Wednesday, April 28, 2010
In a phone interview, the assemblyman said he’s still weighing his options and will make a decision in the coming weeks. Should he opt to run, Benjamin would be giving up his state Assembly post in the 79th District, where he’s been since 2003, to challenge the federal seat currently occupied by Congressman Jose E. Serrano, who’s held the position for the past two decades.
“Over the last 20 years of the congressman’s tenure the Bronx has remained [home to] the nation’s poorest congressional district,” Benjamin said of Serrano. “To me, that’s not a badge of honor.”
Benjamin said his number one priority would be to use a congressional seat to bring funding into the 16th District—which makes up large portions of the west and south Bronx—to boost the area’s economy.
Benjamin went on to praise some of Serrano’s work, like his role in funding and fighting environmental justice issues, but said it wasn’t enough.
“The congressman has done good things,” he said. “But many more Bronx residents would prefer to be working, to be able to see their families have access to good quality medical care, higher performing public schools.”
“I always believe a federal legislator has a responsibility to try to solve some of these actions,” he continued.
Patrick Jenkins, who works for Bronx Democratic Party Chairman Carl Heastie, said he’s not sure if Benjamin’s congressional ambitions are serious.
“The chairman is not convinced that there is an actual run--that Benjamin will actually be running against Congressman Serrano. Until there’s a definitive word either way, it’ll be hard to pass judgment,” Jenkins said.
“I can tell you this: the chairman unequivocally supports Congressman Serrano in an election, and would support Michael Benjamin in his re-election.”
Would Benjamin stand a chance against Serrano, a two-decade incumbent?
“He’d be a good candidate,” said veteran Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “It’s hard to beat an incumbent, but Michael Benjamin would certainly work very hard.”
Benjamin also denied that his wife and chief-of-staff, Kennedy Williams-Benjamin, would jump in the ring for his assembly seat should he decide to vacate (this was first reported in the Daily News’ Bob Kappstatter’s weekly column, who said he has it on good authority and hypothesized that Williams-Benjamin would be keeping the assemblyman’s seat warm, should he lose against Serrano.)
“My wife has no interest in politics,” Benjamin said. “I’m not cynical enough to believe that I would use my wife as a seatholder.”