Hotly contested Assembly race

Candidates for state assembly in the 79th district, from left, Raul Rodriguez, Michael Blake, and Fred Ricks sounded off at a debate Friday, Aug. 29 on public TV channel BronxNet.
Courtesy BronxNet

Voters will decide three state assembly seats Tuesday, September 9 — and in some of the lowest turnout districts in the state, a few votes may make the difference.

In the 79th district — including Morrisania, Concourse Village, Claremont Village, Tremont and West Farms — a former operative for Barack Obama is on the ballot, among other local leaders.

Michael Blake, who spent years working on campaigns for the President and later served in the White House, is now running in the district where he grew up.

Blake will face off against a crowded field, including longtime education professional Raul Rodriguez, comedian Fred Ricks, Democratic-machine backed lawyer Marsha Michael, and George Alvarez.

The candidates are vying for a seat vacated by Eric Stevenson, who was convicted on charges of bribery.

Blake, Rodriguez and Ricks all presented similar plans to revitalize one of the borough’s poorest areas in a debate broadcast on Labor Day on public channel BronxNet. The candidates talked of increasing economic possibility through creative loan initiatves, and were concerned that the big malls coming into the Bronx would hurt small businesses.

All three candidates opposed the NYPD’s stop, question and frisk practice, and were upset that their district currently has no bank.

The difference may come down to comparing the candidates’ experience.

“I am the most qualified and most passionate candidate to be the next assemblymember, and that’s why people should be voting for me,” said Blake, the former Obama staffer, after the debate.

Rodriguez stressed his family ties.

“I represent family, I have four daughters that I am raising in the community, so when you talk about the issues that we are facing as a family, we know exactly what our families are facing every single day,” he said.

Alvarez was at the debate, but decided to leave soon before it started. Michael missed the debate altogether.

Drama in the 78

In another contested election, Assemblyman Jose Rivera is defending his west Bronx 78th district seat from challenger Fernando Tirado, a former district manager of Community Board 7. The district spans Bedford Park, Fordham and parts of Belmont.

Tirado decided to mount the challenge after a strange video surfaced of Rivera hitting on young women in the Dominican Republic. The longtime pol has so far dodged a debate on BronxNet, and another debate at a senior center in Bedford Park, according to published reports.

The debate no-shows have peeved long-time and debate host Gary Axelbank.

“It’s distressing that the people running for office do not understand the democratic process, that it’s important for them to be up front and meet their constituents in a fair and balanced forum,” Axelbank said.

The 77th district Assemblyseat, whch includes Highbridge and Concourse, is also up for grabs.

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at bkoch‌man@c‌ngloc‌ Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.

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