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Friday, June 11, 2010

Gibson and Castro Launch Reelection Campaigns

Vanessa Gibson (in red), the assembly woman in the 79th District, won't face a primary opponant (Photo: J. Fergusson) 

Standing on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse on Monday morning, Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson announced her intention to seek reelection.

She was joined by a bevy of her fellow pols - including Congressman Jose Serrano, State Sen. Jose M. Serrano, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., Deputy Borough President Aurelia Greene, and Councilman Fernando Cabrera - and they took turns praising her work ethic and character.

Assemblyman Nelson Castro, who represents the 86th District, just north of Gibson's, launched his reelection bid that same day, with a party at the Monte Carlo night club on Jerome Avenue. 

Petitioning began on Tuesday, hence Gibson's and Castro's timing.  By mid-July, Assembly candidates need to have gathered 500 signatures from registered voters in their district to get on the ballot.  State Senate candidates need 1,000 signatures. Ideally, candidates will secure these numbers and then some, to avoid being kicked off the ballot if certain signatures are challenged. (For example, if a voter signs two candidates' petitions, only the one signed first will count.)

Assemblyman Nelson Castro addressing his supporters on Monday night.  Unlike Gibson, Castro has a real race on his hands (Photo: A. Watkins)

When Castro won the Democratic primary in September 2008, on his way to becoming the first Dominican-American sent up to Albany from the Bronx, he enjoyed the support of the Bronx Democratic County Committee, then led by Assemblyman Jose Rivera.  Not this time.  The party, now chaired by Assemblyman Carl Heastie, is supporting Hector Ramirez, a district leader, instead.  (Here's Ramirez's campaign website, and here's Castro's.)

At Castro's reelection party, then, Diaz, Heastie, Greene, etc. were no where to be seen.  In fact, not a single councilman, senator, or assemblyman, was present, leaving the impression that he's been hung out to dry.

Still, more than 100 local residents and community leaders showed up to cheer Castro on. "He's a people person," said Willie Simmons, a senior who lives on Morris Avenue. "I've gone to him with several problems and he took care of them."

Simmons, who's black, said Castro "doesn't see color," and is equally willing to serve, help, and represent people of all races - a theme Castro was keen to play on in his speech.  

"We've united our community in the 86th Assembly district," he said. "There's no longer African-Americans to one side, Latinos to the other side."  Castro added: "I'm committed to this community, I work hard to make sure I bring in the resources necessary to make [it] grow."

He went on to talk about several of his initiatives, including a bill he's sponsoring which would allow substitute teachers to claim unemployment during the summer-time.

Simmons said it's unfortunate that Castro's colleagues are attempting to oust him. "Everyone connected with Maria [Baez, the former councilwoman, and ally of Rivera], you know they want them out, and I think it's unfair," she said. Simmons worries that Castro's opponents will attempt to "railroad him" by bringing up past controversies. (He was - and still is? - being investigated by the Bronx DA's office over allegations that he committed perjury.)

Reached by phone, Patrick Jenkins, an advisor and spokesman of Heastie's, denied that the party's endorsement of Ramirez was political payback for Castro. 

"The simple fact is that Nelson Castro was not able to secure the support of the district leaders of his district, which is bascially the pathway to losing County's support," Jenkins said. 

Sherman Browne, a former staffer of Baez's who's now running Castro's campaign, says this argument is flawed. First off, one of the 86th Assembly District's district leaders is Ramirez himself, and so Castro was never likely to get his support, Browne said. (The other district leader, Samantha Serrano, is in Castro's camp.)

"Obviously it has nothing to do with district leaders," said Browne. "That's what they say to protect the integrity of the party."  

Jenkins also said that Castro hasn't worked closely with the Country organization these past 18 months, and hasn't commincated well with Chairman Heastie and other members of the executive committee, and that this went against him, too.

Browne, though, says Castro has always been about "unity" and that it's Heasite and co. that have failed to reach out.  He says Castro was never invited to meet with the executive committee to discuss his candidacy. 

Ultimately, Brown insists, Castro can live without County's support because local residents and community leaders are firmly behind him, e.g. Bishop Ronald Bailey of Love Gospel Assembly and community activists Louella Hatch and Yolanda Contreras. He also's been endorsed by several Bronx pols who aren't tied to Heastie, including Assemblymen Jose Rivera and Peter Rivera, and by a number of assembly members outside the borough. (Whether any of them play a significant role in Castro's campaign remains to be seen.)

Interestingly, State Sen. Pedro Espada, with whom Castro is regularly seen with at events and press conferences, has yet to support to him. (Espada's spokesman didn't return an email inquiring about this.)

As for Gibson, she has none of these worries. Indeed, she doesn't even have a primary opponent, unless someone's running a very quiet campaign.

Outside the courthouse on Monday morning, Sen. Jose M. Serrano said, "Vanessa Gibson is someone who I dare say is of unusual integrity. Someone who thinks outside the box, who worries about the little things, who makes sure her community is well represented."

Diaz, the borough president, said he supports her "1,000 percent."  He called her a coalition builder - Joel R. Rivera, her opponant in last year's special election, is supporting her this time around - and said she was someone who fights for the entire Bronx, not just her west Bronx district. 

(Diaz also took the opportunity to formally endorse Sen. Jose M. Serrano and Assemblyman Marco Crespo for reelection; Eric Stevenson, a district leader running for Micheal Benjamin's soon to be empty assembly seat; Congressman Jose Serrano, who may face a primary challenge from Benjamin; and Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who's running for reelection as a district leader.  Down the road, Diaz is expected to endorse Ramirez, too.)

Gibson, whose accolades include leading an effort to halt the proposed elimination of the Bx18 bus, said, "I am honored to be here to receive so much support and love and encouragement and endrosement, from all of my colleagues and community residents."

She continued: "The borough president often talks about it being 'one Bronx.' It is 'one bronx' because we have one voice for one purpose, and that purpose is an investment in the Bronx. To make sure we take care of our families, uplift and strengthen our communities, and give our young people the opportunities they need to be leaders in this communtiy and in this borough. That's what I'm committed and invested in doing."


  1. That would be "opponent." It's been changed.

  2. Nelson Castro is a do nothing, incompetent assemblyman. He is part of the problem we have now in the assembly, where they are two months late in passing the budget. Two years and he has done nothing for the 86th district. We need district leader Hector Ramirez to be our next assemblyman in the 86th district.

  3. Nelson Castro is a clown!!!......he loves to paint this pretty picture to the community as if he is really concerned. Castro has forgotten promises and conversations he had with folks prior to his 1st race and he has yet to come through. He doesn't support community activities unless he is the focus of attention and unless his picture covers the front page of a flyer. He doesn't deserve to be re-elected and should just stop wasting peoples time. We can already see that he has a paid petition staff that evidently knows nothing about him and seems to be clueless about how to properly explain the purpose of a petition. My vote isn't leaning 100% on Hector Ramirez but having received countys support and our great borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. Its looking really good for Hector.

  4. Was Ms. Gibson's car double-parked, blocking a bike path?

  5. I wonder if Nelson's criminal past will become a part of this campaign. He was convicted of cashing unemployment checks while working. No more thieves in the Bronx please!

  6. Nelson may be the clown. Hecor Ramirez is the court jester. Nelson was thrown under the bus by Rivera and Rivera.

  7. It's crazy to me that anyone would even consider Hector Ramirez to be the Assemblyman for the 86th District. He's served as a District Leader for many years and has never done anything for the community. All of a sudden he is running saying that the district needs change, when he has all along been apart of the decade of inactivity in that community.

    The Bronx Democratic Party seems to be getting worse than when Rivera was in charge. They really have demonstrated that they are unable to develop hard working, competent or intellegent candidates that have actually done work for the community.

    The are recycling the same old people and have made no efforts to embrace the rising political stars in the Bronx.

  8. To the previous poster, I believe Vanessa Gibson, Marcos Crespo and Fernando Cabrera are getting high marks in their respective houses. Those three have been deemed rising stars. Nelson Castro is not a star of any kind. He is a man who stole from his community (convicted of cashing unemployment checks while working and committed election fraud). So once again the Rivera supporters are coming out of the woodworks. No one wants to go back to the Rivera ( its all about my family) times.

  9. Wake up people. Just because you write doesn't make it true. The truth is Castro was voted legislator of the year during his first term in office. The truth is Hector Ramirez has been a Democratic district leader and no one can point to anything he has written, said or done in all these years to improve the condition of Bronx Residents. THE BRONX HAS REAL PROBLEMS LETS FOCUS ON THEM AND NOT WASTE OUR TIME TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHO Carl Heastie, Ruben Diaz, or Jose Rivera like. The Bronx has the highest unemployment rate in the STATE! Landlords are neglecting buildings and the City is cutting back on housing inspectors, our High School drop out rate is still to high and we are cutting back on education, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting tax cuts. LETS FOCUS!


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