You've Got Mail
Over the weekend, Thomas Lopez-Pierre, an uptown activist who has been running a Council campaign characterized by a series of angry, racially charged emails sent another missive endorsing Robert Jackson, the man he’s trying to replace. Mr. Jackson is prevented by term limits from running for re-election to his council seat and is instead pursuing the Manhattan borough presidency. However, Mr. Jackson is clearly not eager to have Mr. Lopez-Pierre’s endorsement.
“We totally reject Thomas Lopez-Pierre. Throughout his life, Robert Jackson has been a leader fighting for justice and understanding and against bigotry and intolerance,” Richard Fife, Mr. Jackson’s spokesman, said in a statement. “He has condemned the racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic rants of Lopez-Pierre in the strongest way possible.”
Thomas Lopez-Pierre, a candidate for an Uptown City Council seat who has been making a series of racially-charged arguments against one of his rivals in the race, Mark Levine, has taken things to a whole other level. In an email filled with racial slurs, expletives and violent rhetoric, Mr. Lopez-Pierre blasted Brian Benjamin, a real estate developer, for deciding “to pick Mark Levine the only White/Jewish guy in the race to raise money for.”
Mr. Lopez-Pierre went on to call Mr. Benjamin an “Uncle Tom” who by joining Mr. Levine’s campaign, “sold out the Black people of Harlem.”
The email was addressed to Mr. Benjamin and over 30 Uptown political figures, including Mr. Levine. Politicker has confirmed the email was sent from Mr. Lopez-Pierre’s address.
Thomas Lopez-Pierre, a Harlem activist with a controversial past who is running for term-limited Councilman Robert Jackson’s seat, circulated an email late last night in an attempt to plan a “private meeting” to “discuss the potential damage to the political empowerment of the Black and Hispanic community if Mark Levine, a White/Jewish candidate was elected to the 7th Council District in 2013.” This morning, Mr. Lopez-Pierre told Politicker he isn’t organizing the meeting himself and is working on behalf of a larger group who became concerned when they read a report on the political blog The Perez Notes that the Upper Manhattan political machine headed by State Senator Adriano Espaillat and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez has been working to “clear” the crowded field of candidates running for the seat to help Mr. Levine win.
“Now that he actually has a chance to win it’s scaring people,” said Mr. Lopez-Pierre. “So, what started first as a discussion of the blog post has now mushroomed among candidates and community leaders into basically a ‘Stop Levine’ campaign.”
Last week, State Senator Adriano Espaillat’s campaign circulated a tough mailer against his primary opponent, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, in which they accused Mr. Linares of “betraying” the community by backing Rep. Charlie Rangel over Mr. Espaillat’s bid to become the country’s first Dominican-American congressman earlier this year and for taking campaign contributions from special interests.
Mr. Rangel, a backer of Mr. Linares’ bid, is angry about the mailer. Really angry. So angry, he says, that he was motivated, in the spirit of the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, to condemn the controversial campaign literature in question. To that end, Mr. Rangel held a press conference where he gave a ten minute speech expressing his outrage.
A tipster sent The Politicker this photo of a campaign billboard for state senator and congressional hopeful Adriano Espaillat that features his face looming large over the University Heights Bridge on West 207th in Inwood.
We also obtained a bilingual mailer volunteers for Mr. Espaillat have been distributing in Washington Heights. Interestingly, Mr. Espaillat’s mailers portray his candidacy as a battle against “Tea Party Republicans,” the same strategy employed by his main opponent in the 13th district race, incumbent Congressman Charlie Rangel.
“Adriano Espaillat, bringing back the energy we need to fight Tea Party Republicans!” the mailer says.
Assemblyman Guillermo Linares will endorse longtime Congressman Charlie Rangel’s re-election bid tomorrow at noon. Mr. Rangel’s campaign announced the endorsement this evening via an email. Mr. Linares initially pledged to support one of Mr. Rangel’s challengers, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, however, last month, he appeared at an event with Mr. Rangel stoking speculation he might be preparing to switch sides.
Recently, a Democratic club in Washington Heights held a meeting to endorse candidates in the local Congressional race. Afterwards, a group of reporters and some campaign staffers went out for beers at a nearby diner, Tu Sabor Latino. Once inside, they ran into a table full of volunteers working on the other major political campaign in the neighborhood—the race for a president of the Dominican Republic, between Danilo Medina and Hipólito Mejía, better known as Papá to his supporters.
Outside the diner, sirens flashed as the police escorted a motorcade carrying one of the Dominican presidential candidates up Broadway. It was a physical manifestation of a phenomenon that has long been familiar to Uptown politicos, in the upper reaches of Manhattan, local politicians can’t avoid bumping into the Dominican campaigns. (There is even a seat in the Dominican congress for a representative
from the U.S., such is the size of the ex-pat community.).
Every four years, the Dominican elections play out on the streets of Washington Heights and Inwood—with colorful signs, flags, trucks with speakers blasting Spanish songs and campaign slogans and personal appearances by the candidates. According to a 2005 study by CUNY’s Center for Latin American, Caribbean & Latino Studies, Dominicans make up over 53 percent of the population in the area, and many of the residents are dual citizens who also vote in their home country.
It turns out, this unique political landscape is riddled with potential landmines for local politicians.
Ruben Dario Vargas, a self-described “Northern Manhattan community activist” who has run multiple unsuccessful campaigns for public office, is throwing his hat into the crowded campaign for the 13th congressional district, where Charlie Rangel is running for re-election. Based on his past performance running for the seat, Mr. Vargas is unlikely to be a major threat in the race, but his entry will strip State Senator Adriano Espaillat of his status as the only Latino candidate in a district with a majority Latino population.
Add another name to the list of those contemplating competing for term-limited Councilman Robert Jackson’s seat. Mark Otto, an assistant principal at a public high school, already has registered a campaign committee and created a campaign website.
Understandably, Mr. Otto’s campaign pitch relies heavily on his background as a teacher. According to his website, Mr. Otto “is a kind, passionate, dedicated and reflective leader that has a clear vision for successful schooling in New York City.”
Councilman Robert Jackson is planning to run for borough president in 2013, and already a host of candidates are lining up to take his place for the Upper Manhattan council seat.
Among them are longtime Washington Heights politico Maria Luna, who last ran for this same seat in 1992, a current and a former district leader who squared off in a pitched electoral battle last year, an aide to neighborhood institution Charlie Rangel, two former challengers to Mr. Jackson, a community board vice chair and a 24-year-old City Council staffer from across town.
Legislative lines for the District, which currently includes Morningside Heights, West Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Central Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood, could shift before the race next year. In the meantime, many of the aspiring heirs to Mr. Jackson’s seat are watching each other and other local politicians before deciding what move to make.