Bronx Dems Marcos A. Crespo, Michael Robles, and Vanessa L. Gibson. Photo by Candice M. Giove.
New Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. strode into a gallery at the Bronx Museum where members of the Bronx Democratic County from his former assembly district gathered to find a successor for his now vacant assembly seat. He made his way to Marcos A. Crespo, a former intern and an aide in Rev. Ruben Diaz’s state senate office, with his hand outstretched, and greeted him with what is almost certainly going to be his new title.
“Assemblyman,” he said as the two heartily shook hands.
Diaz’s newly-appointed Deputy Borough President Aurelia Greene also didn’t need to look further than her own office to find a candidate for her seat, and she nominated her former intern and staffer Vanessa L. Gibson to take her place in the assembly.
Saturday morning the Bronx Democratic County Committee held two procedural elections in two separate galleries at the Bronx Museum on the Grand Concourse, and officially named the two as candidates in the June 2nd Special election to fill the two empty assembly seats.
During the first session, county committee members of the 88th Assembly District enthusiastically embraced the 28-year-old Crespo as their candidate since the majority – if not all – of those members knew him well from his time with then-assemblyman Diaz and state senator Diaz.
The group also voted in Michael Robles, who first interned for Ruben Diaz Jr. when he was 14, to take Diaz’s place as male district leader. Diaz previously held both posts.
“Marcos and Michael are the very best that we have to offer,” Diaz said. “These are young men who are polished. These are young men who are well-versed. These are young men that don’t know everything, so you have to be patient with them.”
Crespo, a John Jay graduate, learned the ins and outs of Albany from his days as an intern up to now while working as State Senator Diaz’s executive assistant. Diaz said that Crespo also knew the district intimately.
“It is rare that we get an elected official who knows both things,” he said.
Of course, the day’s sessions did not pass without reference to the Bronx Democratic County split, which began with a fray over a judicial candidate, led to circus-like elections orchestrated by former Bronx Democratic County Committee Chairman Asssemblyman Jose Rivera at the Loew’s Paradise Theatre last year, and resulted in victory for new Bronx Democratic County Chairman Assemblyman Carl Heastie and the other Rainbow Rebels, who are now the new face of county. (Rivera is still appealing the judge’s ruling that the Heastie election is valid.)
Diaz said that Crespo would not embarrass his borough. “Those days are over,” he said.
After the members took a vote, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who officiated the proceedings, started a second session with Bronx County Committee members of the 77th Assembly District. “This is not the Loew’s Paradise Theatre,” he laughed. “It’s very nice here.”
Within minutes, members there elected to name 30-year-old Gibson, a top Greene staffer as a candidate in the special election.
Gibson also dipped into the world of politics through an internship while at SUNY Albany eight years ago. So impressed was Greene by her diligence as an intern, she offered her a position when her district office manager departed.
“She found people and went to meetings that I never even heard of,” Greene laughed. “She kept me so well informed my head was spinning at times, but that’s the type of worker she is.”
Democratic County Chairman Carl Heastie congratulated both candidates and urged committee members to steadfastly support each of them.
“This is only the Democratic nomination,” Heastie said. “This is not a coronation.”
But the road to victory seems clear for both candidates, especially with the strength of the new Bronx machine behind them. No other candidates have announced their intentions so far, though it’s possible that a token Republican candidate could appear on the ballot.
The winners of the special election will serve until 2010, the conclusion of the Assembly members’ terms they replaced.
Both might make it to Albany in time for a vote on mayoral control of the New York City school system, which sunsets in June.
“I look forward to that debate,” Crespo said. “I’m okay with mayoral control, but I think we need to address the issue of parental participation.” Gibson agreed that the system needed some tweaking to allow for more involvement.