Sunday, April 5, 2009

Filling county clerk's job could be a brawl

Bob Kappstatter

Tuesday, March 31st 2009, 9:16 AM

Filling a long vacant political plum - the Bronx County Clerk's job - finally could be close at hand, but not without a political brawl.

Gov. Paterson last week appointed Associate Justice Luis Gonzalez as presiding justice of the Appellate Division in Manhattan to replace Jonathan Lippman, the state's new chief judge.

That opens the way for Bronx native Gonzalez to fill the $136,500-a-year Bronx clerk's job, which has been vacant since January 2008, when former Assemblyman Hector Diaz stepped down for what turned out to be a short stint as city clerk.

While Gonzalez will officially name the new county clerk, tradition holds that the Bronx Democratic Party boss submits the candidate.

Longtime Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene, apparently tired of the trek to Albany, reportedly asked then-party boss Jose Rivera for the job. When he turned her down, she crossed over to support rebel party leader Carl Heastie.

But Latino elements in the party are reportedly pushing former West Bronx Assemblyman Luis Diaz for the job. He recently stepped down to go work for Paterson.

They argue that Carl owes Luis for giving him his two district leaders to help swing the party vote.

Then again, by stepping down, Luis opened the door for then boss-Rivera to engineer loyalist Nelson Castro into Diaz's seat.

Moving into Borough Hall

With the April 21 special election for borough president expected to be just a formality, Ruben Diaz Jr.'s team is already planning a fast start out of the gate at Borough Hall.

"I expect a transition period that's reasonable," Rubencito told us. "We're going to do it as quickly as humanly possible."

Paul Del Duca, Ruben's state assembly chief of staff and a key player on his campaign staff, will become his chief of staff at Borough Hall.

"Ruben and I are quick studies. We won't need training wheels for that long," Paul told us.

"Ruben has a vision for the Bronx," he added, "and we're going to evaluate every aspect and every extension of the office."

One quasi-arm of the borough president's office expected to undergo a shake-up - the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp.

Depending on whether the news was good or bad, the BOEDC was either a direct arm of BP Adolfo CarriĆ³n's office or not. But many of the developers and businessmen it deals with are also campaign contributors.

And with Diaz continuing AC's mantra of "jobs, jobs, jobs," BOEDC will be a key player in his administration.

Smart money move

Rubencito earned some voter goodwill last week by turning down a check for $220,000 in matching funds from the city Campaign Finance Board, publicly stating "No, thanks, to the taxpayer bucks; not in this economy."

And some wags were joking he'll now avoid the required two public debates with his lone challenger this go-round, East Bronx GOP District Leader Anthony Ribustello, who shows all of $200 in the kitty.

Under its use-it-or-lose-it rules for matching funding, Ruben will have to start from scratch on fund-raising for any future campaign, such as four years from now if he should run again for BP.

"A war chest that you roll over from one campaign to the next is generally not matched," said CFB spokesman Eric Friedman.

Easy come, easy go

Still, we guess you can never have enough bucks in the campaign kitty, since Rubencito's camp is still throwing fund-raisers.

Among the latest, one last week thrown by mega-Realtor/political mover and shaker (and our longtime BFF) Kathy Zamechansky at her Morris Park home.

From Salsa to BBQ sauce

That popular Dallas BBQ restaurant chain, geared to economic dining, opened a 40,000-square-foot branch at the old Jimmy's Bronx Cafe on Fordham Road next to the Deegan last week, with 20,000 customers showing up during its opening week. It also brought 100 local jobs with it.

Multilingual leader

We're impressed. Kenny Agosto, 80th Assembly District leader in Morris Park/Allerton and a likely challenger to incumbent Naomi Rivera, speaks five languages: English, Spanish, Cantonese, French and American sign language.

He recently became special assistant to State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson.

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