Serrano picks Rice; Nunez remains neutral

Krystal Serrano and Yorman Nunez are to some extent insiders, the former an immigrant advocate and ex-candidate in the 12th Council District, the latter a rising star and ex-candidate in the 14th Council District. So what do Serrano and Nunez think of the candidates who remain?

Serrano was ousted on Tuesday, August 4 when the Board of Elections commission dismissed candidates on the basis of flawed or insufficient petition signatures. She blamed the result on 12th District incumbent Larry Seabrook and a broken system. The 12th Council District is Edenwald, Co-op City, Wakefield, Williamsbridge and Baychester. Born in Trinidad, Serrano isn’t related to Congressman Jose Serrano of the south Bronx.

“I knew going in that Larry would kick me off,” Serrano said. “The northeast Bronx is home to the borough’s fastest growing Caribbean community. I am Caribbean. I am a woman. My last name is Serrano. I was a big threat to Larry, so he went after me.”

The Board of Elections commission tossed a number of Serrano signatures, ostensibly signed by residents not registered to vote. But the ousted candidate, who visited the Board of Elections at 1708 Grand Concourse, disagreed.

“I went to the [Board of Elections],” Serrano said. “The two signatures that Larry objected to on page one were registered.”

Nonetheless, Serrano chose to bow out.

“A court battle would have tied me up for three weeks,” she said. “We were only six weeks away from the election. There would have been no way for me to campaign.”

Serrano had raised $4,826 when she was dismissed. The Co-op City resident plans to address immigrant and small business matters as an independent activist. Small businesses in the northeast Bronx are desperate, Serrano said. There are resources but Seabrook has failed to engage business owners, she said. The 12th Council District needs a new youth center. Seabrook hasn’t delivered, Serrano said. On Monday, August 17, Serrano attended a town hall meeting on White Plains Road. Seabrook told those present that he would work to have a youth center built at 1250 E. 229th Street.

Serrano fielded endorsement requests from Jerome Rice, Andy King and Sebastian Ulanga, who ended his campaign on Friday, August 14. She won’t vote for King. The Olinville resident lacks substance; it should be his wife and campaign manager, 1199 SEIU executive Neva Shillingford, on the ballot, Serrano said. Serrano has settled on Rice, a retired Department of Corrections captain. She and Rice held a joint press conference to protest broken elevators at the Boston Secor Houses.

“[Rice] has been fighting for the community,” Serrano said.

Nunez was not a casualty of the Board of Elections commission. The Hunter College student surveyed a crowded Council District 14 field and opted out. It wasn’t an easy decision for Nunez, who cut his teeth as a member of Sistas and Brothas United, the feisty youth group affiliated with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.

Nunez had enough signatures, he said. He had enough cash, $34,646, thanks to an energetic street team. Nunez pulled the plug at 11:56 p.m. on the day signatures were due.

“It was a last minute decision,” he said. “It was a strategic decision.”

Rather than participate in a brutal City Council race, Nunez plans to establish a Political Action Committee.

“From the beginning, my campaign was about changing the way candidates are elected,” he said. “It was about getting people involved. It was about training young people – the people you see hanging out on the corner.”

Nunez expects the PAC to challenge tabloid star Senator Pedro Espada, up for re-election in 2012. Residents of the northwest Bronx have lost faith, Nunez said. He and others are fed up with the “three men in a room” system of government.

Nunez’ campaign was somewhat discouraging; the first-time candidate encountered ignorant voters and falsehoods. Some voters were told that Nunez had dropped out when he hadn’t. Others were told that Nunez had accepted money from 14th Council District incumbent Maria Baez. One voter told Nunez that she planned to vote for Baez because the councilwoman had given her daughter a toy. Another told Nunez that she would only support a Latina.

Baez boasts the worst attendance record in the City Council, while candidate Fernando Cabrera lived in Westchester County until 2008, Nunez said. He didn’t hit Baez or Cabrera on specific issues. Yudelka Tapia reminds Nunez of his aunts; Tapia and Nunez are Dominican.

“She wants to represent my people and I respect that,” he said.

But Nunez has questions for Tapia, too. The election is three weeks month away. Nunez’ message to the candidates is simple. Want my vote? Earn it.

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