For years the Democratic primary was the city’s main event, but since the emergence of Rudolph Giuliani and two party democracy, November has become the big dance. Still, the September 9th primary this year promises to provide a few jolts–especially if you shift from the listless mayoral race and scan the lower extremities of the ballot.
Thanks to term limits, eight City Council incumbents are quitting or seeking higher office. Five others are sitting like wounded waterfowl in the crosshairs of hungry insurgents. What follows is a preview of 14 races we think will be hotly contested.
14TH DISTRICT (Fordham, Kingsbridge). Israel Ruiz, the one-time state senator, one-time felon and current councilman, is taking on mayoral dropout Freddy Ferrer for Borough President. He wants his former chief of staff Richard Soto, a process server and landlord, to succeed him. But Ruiz’s coattails are short and Soto’s opponent Adolfo Carrion is a popular former community board district manager who has been buoyed by Ferrer, county Democratic Leader Roberto Ramirez and a two-to-one money advantage.
17TH DISTRICT (Mott Haven, Hunts Point, Morrisania, Soundview). If you wanted a race that sums up the unseemliness, clannishness and anarchy in South Bronx politics, here it is. Try to follow the story. Six months ago, Federico Perez, an affable, 30-year veteran of the South Bronx Democratic machine, was plucked from obscurity by Bronx leader Ramirez to fill a council seat vacated by Former Assemblyman David Rosado. Rosado left the council after wresting a senate seat from Pedro Espada, Jr., a one-time party loyalist who is now Ramirez’s arch-enemy. Now, in a vengeful re-match, Espada’s 23-year-old son–former Assemblyman Pedro G. Espada–is gunning for Perez, banking on his family’s name recognition. To make things interesting there’s a young, idealistic third candidate, Luis De Jesus, a progressive church deacon who is running a pox-on-all-their-houses bid backed by ACORN.
35TH DISTRICT (Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights). Incumbent Mary Pinkett, chairperson of the city council’s government operations committee, has always enjoyed the largesse of Council Speaker Peter Vallone. But now Pinkett is being challenged by Errol Louis, the Ivy-league-educated head of a community-based credit union (and a former City Limits board member), who has out-raised her $40,000 to $25,000 and blasts her for being too cozy with the establishment. James Davis, a city cop who teaches at the police academy is also mounting a strong bid. Even though campaign records show he has only raised $615, he has used his anti-violence organization to publicize his candidacy.
38TH DISTRICT (Sunset Park, Park Slope, Red Hook). When Soccer Mom Joan Griffin McCabe, announced her decision to step down from the council earlier this year, would-be successors sprouted by the dozens. The field is now down to a decorous quintet. The front runner–if anyone deserves the title–is Eddie Castell, an aide to Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who is busy spending a $67,000 war chest. The rest of the field, combined, has raised $22,000 less. They are: Brooklyn Public Library PR director Susan Loeb, Boy Scouts executive Robert McDermott, district leader Angel Rodriguez and former Equadorian paratrooper Elba Haggarty, a school aide.
41ST DISTRICT (Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Bed-Stuy). Councilman Enoch Wiillams, who is retiring, wants to hand his seat off to his chief of staff Salena Glenn, president of Unity Democratic Club. Her path to succession is blocked by Tracy Boyland, the schoolteacher daughter of longtime assemblyman William Boyland.
42ND DISTRICT (East New York, Canarsie). A classic insurgent vs. incumbent battle. The incumbent, Priscilla Wooten, who has endorsed Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for re-election, is being challenged by Charles Barron, a former Black Panther with close ties to Rev. Al Sharpton. Barron has charged Wooten with running a patronage mill out of the local school district and padding the payrolls of local non-profits with her friends and relatives–which was exposed by City Limits magazine last year. Wooten, however, has great support in many of the projects and newfound access to the mayor’s pocketbook. So far she only has a slight cash edge: $33,000 to $27,000.
43RD DISTRICT (Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst). The battle for Sal Albanese’s vacant seat is a the only true two-party race in the council this year. On the Democratic side are three money-charged community activists: Albanese confidante Arthur Aidala ($95,000 on hand); community board veteran Joanne Seminara ($75,000) and lawyer Cody McCone ($47,000). Waiting for the winner–and a likely beneficiary of the neighborhood’s overwhelmingly pro-Giuliani bent–are two Republicans: catering hall king Marty Golden ($135,000 in the bank) and deposed State Senator Bob DiCarlo ($37,000) who has the least money but greatest name recognition of any candidate.
45TH DISTRICT (Midwood, Flatbush). Lloyd Henry, the Belize-born immigration subcommittee chairman, is facing a dangerous challenge from politically-juiced podiatrist Kendall Stewart, who has the backing of the county Democrats–even if county leader Clarence Norman has taken an officially neutral position.
2ND DISTRICT (East Village, Lower East Side). Antonio Pagan’s old job is coveted by two Loisaida insiders: Judy Rapfogel, chief aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a mainstream Jewish-feminist politico who has attracted the support of Comptroller Alan Hevesi, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Local 1199 hospital workers union; and Margarita Lopez, a social worker, lesbian rights activist, housing organizer and district leader. Both are sitting on tidy piles of cash: Rapfogel has $120,000; Lopez has $96,000.
8TH DISTRICT (Spanish Harlem, parts of West Harlem and the South Bronx). A free-for-all to replace borough president wannabe Adam Clayton Powell 1V. The three front-running candidates are familiar names in the neighborhood: well-known district leader Phil Reed, Federico Colon, a top aide to Powell, and Jorge Vidro-Ortiz, counsel to State Senator Olga Mendez. Reed has raised nearly $60,000, Colon’s netted $10,000. Other candidates include consultant Curtis Kirkman, Latino soap opera actor Edwin Marcial and longtime district leader Wilma Sena.
9TH DISTRICT (Central Harlem, Morningside Heights, Upper West Side). An even more wide-open contest to replace another beep candidate, Virginia Fields. There are no clear front-runners in a field which includes Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone official Virginia Montague, Bill Perkins, policy chief for the state assembly’s education committee, school board member William Allen, senate aide Joseph Haslip, OTB manager Mary Sweeting and district leader I. Ronnie Holly.
10TH DISTRICT (Washington Heights, Inwood). Incumbent Guillermo Linares may be in trouble. He is being challenged by fellow Dominican Roberto Lizardo, a marketing consultant and 34th Precinct Community Council member who has the support of Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat. Linares has strong union support, but Lizardo is racking up the landlords and businessman–to the tune of $50,000 in contributions. Linares has raised less than half that amount.
20TH DISTRICT (Flushing, Whitestone, Fresh Meadows). Septuagenarian incumbent Julia Harrison hasn’t made a lot of pals among Korean and Chinese immigrants in her district by making an assortment of anti-Asian cracks. But she may be unbeatable–because she’s made too many enemies. The Asian vote may be split among a trio of well-financed candidates: Taiwanese financial consultant John Liu, who has raised an impressive $120,000; librarian and former district leader Ethel Chen and community board president Pauline Chu.