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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Primary Postcard: Cabrera's Team Celebrates Close (Yet Unofficial) Victory

The mood in Maestro's catering hall in Morris Park was quietly cheerful last night at about 9:30 p.m. There were no televisions in the banquet hall, but the results of the day's Democratic primaries were trickling in via text messages and e-mail blasts to the 100 or so Fernando Cabrera supporters milling about in blue shirts.

Cabrera, the pastor of New Life International Outreach Church and an upstart challenger in the 14th Council District, was nowhere to be found.

Food was served, drinks were consumed and rumors were flying.

"Word is Maria's out," said John DeSio, a spokesman for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

"I'm hearing good things," said Cabrera's communications director Fernando Aquino.

Two young Cabrera soldiers were talking to reporters as if they were giving a post-game victory speech.

Word slipped into the room: Cabrera's up.

Then the music started. At least 30 campaign staffers piled onto the small stage toward one end of the hall and started banging on hand drums, dancing and chanting in Spanish: "The Cabrera era has begun!"

Carlos Feliciano, a campaign volunteer and youth minister with New Life, jumped on stage, the music still rocking. Some early results were in. Maria Baez, 34 percent. Fernando Cabrera, 41.

Celebration ensued. The dancers, chanters and drummers spilled onto the dance floor, forming the equivalent of huge chaotic conga line.

Then, for a while, nothing.

Fifteen minutes later, somebody says Baez is now in the lead, but it's close. Outside, in the lobby, Daily News Bronx bureau chief Bob "Kappy" Kappstatter is holding court with new numbers from his source within the Board of Elections. With 98 percent of the vote in, Cabrera is up a grand total of FIVE votes, you could count them on one hand.

There's discussion of what this means. Where's the other 2 percent?

Suddenly, there's commotion, everyone starts filing back into the main hall. Community Board 7 Chairman Greg Faulkner, who was instrumental in Cabrera's campaign since its inception two years ago, says, "It's a done deal." How many votes? "It's over. 90 votes," he says.

[Technically, nothing is official at this point and in the west Bronx, a defiant Baez is refusing to concede.]

No matter. Campaigners are now hugging and crying. The word is out. Cabrera did it.

"We did it!" everyone is saying.

Soon a procession is barreling into the hall. Diaz Jr. and his father Ruben Diaz, Sr. (in full cowboy gear) walk through the gantlet of cheering supporters. Carl Heastie, the Democratic Pary Chairman who took a gamble by choosing to back Cabrera, a former Republican, against a Democratic incumbent, walks through confidently.

Then, it's the man of the hour, of the day, Pastor Fernando Cabrera, grinning from ear to ear, high fiving and fist pumping his way to the stage.

Heastie takes the mic first. "I'd like to introduce you to the new Democratic nominee for City Council in the 14th District, FERNANDO CABRERA!"

More pandemonium, cheering and hugging. It was, for even the most impartial observer, exciting.

The pastor's first words: "God did it and you did it!" Nuts. The whole place went nuts.
"Some people questioned whether this was going to happen," Cabrera went on. "I'm here to tell you that not only was it going to happen, it did happen!" More madness.

Later he would go on to thank everyone involved in the campaign for all their hard work, etc., etc. But before all that:

"We're going to start a new era of leadership in the Bronx and the best is yet to come!"

As a reporter, there were still loads of unanswered questions hanging in the air as to how this would all shake out, logistically and otherwise. But the question I kept asking myself was: Are those goose bumps?
-All Photos by David Greene


  1. Message to Cabrera:

    Congratulations Cabrera!!! I hope that Tapia and Baez's people will allow you an opportunity to serve them as a councilman, without any resentment or negative reservation. All candidates were prepared and dedicated to meet the needs of this district.. but only one could win. Hopefully you can all pool together somehow and bring some change collectively to D14. I feel 100% assured thay you will do a great job. Congratulations again!

    Message to Tapia:

    You are an inspiration to Latino men and women in the Bronx. Your vigor and concern was duly noted during this election. I hope that God will place you in a position of leadership where you will be best able to utilize your talents to influence change. Best of Luck.

    Message to Baez:

    It has been a hard fought battle. Despite all the negative controversy that has been spread around, many people I've met speak very highly of you. Some say how you've directly helped them.. I hope that you will position yourself in a place to continue to be a help to the people of this district. Thanks.

  2. Ohhh those were Goosebumps alright!!! There was electicity in the air.. unlike the other celebration party in the proceeding article..wow.. thats crazy.. Did anyone cover the Tapia party?

  3. I would like to express my congratulations to Mr Cabrera as the new councilman of the 14th council district.

  4. Congratulations Cabrera! This was a victory for the community. I do wish the best for Tapia and Baez.

  5. You should be saying sorry anothony for all the lies you said about him. And convincing ppl to waste there vote for Tapia a crook anywayz the right man one just like I said from the very begining.

  6. One thing that struck me was the fact that Maria Biaz had to pay people to go out and support her. I campaigned for Cabrera and received not one red cent; why? you might ask?? Because I believed that he would win from the start and I believed that he was the right person from the start. You can't buy people's confidence and trust, you have to earn it! Fernando Cabrera earned my trust a long time ago just off the humbleness I saw in him when i first started going to Newlife. Pastor Congratulations!!! and many continued blessings for you and your family.

  7. oh yea.......it was goosebumps!!! Haha!!

    P.S. It was in the air.... :O)

  8. Talk about grassroots......this was a total 100% volunteer, team work! Maria and Yudelka paid people whose hearts were not in it. Cabrera had a team who did it out of their hearts and know that he is real.


  9. Anthony, thank you for congratulations. It is time to come together and help Cabrera restore district 14.


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