A former aide for President Obama is Bronx enough to stay in a hotly contested political race here, ruled a borough judge last week.
Michael Blake has fulfilled Bronx residency and will stay on the ballot in the September 9 primary to fill the vacant 79th state Assembly seat, ruled Judge John W. Carter in Bronx Supreme Court Friday, August 25.
The 32-year old, who was born at North Central Bronx Hospital and grew up in the borough, but spent much of the last decade working in Washington, D.C. and Chicago for President Obama and the White House, was elated to learn the decision.
“We are very happy that the Judge confirmed what we’ve said all along,” he said in an interview. “Now we can focus on what we need to focus on, and that’s who can represent and help the 79th District the most.”
Bronxite or not?
Blake’s opponents had charged that the former Obama operative had not lived in New York long enough to qualify for the election in a district that includes parts of Tremont, Morrisania and Concourse Village.
Candidates for state-wide office must have lived in New York for the past five years. But Blake had voted in Washington in recent years, and first registered as a New York City voter in June 2013, according to city records.
Blake’s campaign claimed that the Bronx native had achieved residency through his mother’s address on Decatur Avenue.
And a court referee and judge agreed that Blake’s residency claims were legimate — to the dismay of his opponents, who say the decision sets a dangerous precedent for future races.
“What the judge is now saying is that you qualify as a Bronx resident as long as you have a room in your parent’s house and you visit them four times a year,” said Patrick Jenkins, spokesman for the Bronx Democratic County Committee, which has backed another candidate in the race, lawyer Marsha Michael. ““People can’t just swoop in from anywhere and run to represent areas of New York.”
Bx in White House
Blake says he always repped the Bronx, even while working for Obama as a campaign aide and later as an outreach director in the White House.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Blake said he went to P.S. 79, J.H.S. 118, and was senior class president at Dewitt Clinton High School.
He said he could not pass up the chance to run. The seat has been vacant since January, when former Assemblyman Eric Stevenson was convicted on bribery charges.
“I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with the president, but the Bronx is my home,” said Blake. “When an opportunity comes along to serve your people and your hometown, you gotta listen to that.”
Other candidates in the primary election include the Democratic party-backed Michaels, George Alvarez, Raul Rodriguez, and Fred Rick.