Council Candidate Seeks Divine Help for Landslide

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77th district Assemblywoman and 16th council district candidate Vanessa L. Gibbons greets campaign supporter Danny Ford on his way to work at Third Venue and East 149th Street. Gibbons visited his church, The Lord's Church three weeks ago. Campaign manager Benny Catala stands in the background.

Photo by: Kiratiana Freelon

77th district Assemblywoman and 16th council district candidate Vanessa L. Gibbons greets campaign supporter Danny Ford on his way to work at Third Venue and East 149th Street. Gibbons visited his church, The Lord's Church three weeks ago. Campaign manager Benny Catala stands in the background.

The team behind Assemblywoman Vanessa L. Gibson’s campaign to represent the 16th Council district isn’t just relying on a “political machine” to deliver 75 percent of the vote in today’s election, it’s also relying on God.

“We ask you God that we reach 75 percent of the vote today,” said Benny Catala, Gibson’s longtime campaign manager, in a prayer on the campaign bus. “It will speak to the validity of our candidate.”

Gibson faces six other candidates, Naaimat Muhammed, Pedro Alvarez, Carlos Sierra, Daryl Johnson, Dr. Bola Omotosho and Carlton Berkely. She is seen as the front-runner in the race, having secured endorsements from more than 15 unions and political leaders including Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz. If elected, Gibson will replace Helen D. Foster, who termed out of the position.

Running on just two hours asleep, Gibson arrived at her campaign site on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx at 4:30 a.m. to give a pep talk to her team of 200 volunteers and paid staff. Two buses, three 50-seat passenger vans and two minivans delivered volunteers to the 35 district polling stations. The volunteers will distribute 20,000 fliers.

Gibson then greeted commuters in Spanish and English and handed out fliers at the transportation hub of third Avenue and East 149th Street for more than an hour.

Several of Gibson’s opponents have complained that Gibson has a political machine behind her. Her allies accepted the label. “They can call it a machine, but a machine is efficient,” said Catala, who is also the male district lead for the 77th Assembly district. “Each of the other candidates are not as well versed on the process and they are not as popular so they don’t have any draw.”

Despite her success in launching a large campaign, Gibson said that her biggest challenge was to get voters to see that there are still good elected officials and good leaders who want to be public servants.

“Unfortunately a lot of people have been turned off by the system,” Gibson said. “It has not helped this year that we have two candidates running for citywide office in the midst of turmoil,” which she says discourages voters.

Despite the crowded candidate field, Catala expects only 3,500 to 5,000 people to cast their votes today. In the 2009 election, 4,891 people voted in a two-person campaign between Foster and Sierra.

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