Councilman Fernando Cabrera (left) with Gustavo Rivera this morning (Photo: J. Fergusson)
This morning, in front of the Kingsbridge Armory, Councilman Fernando Cabrera officially endorsed Gustavo Rivera, the young political aide and college professor who's running a spirited campaign against State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr.
"I believe that Gustavo, with his influence, leadership, character, and charisma, will bring about the... change we need in our neighborhood," said Cabrera in a short speech.
"We need a senator that can partner with our office," he added. "We need a senator who is going to work in housing and not against our tenants." (While Cabrera was reluctant to criticize Espada directly - unlike, say, Councilman Oliver Koppell and former Bronx BP Freddy Ferrer - his last comment was a definite dig at the incumbent, who's been accused of having a cozy relationship with landlords.)
Rivera said of Cabrera: "This is a man who's a man of faith, a man of family, and a man who's committed to his community. And I want to measure up to these same standards. These are the standards we need to have for elected officials. People that care about the community that they live in. That are responsive to the people they represent."
The endorsement could be significant because much of Cabrera's Council district falls within the confines of the 33rd Senate district.
"We can bring a whole lot of influence [on the race]," said Cabrera, who talked about rallying the troops and getting the word out about Rivera's candidacy. "He's raising a good army, but we're here to bring the backup."
Cabrera also serves as the pastor of New Life International Outreach Church, a church on Morris Avenue whose loyal congregants helped him defeat Council member Maria Baez is last September's Democratic primary. They campaigned hard for him and then they voted for him, too.
So will Cabrera be talking Rivera up in church on Sunday? "No. We can't endorse as a church, that's against the law as a 501(c)(3), but people know how I feel," Cabrera said.
The race, in some ways, mirrors Cabrera's own primary race last fall. Both Cabrera and Rivera faced/face powerful yet controversial opponents. Cabrera received heavy union backing and the support of the Bronx Democratic Party, and eventually won by a whisker. Rivera has also been endorsed by the big unions (32BJ, 1199, etc.) and several Bronx pols, although not the Bronx Democratic Party. We asked the party's chairman, Assemblyman Carl Heastie, about this on Monday night at a fund-raiser he attended for Assembly candidate Hector Ramirez. Heastie would only say that he and the party are remaining neutral at this time.
Espada, it should be noted, is also up against Daniel Padernacht, a lawyer and Community Board 8 member.