Friday, August 22, 2008

Four more Bronx Democrats join battle to topple chairman Jose Rivera

Thursday, August 21st 2008, 6:55 PM

A simmering rebellion against Bronx Democratic Party Chairman Jose Rivera could be reaching a boil.

While five of the borough's 11 Assembly members are seeking to topple Rivera, they will be joined Friday by three Bronx state senators and a sixth Assembly member to endorse a challenger to the party's candidate for Civil Court.

But the endorsement, as some have indicated, also is being seen as a move to join the rebel effort to unseat Rivera at the party convention after the Sept. 9 primary.

If they fail, a Rivera supporter said, there could be "blood on the floor" in retribution. Three of the rebels already face party-backed primary challenges.

Known as the Rainbow Rebels for their ethnic diversity, they charge that under Rivera, the party has favored Puerto Ricans to the exclusion of blacks and whites.

They also charge him with nepotism, pointing to his son Joel in the City Council and daughter Naomi in the state Assemblyman as well as another son and in-laws on city and state payrolls.

The hardcore rebel group is comprised of Assembly members Aurelia Greene, who is also the party secretary; Ruben Diaz Jr.; Jeffrey Dinowitz; Carl Heastie and Michael Benjamin.

Joining them today at a press conference at the Bronx County Building to endorse Elizabeth Taylor for the Civil Court will be state Sens. Ruben Diaz Sr., Eric Schneiderman and Ruth Hassell-Thompson, as well as Assemblyman Michael Benedetto.

The party's Civil Court candidate is Maria Matos, who is Puerto Rican.

A third candidate, Verena Powell, a judge's law clerk, is backed by the independent Rising Voices Coalition.

Powell is seen as a vote drainer from Taylor, also a judge's law clerk, because both women are African-American. The party candidate holds the advantage in a primary, which usually has a low voter turnout.

Hassell-Thompson and Benedetto, whose districts cover heavily black Co-op City, could be key in swinging votes to Taylor.

While some members of the Rainbow Rebel faction tried to downplay the added support for Taylor as strictly limited to the judge's race, others saw it as swaying party members to vote Rivera out of office.

"I think a number of elected Bronx officials have now decided that the incumbent leadership of the party is faulty," said one rebel camp strategist. "It seems they are now getting down off the fence."

rkappstatter@nydailynews.com

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