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Death in Rivera family shakes up primary campaign

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The death of Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera’s sister and Assemblyman Jose Rivera’s daughter last Friday jolted the primary campaign on both sides.

Diane Rivera Riportella, 55, who was suffering from ALS - Lou Gerhig’s Disease - died after a power failure shut down her respirator for a time at her home in New Jersey.

We broke the news to Naomi’s lead challenger Mark Gjonaj, who immediately called Jose to offer his condolences.

With Jose at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte this week, the funeral has been set for this Saturday - only five days before the Thursday, September 13 primary.

That created a big headache for Gjonaj in what’s expected to be a major mud slinging run-up from both sides.Gjonaj said that he and his family will suspend any personal campaigning on Saturday out of respect for the Rivera family, though regular campaign activities will continue that day.

Jose put together a video tribute to his daughter, who was a leading advocate for New Jersey legalizing medical marijuana. To see it, go to

http://youtu.be/d-44TxcMRr0.

EMPTY CHAIR

The death in the Rivera family also forced BronxNet’s cable TV BronxTalk host Gary Axelbank to shift the planned 80th A.D. debate from this past Tuesday night, September 4, forward to 9 p.m. Monday, September 10.

Gary made the move out of respect to the family, even though Naomi, apparently too scared to face off with her three challengers, had already ducked out of the debate after Gary jumped through hoops trying to accommodate her.

With empty chairs in fashion this political season, we don’t know yet if the candidates will be pulling a Clint Eastwood, talking to HER empty chair.

MORNING LINE

We hear the local bookies are giving Naomi 4-1 odds to win, but we’re hedging our bets. We’re gonna call it a close race - either way.

ENDORSEMENTS

Good government group Citizens Union is endorsing Mark Gjonaj, and retired postal worker and tenant organizer Maximino Rivera, who’s challenging Mott Haven Assemblywoman Carmen (Granny) Arroyo.

It cited “questions of ethics” about Naomi and Arroyo.

It also cited Gjonaj supporting most of its agenda - including reforming the redistricting process that conveniently split Morris Park in half for Naomi, moving her into a majority Latino district.

WRIST SLAPS

Governor Cuomo’s new Joint Commission on Public Ethics slapping state office candidates who’ve failed to file legally required financial disclosure statements, including Bronx Assembly candidates Adam Bermudez in the 80th A.D. in Morris Park; Danny Figueroa in the new 87th covering Parkchester/Castle Hill/West Farms; Janelle King in Soundview’s 85th; Maximino Rivera in Mott Haven’s 84th; and Egidio Sementilli in the Throggs Neck/Pelham Bay 82nd A.D.

Those wrist slaps could also mean up to $40,000 in civil penalties.

COUNCIL LINES

The City Council Redistricting Commission was due to release its preliminary new proposed council lines to jibe with the 2010 Census yesterday, Sept. 5, after holding hearings around the five boroughs, including a poorly attended one August 23rd at Lehman College.

Some speakers from Helen Foster’s 15th C.D. were concerned that historically heavily African-American Morrisania­/Claremont might be broken up.

Heaviest rumor is upper Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez may see the Marble Hill end of his 10th C.D. pushed northward in Bronx proper.

TAMPA TIMES

It wasn’t ALL partying at the GOP convention for the Bronx delegates, swears County GOP leader Jay Savino.

That despite a report in the Post its members missed the state delegation’s opening breakfast after a night of partying at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

We await word from the Bronx delegation to the Democratic one this week in Charlotte, N.C.

OVERKILL

State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. is griping that cops and Bronx D.A. Rob Johnson went overboard on the August 25 arrest of his daughter Damaris, a 19-year veteran police sergeant, for keying her boyfriend’s car and sending nasty “woman scorned” text messages.

While his Revgram calls for some punishment, he wrote putting her through the system instead of a desk appearance ticket, then charging a felony, was waaay over the top.

But we’re dead certain phone calls went straight to PC Ray Kelly, who had visions of political “favoritism” charges if cops DIDN’T go by the book. As for the felony rap, quien sabe with Johnson, who’s let scores of felony arrests walk.

BUSY LEADER

Mark Escoffey-Bey, district leader over in Highbridge’s 77th Assembly District has been a busy guy. First he ran a David and Goliath campaign challenging Congressman Jose Serrano until petition challenges knocked him off. Then he endorsed Manny Taveras, who’s challenging west Bronx state Senator Gustavo Rivera in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary, where he faces his own heavy challenge from a seriously slimmed down former district leader Benny Catala.

COP CORNER

Congrats to the “real boss” at Bronx Homicide, Detective Noreen O’Shea, who keeps the chaos under relative control, upped to prestigious Detective First Grade.

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