Thursday night, I dropped by the Concourse Village Concerned Shareholders of NYC 79 AD Candidates Night which brought together four of the six announced contenders. Marsha Michael, the choice of the Bronx Democratic organization, was a notable no-show. Local businessman, George Alvarez was the other no-show.
Michael Blake, Raul Rodriguez, Frederick Ricks and Lanita Jones were in attendance. Blake and Rodriguez seemed to be hits with the Concourse Village shareholders. At times during the forum, all but Blake seemed in over their heads.
Entrepreneur/entertainer/actor Frederick Ricks, who voiced his support for Zephyr Teachout, said that NY is a corrupt state. Ricks, a native of Forest Houses/NYCHA, is a father of three college-aged children. He vowed to walk the streets with “comrades” to reach our youth.
Lanita Jones, a resident of Claremont Village (NYCHA), although game was clearly out of her depth. Afterward, she stopped to answer a few questions before leaving the forum. Ms. Jones had no response when I asked her about the sexual harassment scandals that have rocked the Assembly. Nor did she know who Sheldon Silver is. Nice woman but definitely not ready for prime time.
Obama operative, Michael Blake was easily head and shoulders above the other contenders. He was knowledgeable and personable (he threw out an oxtails and rice reference to a West Indian woman). Blake forced to answer the residency and community ties questions that have dogged his candidacy. He responded that he has resided on Washington Avenue near the 42 police precinct for one year and four months. Michael Blake also announced that he won the endorsements of NY Communities for Change and the Manhattan-based Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.
Parent coordinator, Raul Rodriguez was easily the most personable and accessible candidate. He used humor and being a husband and father to four daughters to illustrate his points. When asked about corruption, Rodriguez drew laughs when he said, he’d have to answer to his wife first before the police arrived.
After a night off from gathering nominating petitions, the candidates must return to the campaign trail to knock on doors and meet voters. Assembly candidates need the signatures of 500 enrolled Democrats to qualify for the September 9 primary.
[I'll be adding video and audio in later posts.]
[Editor's note: Late last night, a campaign spokesperson for Marsha Michael said his candidate received a candidate questionnaire last Friday but Ms. Michael already had a Central Labor Council endorsement scheduled for Thursday night. The spokesperson questioned the wisdom of holding a candidates night before nominating petitions were filed and candidacies certified.]
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Michael Benjamin is former state legislator from the Bronx. He is currently a contributor to the NY Post and City and State NY. He works as a public affairs consultant. Follow him on Twitter: @SquarePegDem