Primary Culler: Baez in Trouble in Bronx’s 14th Council District


If Maria Baez had her hands full with her reelection campaign to the city council in The Bronx’s 14th District before, the New York Times made it worse for her today with a blistering article detailing her suspicious Puerto Rico “fundraising” activities, the peculiar pro-landlord bill she introduced, and especially her chronic absenteeism, which is the worst on the council (she missed most of her sessions).

Baez has also lost the backing of the Bronx County Democratic Committee, which ousted her patron Jose RIvera last year. The Working Families Party, which sat out her last race, has joined the Democratic Committee in endorsing her rival Fernando Cabrera. Voting for Bloomberg’s term-limits overthrow probably hasn’t helped Baez in the least Bloomberg-friendly borough, either…

Baez has brought home the bacon and some key endorsements (including that of council speaker Christine Quinn), which can’t be discounted. And she’s made some canny moves — like bringing aboard a former contender for her office, Yesenia Polanco, as her campaign manager. But she’s running scared, to coin a phrase, and has ducked out of two candidates’ debates.

Cabrera, pastor of the New Life Ministries Church and a Republican until two years ago, survived an early residency challenge after showing reporters the leftovers in the fridge at his Sedgwick Avenue home. His experience is mostly in church and educational programs, though he did work for the Bronx Borough President’s office for four years. But he talks a good progressive game — living wage etc. — and just brought Al Sharpton on board.

Also running is Yudelka Tapia, who recently barnstormed the district in a “Caravan 4 Change.” She leans hard on education issues, and on her lifelong membership in the Democratic Party. Tapia has actually raised more money than Cabrera, and has an edge in actual political experience, having founded a Dominican Bronx Democratic club, run for the assembly, and worked with a number of politically connected activist groups.

Baez’ best hope may be that her two contenders’ energetic campaigns will cancel each other out.