During three days of testimony before a special referee hearing the election law challenge to his candidacy, Blake sought to establish his residential bona fides as legally qualified candidate seeking elected office in New York State and his Bronx assembly district.
Since graduating from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, Michael Blake has lived in Chicago, where he worked as a sports producer at Comcast Sportsnet. He has lived in Lansing, MI, where worked for the Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives. Blake voted twice (November 2006 and 2008) in Lansing, Michigan.
Speaking off the record, a source said Blake did indeed vote in 2004 (in Chicago, perhaps?), the year he became eligible to vote for President.
Recently, Michael Blake discovered that he really didn’t want to be a resident of the District of Columbia so he filed a certificate of non-residence and applied for refunds for the tax years, 2009 – 2012. Prior to his residential epiphany, Blake registered to vote in DC and cast votes there in 2010 and 2012.
Prior to June 2013, Michael Blake was neither registered to vote nor cast a vote in the Bronx. But he had been a registered voter in Lansing, MI, Washington, DC, and perhaps, Chicago. IL.
At several points during his testimony, Blake cited his relationship to and lifelong involvement in the Calvary United Methodist Church in the Bronx. Blake and his pastor, Rev. Wesley Daniels said he was a certified lay speaker and that he tithed to the church in 2013. But no evidence of a tithing record prior to last year was presented.
In a biography available online, Blake listed himself as a proud member of Allen Chapel A.M.E. church in Washington, D.C. where he served as a steward board member and co-chair of the 2010 Men’s Day season. Yet four years later, Blake would deny that he lived in the District of Columbia and would attest to living there less than 180 days a year. And he would have a Bronx court believe that he had no ties to DC other than the high post he held in the Obama administration.
At no time has Mr. Blake exercised an interest in being connected to the Bronx, except to visit and/or care for his parents. He was as involved in the Allen AME Church in DC as he was involved in his home church the past 2-3 years.
Jose Miranda, a security guard employed at Blake’s mother’s Decatur Avenue residence, testified that he did not consider Blake to be a “resident” of his mother’s apartment house (which is a residence for people 62 years old and older) because he only visited 1-2 times a week. Mr. Miranda acknowledged, however, that Blake stayed overnight when he did, but only regarded him as a visitor.
When you examine Michael Blake’s entire life, one can clearly see that Mr. Blake’s only intention has been to get as far away from the Bronx as possible. To create a life elsewhere away from the harsh realities of life in the Bronx. That is, until he saw the opportunity to run for a vacant Bronx assembly seat, did he suddenly decide to recreate himself as a prodigal son returned home.
Lastly, it should bother voters in the 79 AD that since turning 18, Mr. Blake has never cared to vote in his home state or hometown until he was preparing to run for local office. Absentee voting (just like a bed in either one of his parents’ home) has always been available to him.
Instead, he chose to live and vote in Chicago, IL (’04), Lansing, MI (’06, ’08), and the District of Columbia (’10, ’12). In his 14 year voting history, Blake has only voted last year or so in the Bronx (’13, ’14). Forget about him not paying state/city taxes to support our schools, police, social services, infrastructure, etc.
Blake has shown little interest in the city and borough of his birth. However, the cities of Chicago, Evanston, Lansing, Washington, DC and the nation have greatly benefited from Mr. Blake’s time, attention and talents. Just not the Bronx.
On the five-year state residency requirement, Mr. Blake simply fails to meet the mark. His effort at creating a history of residential intent and evidence of a “deep and abiding connection to the Bronx” blew up in his face. The court will not accept his cute gyrations and recent reworking of his tax filings. Too bad, though. The Bronx could use some more talented individuals committed to its betterment.
And if, as Mr. Blake told an interviewer (when asked to describe himself in three words), it’s “Not. About. Me,” the prodigal son will continue performing community work on behalf of young and disadvantaged people.
I truly hope so.
While the Bronx could use his talents, the laws of New York state should apply equally to all.
I’ve had my say.
It’s now time for seasoned jurists to weigh in on the matter.
This matter will now be decided by Judge Carter, the Appellate Division, 2nd Department, and undoubtedly, the State Court of Appeals.
[This post has been edited.]
Michael Benjamin is a columnist and blogger as well as a former state legislator who represented the 79 AD, 2003-2010.