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Local Faces, Old and New, Surface on Bronx Political Scene

With seats on the city and state level up for grabs in 2018, several faces both familiar and in the background, have emerged well before the political season truly gets under way in the Bronx. All this comes as the Bronx Borough President welcomed his new second-in-command.

Special Elections
With Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj having vacated his post at the 80th Assembly District to become the next Councilmember for the 13th Council District, his Norwood seat is up for grabs. And though Governor Andrew Cuomo hasn’t formally announced it yet, he is expected to call for a special election sometime in the spring.

Some potential candidates include Nathalia Fernandez, Gjonaj’s former chief of staff who ascended to the position of Bronx Regional Representative for Cuomo. Another includes Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, a veteran political operative whose résumé includes serving as the former secretary of state for New York state. Aside from serving as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s advisor, Cortés-Vázquez serves as chair of the National Puerto Rican Parade. She generated controversy after allowing Oscar Lopez Rivera to march in the Puerto Rican Day Parade despite corporate pressure.

Though Morris Park is a major stronghold for the 80th Assembly District, Norwood typically sees more voters, according to data crunched by the Norwood News. A check of the numbers showed 14,386 Norwood residents voting in the 2016 contest compared to 8,039 votes cast in Morris Park. With Norwood residents knowing more about Fernandez than Cortés-Vázquez, it’s likely Fernandez may secure Norwood. She will also secure a large chunk of support in Morris Park, according to a source embedded in several community groups there. “The support there is for Nathalia,” said the source.

With political sources noting that the Bronx Democratic County Committee (BDCC) is primed to support Fernandez, Cortés-Vázquez’ run appears quixotic. But the contest can be seen as positive for the BDCC, where there the list of female legislators is short. Anyone who will win the race would have to run again in September for the primary given that Gjonaj vacated his Assembly seat halfway into his current term.

“My own belief is that I believe that this 80th Assembly situation means nothing,” Anthony Rivieccio, founder of Northwest Bronx Democrats, a local political action group, said. “If Nathalia gets appointed by the party, well, she still will have to be re-elected in September. So a lot of people consider this an open seat race and a lot of people will treat it like such. And Lorraine is probably one of those people who feels that way. And I would say a lot of contenders feel that way that whatever the governor decides. It will mean nothing because in September that’s the real race.” 

Meantime, the race for the 32nd Senate District is already seeing a contender in current 87th District Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, who has already announced his intent to run for the senate seat. Sepulveda’s district covers the neighborhoods of West Farms, Van Nest, Parkchester, and Soundview. The 87th Assembly District virtually overlaps with the 32nd District, though extends towards the south central Bronx neighborhoods of Morrisania, Longwood, and Hunts Point. The senate seat was held by Ruben Diaz Sr., who vacated the state post shortly after being sworn in as the Council Member for the 18th Council District. Councilwoman Annabel Palma held the seat and was term-limited.

Sepulveda appears to have a lock on the seat given his relationship to Diaz Sr. (Sepulveda served as Diaz Sr.’s campaign manager during the Council race) and since no one has thrown their name into the race.

“I pledge to continue in the Senate with the same dedication and energy that I have shown in representing the people of the 87th Assembly District, who have returned me to office with overwhelming voting margins for three terms,” Sepulveda said in a prepared statement. “In the Senate, I want to fight for public safety and criminal justice reform, education programs, affordable housing, increased access to mental health care, economic development and opportunities, and social service reforms, especially as they affect middle class families and the working poor,” he continued.

New Bronx Deputy BP
An aide to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and loyal Bronx Democrat has been chosen to be the new deputy borough president, succeeding Aurelia Greene who announced her retirement after more than 40 years in public service.

Marricka Scott-McFadden will serve as the borough’s second highest ranking executive. Some duties of a deputy borough president include presiding over the Bronx Borough Board, a body made up of community board chairs, their district managers, and New York City Council members representing the Bronx. Greene helped run the Borough Board meetings while also advising Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. with budget and community board matters.

Unlike Greene, Scott-McFadden has not held an elected public position. Her résumé stretches to 2001, when she served as chief of staff to Heastie until 2010. She moved onto the world of lobbying, working for Mercury Public Affairs (lobbying records have her last name down as Scott-FcFadden). Her connection to Heastie helped elevate Scott-McFadden, who was promoted to vice president a year after Heastie settled in as Assembly speaker. Some clients Scott-McFadden directly worked with included OpenGov Inc., NYC Mission Society and Dart Container Group.

In a statement, Scott-McFadden looks to promote “a positive agenda” for the borough’s population. She was sworn in on Jan. 2 before acting Supreme Court Judge Elizabeth A. Taylor.

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