my picture, I urge all democrats to vote for Dr. Fernando Cabrera in the primary."
- Tapia, having last month fired her campaign manager Onix Sosa after he took a job with Espada (Sosa was then fired for his long record of mismanaging apartment buildings), is now dealing with another disgruntled former advisor in Victor Solis.
- Solis, a veteran political operator who used to work for Bloomberg, says Tapia owes a friend of his, Carlos Garcia, $6,000. Garcia, in a phone interview, said he leant the money to Tapia in early June because he believed in the Tapia campaign, based moslty on the advice of his good friend, Solis. Elias Alcantera, a spokesman for the campaign, says Tapia and Solis had "personal" issues that had nothing to do with the campaign. Solis showed the Norwood News a check from Tapia to Carlos Garcia, a school teacher, for $6,000. Garcia and Solis are both listed as contributors to the campaign.
- According to city records, Tapia's campaign has received $20,900 in loans and only paid back $8,500. Three people were listed as giving her those loans. Garcia was not one of them. The campaign finance board only recently released public funds to Tapia's campaign. Not disclosing a loan, a spokesman for the board said, would result in a significant penalty for any campaign.
- We have no idea what Baez is doing. She didn't call us back today.
UPDATE: Someone from Baez's office called us late in the afternoon to say that the councilwoman is planning to vote at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning at PS 33 (on Jerome Avenue near Fordham Road). In the evening, she's hosting an event at the Monte Carlo Room, at 2700 Jerome Ave., to celebrate what she hopes will be a hard-fought victory.