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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Maria Baez: 'This is Not Over'

DEFIANT: Assemblyman Jose Rivera and Councilwoman Maria Baez

At 11:30 p.m. last night, Councilwoman Maria Baez addressed 30 or so of her weary supporters inside the Monte Carlo Room, a nightclub on Jerome Avenue near the Kingsbridge Armory.

It was no concession speech.

"This is not over," Baez said, placing emphasis on each word. The small crowd erupted.

As you've likely heard, Fernando Cabrera, Baez's main rival in the 14th District City Council race, is currently 90 votes ahead following yesterday's primary. The Board of Elections will officially announce the results next Tuesday (that's the plan anyway). Certain ballots have yet to be counted, but it's not looking good for the incumbent.

The bad news arrives

Here's how the evening unfolded for the Baez camp:

At 9 p.m., the councilwoman's supporters being to trickle into the club, for a celebration that never was. A handful gathered around a flat-screen TV, watching Bronx News 12 for updates. Others took a seat, and talked quietly among themselves; many had spent the day flyering, and were exhausted.

Diana Vest, a Westchester Square resident who said she was paid $80 for 12 hours of work, told me she'd encountered plenty of hostility towards Baez on the street. "Some people think she's a crook," she said. "They believe she's about promises and no action and that she's not a person who sticks to her word."

Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx BP and two-time mayoral candidate, showed up around 9:30. "I've known Maria Baez for the better part of 30 years," he told me. "I know how hard she works for her community."

He added: "Her opponant [Cabrera] until recently was a Westchester resident and a Republican at that. Excuse me, am I missing something?"

When the final vote tally popped up on TV around 10:30 p.m., there was a stunned, awkward, silence. Councilman Joel Rivera said he wouldn't be suprised if the race was decided in court, considering how close it was. "I do think it would be a loss for the district [if she is defeated]," he said. "Maria has done a wonderful job these past eight years, contrary to what's been reported."

The party never really got going

Baez, who watched proceedings elsewhere, arrived shortly afterwards. She smiled, but looked shell-shocked, a little embarrassed even. She sat the bar and talked quietly with friends.

Assemblyman Jose Rivera, Baez's political mentor, told me he was "proud of Maria, she took to the streets, it was a very grassroots operation." He said the support of the Working Families Party, 1199 SEIU, and the Bronx Democratic Party ("I know what County can do."), tipped the race in Cabrera's favor, assuming the result stands.

From l to r: Rivera, Baez, her grandson, Councilman Joel Rivera, Assemblymember Naomi Rivera

When Baez finally got up to talk, much of the crowd had dispersed (at one stage 60 or so people were present). "This is not over," she said, standing next to Rivera the elder. "I see everyone, like, sad. We're not sad, we're happy. It's one percent [of the vote] so lets just relax."

At times, though, there was an air of resignation. "It's been an honor for me, I never would have imagined that I would have been a member of the Council," Baez said.

She said she's going on vacation with her family for the next few days, and will assess her options when she returns, to see what can be done.

Then, attempting to lighten the mood on what had been a miserable night, Baez said: "It's not over, they say, until the fat lady sings, and this fat lady ain't singing."


  1. dito.. I guess it's all over.. It's been real.. It's been fun, but it hasn't been real fun!

  2. Dam Maria Baez hasn't been around for most of her time in office and she's not even going to be around to see if it's "not really over". Sounds to me she needs a vacation to lick her wounds. Sorry Maria maybe in eight years you can run again.

  3. Sorry Maria, the fat lady (you indeed) should start singing.

  4. 0oh believe me it is over chica!!

  5. OK Maria you are going on vacation and when you return access the situation......there you go again! MIA

  6. Back to being a Clerk! A person who screws up a $112,500 a year salary as a Council Member by not going to work will find sympathy hard to come by. Maybe she does need a vacation... reality may be too overwhelming right now.


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