Rebel faction trounces Dem organization in early Bronx contests
Wednesday, September 10th 2008, 10:42 PM
Tuesday's Bronx Democratic primary turned into a political tsunami for the party organization, with a rebel faction surfing to overwhelming victories - and a looming battle for control of the party.
Party boss Jose Rivera saw longtime state Sen. Efrain Gonzalez resoundingly defeated, and his candidate for Civil Court judge, Maria Matos, stomped - even with third candidate Verena Powell drawing votes away from the rebel-backed winner Elizabeth Taylor.
The crushing defeats of Gonzalez - by former state senator and party pariah Pedro Espada Jr. - and Matos were being seen as a potential last hurrah for Rivera, who faces a leadership challenge when the party holds elections, which could happen as soon as next week.
Rivera's grip on the party is under challenge from a group of Assembly members and state senators who charge that his nepotism and a general exclusion of all but Puerto Ricans from party largesse forced them to rebel.
Three core rebels - Assemblymen Ruben Diaz Jr., Carl Heastie and Michael Benjamin - handily turned back challenges, virtually assuring wins in the Nov. 4 general election in an overwhelmingly Democratic borough.
One party-backed Assembly candidate, Nelson Castro, did manage a win against an independent challenger.
A party operative and a local cable-TV news cameraman got into a bit of a tussle at county headquarters Tuesday night when the reporter asked Castro about his criminal record. The operative whisked Castro away and then put his hand over the camera lens.
"Obviously, the party is in disarray and it's a win for the rebels," said political voting analyst Jerry Skurnik of Prime New York. "The heavy win in the judge's race is definitely a big club the rebels now have to use against Jose."
Political consultant Hank Sheinkopf also felt Rivera's odds of survival have slipped.
Citing the critical loss of Gonzalez' seat to Espada, Sheinkopf said: "The organization was too involved in its own chaos to protect the incumbent and to stop its traditional enemy from scoring power.
"You can't predict the outcome for a guy who's been through as much as Jose Rivera," he added, "but the forces are now aligned against him."
Political insiders said the embarrassing defeat for Rivera is expected to draw a number of fence-sitters to the rebel side when the party meets to elect its officers.
Rivera, who also is a state Assemblyman, succeeded Roberto Ramirez as party chairman in 2002.
"The district leaders will be key at the party election," said Democratic political consultant George Arzt, "and now it's a question of which way they'll go if they see the handwriting on the wall."
Heastie and Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene, who also is the current party secretary, are being viewed as potential candidates to succeed Rivera, according to rebel sources.
"I think the people of the Bronx have shown they want to see an organization that works together instead of being divisive," Heastie said at a victory rally Tuesday night.
At a gloom-shrouded county headquarters, Rivera told a small group of loyalists: "It saddens me that the borough has lost Sen. Efrain Gonzalez - a fighter and a hardworking person for this borough and the state of New York. I will miss him."
Rivera said he would call to congratulate all the winners, and called for unity to work for the election of Sen. Barack Obama as president.
"You win some, and you lose some," he told the room, "but life goes on."
BronxGuy Sep 10, 2008 10:26:58 PM Report Offensive Post
Tuesdays election results are a total rebuke of Jose Rivera's leadership. There is no way the party can ever be whole again as long as he is the leader. He lied about supporting the challenges to Diaz, Heastie and Benjamin. Then in the last week before the election sent out a "racist" letter trying to split Blacks and Latinos by telling people to vote for Benjamin's opponent. Gonzalez loss should fall squarely on Rivera's lap. Instead of supporting challenges to incumbent members, he failed to protect Senator Gonzalez. Some party resources could have helpled Gonzalez, but lest us not forget that Rivera kept all the money from the "county dinner". THIS GUY HAS GOT TO GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
BronxGuy Sep 10, 2008 11:11:28 PM Report Offensive Post
Jose....step down and bow out gracefully. Become a full time photographer and videographer
KP Sep 11, 2008 7:39:37 AM Report Offensive Post
Nice way to post a political piece close to midnight of 9/11, limiting any educated and thoughtful response to those that were awake at that time. I do think it is shameful that it was sent knowing it would appear in the September 11 papers. I will take the lead of the Presidential candidates and not do politics on this National Day of Mourning. I think it is disgraceful especially since it could have waited until 9/12.
Bronx Truth Sep 11, 2008 8:55:55 AM Report Offensive Post
KP, are you suggesting that all other kinds of news reporting should stop for 9/11??? Or is it really that your side in this Bronx political battle suffered such an ignominious defeat that you are truly and finally at a loss for words...
edm40 Sep 11, 2008 10:57:47 AM Report Offensive Post
THE BRONX POLITICS ARE A SCAM. MOST OF THE VOTERS ARE SENIOR CITIZENS THAT ARE TOLD HOW TO VOTE AT THE CENTERS THAT THESE POLITICIANS SPONSOR. HOW DOES A FATHER, SON, MOTHER,SISTER THE WHOLE FAMILY AND FRIENDS GET VOTES AND WIN. THE FBI SHOULD LOOK INTO THIS CORRUPTION. THE POWER OF MONEY.
CLHC Sep 11, 2008 11:34:58 AM Report Offensive Post
It's about time that this party leader and his cronies got trounced - perhaps the Bronx machine can now move beyond this sad chapter in it's history. To the rebel faction - God and the Bronx loves you!!
WonkaVision Sep 11, 2008 11:42:31 AM Report Offensive Post
GOOD FOR YOU PEOPLE OF THE BRONX! You have taken the first small step in real self determination & positive change. It's about time to give Rivera & his corrupt / lazy cronies the boot. If poltico's won't impose formal term limits and accountability then it up to the voters to hold their feet to the fire.
KP Sep 11, 2008 7:49:35 PM Report Offensive Post
Bronx Guy, I am never at a loss for words..wait until tomorrow...I am more respectful of this day of mourning.
KP Sep 12, 2008 7:50:47 AM Report Offensive Post
The claim that this is a rejection of the Chairman putting his family into office, or more Hispanics into positions is ****. This was a pure power play by very ambitious individuals and disgruntled officials. Kudos for their success. But people will be watching. I imagine that no one in the Rainbow Rebellion, or whoever takes over Bronx County, will put family members into political office, or give their families or friends plum jobs in the future. They have now claimed a higher standard for elected officials and patronage. Let’s see if they live up to it.
KP Sep 12, 2008 7:53:23 AM Report Offensive Post
Further, since this election was a call for unity throughout the Bronx, let’s see if the Rainbow Rebellion will now include everyone, including those that opposed them, or will just act like all other politicians and take advantage of the spoils of war to the detriment of the opposition. They are entitled to spoils of war, no doubt. Again, I bet any money that the new leadership will be no different than the old leadership. That’s politics and anyone that claims different is just being hypocritical. But since they have promoted this higher standard, let’s see if they live up to it. My side lost, I accept that, but I will not be delusional to believe that this new leadership will be different, fair, just and united with everyone, especially the opposition.