THE VINES (#02-2010).

Many folks complain that I don’t write enough about the happenings (and political gossip) in Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx: they are correct. I had always hoped that some activist type would come up on Room Eight New York Politics (www.r8ny.com) and cover those boroughs for us: but alas, it hasn’t happened yet.  In this “Vines” column I will try to touch on some races in the other boroughs folks; but you all know Brooklyn is where my heart is; after all, Brooklyn is my stomping grounds.

The laborious petition process starts in one month, and you can expect lots of action in the upcoming September primary races all over the city. In the immortal words (well, the gist) of Viola Plummer: Let’s pray that a few incumbents get “assassinated” or “whacked” (of course I am speaking politically/lol). 

In Brooklyn the fun starts with Senator Velmanette Montgomery getting a healthy (and surprising) challenge from Mark Pollard in the 18th senatorial district. Mark has been waiting in the lane for a long long time now. The refs could have blown him for more than a three second violation. He has changed his mind (about running for public office) more times than Liz Taylor has changed husbands. He is an attorney. Once upon a blue moon he was the attorney for the Board of Elections. He is a nice guy. I wish him well. We need new blood in Albany. And it’s not that I dislike Ms. Montgomery; it’s just time for new blood: that’s all. 

I am surprised about this challenge because Pollard comes out of city council member Al Vann’s Vanguard Political Organization, of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Incumbents don’t usually support challengers in Brooklyn, so when I heard today that Vann truly isn’t supporting Pollard, I have to assume that Mark is on his own. Good for him! What took you so long bro? Last year he was supposed to run to replace Al Vann in the city council, but the term-limits hijack made him back up. That was a wise decision: the race was too crowded (and of course Vann was re-elected).

Listen up folks: as time goes by, I like Karim Camara (43rd AD) more and more as an elected official. From what I read and hear, it appears that he really wants to do some good things, and make some changes in the way business is done in Albany. He will probably be in Shelly Silver’s dog house real soon (if he isn’t there yet). If only more elected officials would pick up the fight for reform! I heard he introduced some education legislation recently, and has been pushing for reforms quietly. Word is also, that he left the church of Pastor Norman (Clarence’s father) and opened up his own church. I am also told that he took some members away from the Eastern Parkway congregation. Meanwhile there have been quite a few Clarence Norman sightings over the past 6 months or so. Luckily for Clarence, time flew by real quickly. 

And while we are in the 43rd AD, John Grant is looking at challenging Jesse Hamilton for the district leadership. So far Camara appears to have no challenge; nor does the female leader. 

Word is that Eric Adams is getting a challenge (20th SD). If it materializes, I expect Eric to turn back whoever it is. Eric Adams is needed in Albany: ‘nuff said. I (re) endorse him enthusiastically. If the challenger is Guillermo “Bill” Philpot then Eric can go on vacation. Bill is a likeable guy, but he has no organization to back him. 

Senator Kevin Parker (21st SD) is also getting a challenge. Let me state right here and now, that whoever opposes Parker has a serious chance of defeating him. The word is that Terry Hinds and Sylvia Kinnard (Bill Thompson’s ex-wife) are both looking at this seat. Wellington Sharpe appears to be passing up this race; and Dr. Dexter McKenzie could be a good candidate here: but I don’t think he has the fire in his belly for another hard race (like in last year’s 45th council district). Last I heard was that Rudy Daly isn’t going either; likewise Sam Taitt. I hope it comes down to one opponent for Parker. Otherwise he will slip away to another victory. In Harlem the three potential opponents to Senator Bill Perkins got together and worked out a resolution whereby only one person will challenge him. That person is Basil Smikle. Those in the 21st SD need to take note and get together soon. 

Kendall Stewart was sighted at a fashion show last week. The producers never introduced him to the crowd, despite the fact he was up front in this event: shows you how soon people forget; and how far the once mighty has fallen. I don’t think Stewart will run for anything soon. He may even give up his leadership (58thAD) I am told. Educator/activist Abu A. Q. Abu wants to run for district leader this year; especially if Stewart departs. 

Meanwhile, the candidate who deposed Stewart (Jumannee Williams) continues to impress with his industry and drive. He has been working hard and coming up with some innovative ways to tackle district-wide issues. The problems are many but Williams is up to the task. 

A possible race between councilmember Lew Fidler and state senator Krueger was nixed by Big Lew (I am told); Krueger still gets a challenge though: from an upstart. Keep your eyes on Maria Yudkevich -who now works as Lew’s scheduler- she will be running public for office sooner than many think. She is young, energetic, smart and driven. They are building a strong political club in the 41st AD folks. Lew Fidler’s club had a dinner/fundraiser last week Thursday night, and it was packed. 

While in that neck of the woods, I am told that a young Mark Podnow (son of the judge) wants to challenge Allan Mazei for the assembly. BTW is Senator Squadron getting a race? Pray tell me folks. I have heard some rumors but I can’t get confirmation.  

Rhoda Jacobs (42ndAD) faces two challengers: Natasha Holiday and Michelle Adolphe (I am told). Ms. Holiday is a Harvard grad who is relatively new to the politics of this district; and Ms. Adolphe has challenged Ms. Jacobs -the 32 year incumbent- before. And no; I am not running for district leader here. I am tired: so leave me alone. 

While we are in the 42ndAD, there is a rumor that the female district leader Mary Hobson will be challenged by a Haitian-American activist. I intend to support Ms. Hobson in the event this does happen. 

In the 55thAD, expect Councilmember Darlene Mealy to become the next female district leader there: bet the rent on this one. You can also expect a challenge to assembly member Junior Boyland from Chris Legere. Word is that Legere is being backed by Council member Charles Barron and his wife (assembly member Inez Barron).  Danny Gourdine is also said to be interested in this race; as is Rev. Hatter. No word from educator Stan Kinard or his wife Tulani Kinard, relative to running for anything this year. No word from David Miller or Reggie Bowman either.

Activist Anthony (Tony) Herbert has withdrawn his candidacy for the 55th AD. I hope he stays politically active, although I sense some “burn-out” setting in with Tony. He has been working real hard to deal with all the black on black crime and youth violence plaguing the Brooklyn “hoods”. I do like Tony: he is well meant. 

Speaking of Inez Barron, word is that she has two challengers: Ken Evans and Donizetta Brown. In the same district (40thAD), word is that Dacosta Headley is running for the leadership. But then I have heard this many a time before. Many years ago Dacosta used to be the leader over in East New York and built a name for himself in that box. Also interested in the male leadership is Mr. Charles Barron himself. I am told that he may have recently changed his mind about running and will support Andre Mitchell. Chris Banks is said to be considering a run against Inez. Carlos Bristol and Kevin McCall are also said to be running for the leadership spot. East New York will be hot (as usual) this summer. I hear that the present leader Earl Williams is not healthy enough to function in this role anymore. If that is true, then let’s all wish him a speedy recovery.  Late word is that Charles Barron and his former aide Kevin McCall almost came to blows recently. I am told that the tiff was really heated and animated. I have always suspected that there is a lil piece of Kevin Parker's genes in Barron's gene-pool; well DNA. LOL. He can cuss you out (something fierce) if he is angry now. I've been there and seen it; recieved it too: but I dished it backed (no punk here).

Sad to announce -and lets take a moment of  private silence here- that the wife of  East New York  community activist Carlos Bristol recently died after a long illness. Also passing on was Mr. Francis Clarke, the East- Flatbush Caribbean-American activist who once ran for the city council against Susan Alter. There will be a memorial concert for Mr. Clarke next Sunday (23rd), put on by the group he created and developed. These young men and women were given music, voice, acting, speech, diction and dancing lessons in a program Mr. Clarke founded many years ago. For tickets and info please call Ms. Pat McKinney at 1-718-629-5521. You can also call Ms. G. Cunningham at 1-646-326-2655. This is a beautiful program where initial funding was obtained through Senator John Sampson’s legislative office, long before he became the conference leader.   

Let me apologize to Dr. Marco Mason and his relatives for erroneously posting that he too had passed. Mr. Mason who has been battling a serious illness for some time now is still very much alive. I will do a more formal apology in another column real soon. Dr. Marco Mason is the well known health advocate and political activist from the Caribbean and Latin America. My sincere apologies for any stress and heartaches caused. I was given erroneous (confusing) info and yesterday I wrote it into my “Vines” column before verifying. I take full culpability: do forgive me.  

The challenge to Assembly member Helene Weinstein (41AD) has fizzled out; so too (apparently) the challenge to Senator John Sampson; so too Hakeem Jeffries (57th AD). I am told that deep down Hakeem Jeffries really wants to take on Ed Towns but his balls are super small. Female district leader Ola Alabi is getting a challenge from Renee Collymore and this should be interesting folks. Ola has big union support but Collymore is an interesting lady with a lot of drive. 

Daryl Towns has no challenge (as usual). He has surrounded himself with a good team, including Puerto Rican born activist Manny Burgos (Communications Director) who has political ambitions for public office, and would make an exceptionally good candidate one of these good days. Hispanic activist Darma Diaz should run for female district leader over there in the 54th AD; but she probably won’t. Darma has had a hard time trying to make the ballot these past two years. She is good people.

I don’t know if Assemblywoman Annette Robinson will be challenged: but she should. All incumbents should be challenged every friggin year. PERIOD. They are too damn complacent. And that includes my buddy Ed Towns. Challenges are good for democracy. It keeps some elected officials on their toes. 

By the way, I am (re)endorsing Ed Towns without hesitation. We need Ed’s vote in the House of Representatives to help get President Obama’s agenda through. I expect the congressman to handily dispatch the challenger (Kevin Powell/again). For full disclosure sake: I am not on Ed’s payroll; but if he does ask me again I will work for him again.  
 
Assembly member Joseph Lentol finally gets a challenge. It comes from Andre Soleil. I wish Andre good luck here. I hope he puts together a real credible run this time. It is a challenge much needed here.  

In two years time there will be new lines in Brooklyn, do expect a gold rush.

There appears to be no challenge for Yvette Clarke this year, unless someone is flying under the radar. There are some troubling rumors that Yvette’s congressional lines may be merged when New York State loses two congressional seats after the census count. I hope not. There is also a big rumor that the Park Slope and downtown liberals want their own congressional district and not a minority-majority district. The word is that Nydia Velasquez may also see her lines changed drastically. Some other congressional lines that might just be changed include those of Reps. Crowley, Wiener and Engels.   

A challenge to Nick Perry (58AD) seems to have fizzled out also. This isn’t the first time Nick‘s challengers backed up at the last minute. Nick hasn’t had a race in more than a decade, and yet he is always crying about some phantom challenge he expects. In the female district leader race here, I know that former school board member Julia James is interested in running; so too ex-leader Dr. Gale Reed-Barnett. Melba Brown is the present female leader here, but there have been complaints that she is invisible.    

Word on the street says that Tish James wants to run for the Brooklyn District Attorney spot in 2013. It is also said that Lew Fidler is interested in that spot; and Jim Brennan (44thAD) too.

Relative to the 2013 Borough president race in Brooklyn, there are many possible black entrants. Start the list here: Nick Perry, Daryl Towns, Deputy President Yvonne Graham, Charles Barron and Eric Adams. They all have eyes for Marty Markowitz’s beep spot. All five are black, so at least three will have to drop out for any one to have a shot at winning. There aren’t enough black votes in Brooklyn to support them all.  

On the other sides of the Brooklyn tracks, it seems that District Leader Joanne Simon is getting a challenge form a fresh young upstart with big time political connections. I do wish Joanne well she is a nice lady.  

In Manhattan, it looks like Boro Prez Scott Stringer has started his mayoral run very early. He seems more visible of late and is open about his mayoral ambitions. Bill Thompson got fired from a prominent board recently, and the word is that Mayor Bloomberg was behind it. The more I think about it, the more I feel Anthony Weiner should have run for Gillibrand’s seat in the senate. 

In Manhattan there is a rush to replace Adam Clayton Powell jnr. (68thAD). John Ruiz seems to be the favorite here. The Bill Lynch boys have a candidate in the race I am told. If that’s true then it must be Marion Bell. She won a female district leadership some time aback with the help of the Bill Lynch crew. Also in that race is community board member Robert Rodriguez and Cordell Cleare who is Senator Bill Perkins’s chief of staff.  

Speaking of the Bill Lynch crew: I have heard that Kevin Wardally is managing Charlie Rangel’s re-election campaign; don’t forget these bad boys (Wardally, Luther Smith and Daryl White) are winners. They are fresh from winning with John Liu (Comptroller) and Manhattan DA Vance last year. Personally, I think it is time for Charlie Rangel to retire; but alas I suspect he will win again (handily): Adam Clayton Powell jnr. has too much baggage (as they say in this game).  

In Queens, Bryan Pu Folkes gets my endorsement over Francisco Moya. Bryan will make an exceptional elected official. He comes from a family of high achievers in terms of education. Some members once lived in Jamaica, West Indies. Pu Folkes is trying to replace Jose Peralta in the assembly: remember Peralta took out Senator Hiram Monseratte in a special election recently, which created this opening.  

Lately the mainstream newspapers have been savaging congressman Meeks, state senator Malcolm Smith, Boro Prez Helen Marshall and former congressman Floyd Flake. Word is that they are all being investigated by the feds. It looks as though things are being set up for a challenge to Smith and/ or Meeks. I have heard that Leroy Comrie is interested in going to another level. But the biggest rumor is that James Sanders might just benefit from all this. Some folks are speculating that Sanders will flex his political muscles this summer by challenging either Smith or Meeks. Sanders has been getting good press lately especially from the Daily News. 

One of the things that drives this speculation on Sanders is the fact that he hired Marlene Tapper as a legislative aide. Tapper is a seasoned veteran political operative from Elmhurst. She has worked on nationwide, statewide and city wide campaigns (beyond running for office herself). She has also worked for state senator Sabini and councilmember Stewart, prior to coming to this post.  If Sanders wants to transition to campaign mode, it is always good to have staffers (like Tapper) who can easily make the shift. 

In Elmhurst, Queens, Assembly member Jeff Aubrey is being challenged by activist Anthony Miranda. Miranda made his name as an activist within the NYPD and has a solid block of Hispanic voters to call on here. This looks like a serious challenge folks.  

Senator Shirley Hundley is being challenged by businessman Lyn Nunes- who came four votes short of upsetting councilmember White last year. Huntley is being targeted by gay-activists for her vote against same-sex marriage. This could be another interesting race folks. I don’t know if Allan Jennings (former council member) is running for anything this year, but he usually shows up late anyway. He too has some solid votes in this area. Huntley -who replaced Ada Smith- is said to be lacking the energy and vitality needed in a senator. She would have to work hard to hold her seat here. 

Also being targeted for a similar anti-same-sex-marriage vote(s) are senators Krueger (Brooklyn), Adabbo (Queens) and Diaz (Bronx). This year’s primary elections will measure the political clout of gay-activists: relative to their making a big difference in close races. I have heard also that Senator Marty Golden (Republican/Bay Ridge)will be getting a challenge this year. I am probably going to come out in support of same sex marriage real soon (watch for the column). However, gay activists may still be mad at me since it will a qualified endorsement. Remember I was once vocally opposed to it, so some may see this as political growth. Within the Caribbean-American political community -where I peregrinate- it is not a wining position take; but after a while one must be sensitive to the cries, pleads and demands of others who appear to be hurting over an issue. 

In another part of Queens, I am told that state senator Oronato is retiring. This leaves an opening for Eric Gioia to run for an open seat. I heard of one guy who was interested in this seat some time aback (Dan Jacoby), but I have no idea of what he is going to do this year.  

Also in Queens I hope Tony Avella wins his race. He is one of few elected officials that I kinda like lil bit. My suspicion is that he will be in a tough fight- being the insurgent against an elected official.  Let’s see if the unions come out to help him. State democrats should make a strong effort to help Avella pull this off.   

In the Bronx, Pedro Espada is in mortal danger. One of his challengers is being backed by the Berlin-Rosen political consulting group. They have a very impressive record of election victories. If I had secured their services last year I would have done ten times better than I did in my city council challenge. The client’s name is Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter. 

Ms. Pilgrim-Hunter shares something in common with Senator John Sampson (Conference leader): she is the daughter of Guyanese immigrants.

Also in that race (33rdSD) is community board member David Paderwacht, and Jose Gustavo Rivera who once worked for Senator Kirsten Gellibrand. 

Now to the gubernatorial race: Andrew Cuomo is acting like a “likkle pussy” (as they say in Trenchtown, Jamaica). He needs to spell out his reform plans for Albany: but he won’t. I am beginning to wonder if he has any new ideas. Whoever is advising him is making a big mistake with this “rose-garden” strategy. He is as quiet as a parlor mouse. He can probably put this thing away for good right now. It will take only three or four solid speeches over the next month, in front of respectable organizations: speeches with substance and creative policy initiatives.  

Another gubernatorial candidate (Levy) seems to be is in a spot of trouble with Hispanics folks; apparently some folks don’t like his views on immigration. Plus Levy changed from democrat to republican to run this race and I don’t think that will help him much. Another statewide candidate (Kathleen Rice/AG) appears to also have issues with the minority community. Marquez Claxton of “One Hundred Blacks in Law Enforcement” says that she has some ‘splainin’ to do about racially-sensitive cases she handled as Nassau DA. Meanwhile Rick Lazio is having trouble raising money for the big race. I don’t know much about the other republican candidate (Paladino); and the little bits I heard haven’t been good stuff. I suspect that both Levy and Paladino are “dead men walking”, since at the end of the day and night, Lazio is better known -and has been a republican throughout his political career.  

On the national (and international) scene, let me say that President Obama should change his first name from “Barack” to “Job” (as in the Bible). No matter what he does nationally or internationally he still gets a beat-down from republicans. The last man to suffer like this was Job. These repugnicans need to ease up; they are starting to embarrass themselves now.  Obama needs to tackle the immigration issue immediately.

BTW: I don’t have any clients this election season so I will probably spend a lot of time on the Jersey Shore; unless (of course) someone makes me an offer I can’t refuse.   

Stay tuned-in folks: let’s get ready to rumble.