Michael Blake’s run for a corruption-plagued South Bronx seat in the state Assembly may be turning out to be “historic” for the wrong reasons, former state Assemblyman Michael Benjamin writes in the NY Post: http://goo.gl/8m5wDw
Michael Blake’s run for a corruption-plagued South Bronx seat in the state Assembly may be turning out to be “historic” for the wrong reasons.
A former top operative for Barack Obama going back to the 2008 Democratic primaries, Blake is running for the seat that Eric Stevenson vacated after being convicted of bribery in January. But his own efforts to stand for “hope and change” — and for the people of the district — are looking a little ragged.
Blake recently bragged on Facebook about the “record-setting and historic” $160,000 he’d raised. But he’s rumored to be getting help some odd places. Is Johannesburg, not Jersey City, the sixth borough? Why Johannesburg?
Well, that’s where US Ambassador Patrick Gaspard calls home. And Blake is a protégé of Gaspard, who once headed the Democratic National Committee and the political-action arm of powerhouse union 1199 SEIU.
Some Bronx Democrats are accusing Gaspard of calling his pals at 1199 SEIU urging their support of Blake — and, indeed, the union endorsed him Friday.
Gaspard already stands accused of violating the federal Hatch Act, which limits the political activity of federal employees. GOP operative O.B. Murray says he learned that Gaspard advised Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem) during his recent heated primary campaign.
In June, the White House Office of Special Counsel cleared Gaspard of violating the Hatch Act. But Murray notes that the State Department is still investigating because it has stricter rules regarding political activity.
Meanwhile, for all his celebrity status as a former Obama campaign staffer and White House aide, Blake needs to shore up his community base.
Hours after his Facebook post about his 3,087 petition signatures and “record-setting” war chest, word broke that Blake had broken promises to local leaders.
Bronx Democratic bosses learned that he had assembled a slate of community leaders to challenge their district leaders and state committee members.
He quickly got a disapproving call from party adviser Patrick Jenkins. Blake says Jenkins told him that running for the Assembly was one thing, but running an opposing slate was a declaration of war.
Blake said he was shocked at the audacity of the Jenkins upbraiding. But shock soon turned into compliance, as the Blake campaign severed ties with his reform slate and filed nominating petitions for his candidacy alone.
Rev. Bruce Rivera, the Blake-recruited candidate for district leader, says he doesn’t feel bitter and continues to support Blake’s Assembly bid. But other members of the slate were outraged by his betrayal.
Asked for comment, Blake campaign spokesman Aaron Carr e-mailed: “After discussion amongst the members of the slate we felt it was in the best interest of all the campaigns not to file together.”
A Bronx operative fresh off of Rep. Rangel’s primary victory thought it was important for Blake to have local leaders on his team.
But this betrayal of his own slate could bring its own problems, he says, since “[Blake] doesn’t need negative word of mouth.”
Like many, he can’t see why Blake would curry favor with County, as the local powerbrokers are known.
I circled back with Carr, the Blake spokesman, to ask whose best interests were served by the candidate splitting from his slate. The answer: “We are staying with our original comment.”
Community activist Camella Price says locals are viewing Blake as a con artist. “Many are saying that if he’s doing this now, what can we expect when he’s in office?”
Blake may need to use every penny in his $160,000 war chest and all the luminescence of his Obama wattage to win over voters who are growing alienated by his style and actions.
Follow Michael Benjamin at: http://SquarePegDem.com/; Twitter: @SquarePegDem