A little over five years ago, the Bronx Democratic Party underwent a sea change, with a group of electeds and district leaders unseating County Leader Jose Rivera.
Jose brought about his own downfall by turning County “All Puerto Rican, All the Time.” He was toppled by what this column labeled The Rainbow Revolution for its multi-racial makeup.
Could history possibly repeat itself down the road with current leader Carl Heastie?
A noticeable number of dissatisfied electeds and party supporters are starting to think so.
“He’s just not ENGAGED,” said one dissatisfied elected, who with others say they’ve gotten little to no tangible return from their support of Heastie.
Part of the problem, said one citywide powerbroker is that Heastie is too much of a compromiser – “The people with the most aggressive approach are the ones that get their way.”
“Carl doesn’t communicate well,” said one citywide political veteran. “He has his inner circle and doesn’t go beyond it. He needs to be more inclusive.”
Electeds and party faithful lament a lack of leadership discipline to build a unified party with clout, both within and outside the Bronx.
That includes local electeds going their own way on endorsements of mayoral candidates, weakening eventual party clout with whomever winds up mayor.
““He’s no Roberto Ramirez,” added a South Bronx district leader, recalling the last time the party had a strong, effective county leader.
It also affects Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who needs that same organizational clout not only for his future political plans, but also dealing with the next mayor and current governor.
“You want a county leader who’s solidly organized behind the borough president, among other things,” said the elected who called Carl disengaged from the party faithful.
Other electeds and party supporters cite other issues with Heastie, including:
*Being literally out of touch, with callers to his cell phone getting a recording to leave a text message.
* Ignoring key party supporters. In the world of Realpolitik, they’re the one who buy the tables and take out the journal ads at the County dinners, hold fundraisers and attend a myriad of fundraisers for local electeds. Yet they have received little or no help from Heastie when they seek “face time” with electeds and government agency heads, appointments to various minor commissions or securing jobs. Though like other county organizations around the city, political job banks are just about running on empty.
“He has done nothing for me or many others who were there when he was just an assemblyman and could not fill a small room with supporters for a fundraiser,” said one highly respected business leader.
*And oh yeah, Carl just got his brains beaten in by Gov. Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and editorial pages for sponsoring a bill that would allow check cashing firms to charge up to 200 percent interest on “payday loans.” This as the check cashing lobby gave the Bronx Democratic Party $10,000.
Now that Gov. Cuomo has decided NOT to call a special election to fill disgraced now ex-Assemblyman Nelson Castro’s west Bronx seat, it undercut Carl’s political clout, since the race will be pretty much wide open to other challengers, who we hear are already lining up.
Instead, the election will be folded into the Sept. 10 primary – with the party-backed winner having to go on to the Nov. 5 general election against any other party’s nomineees.
The move will save the city Board of Elections about $350,000 in putting together a separate special election. And with all that political scandal past and current in the Bronx and elsewhere, Cuomo wasn’t taking any chances, anyway, of having Bronx County’s mud on his shoes.
That race is beginning to get interesting, with a lot of potential candidates - and more interestingly, with a lot of local electeds looking to back different candidates.
As one veteran county political insider put it ever so bluntly, the race “could turn into one big giant cluster ‘mess.’”
NOT SO FAST
Well, County Leader Carl and D.A. Rob Johnson keep denying that story by a West Side English language newspaper that Carl will make Rob a judge if the man labeled the worst D.A. in the city step down.
The story also claims Carl will replace Rob with Bronxite Darcel Clark, a former Johnson staffer who now sits as a judge in the Appellate Division, First Department in Manhattan.
We hear her name has evoked some concern among staffers in the D.A.’s office, who view Clark, as one staffer put it, as “a Rob Johnson clone.”
There’s one kink in the whole scenario though. Gov. Cuomo would be one to name a replacement for one year until an election.
“My understanding is it’s always been that the governor appoints a person for one year if there is a vacancy in the DA’s office,” said one knowledgeable Bronx elected. “I was surprised to read that Carl Heastie can appoint someone to this position.”
When Mario Merola died in 1987, then Gov. Mario Cuomo named Merola’s chief assistant Paul Gentile to fill the seat for a one-year term. Rob Johnson, with County backing, then won his first full term.
And speaking of Rob Johnson and judgeships, two interesting tidbits :
*We hear Gov. Cuomo put the kibosh on nominating Johnson’s wife, Diane Renwick, who sits in the Appellate Division in Manhattan, for a seat on the state Court of Appeal BECAUSE of Johnson. Cuomo nominated Bronxite Jenny Torres instead.
*Take this source to the bank. A former Bronx County leader once tried to dynamite Johnson out of office by offering him a federal judgeship, said our solid source, but Rob turned it down – “He was afraid of the confirmation hearing,” to quote the former county leader.