At a meeting of the Bronx County Democratic Party last night, both county leader Jose Rivera and the group trying to replace him with Assemblyman Carl Heastie claimed victory, and not before things got a little rough.
“Yes, I was assaulted," said Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz.
Dinowitz said he was standing in the hallway of the Paradise Theatre, where the meeting was held, when he got into a shoving match with Rivera supporters. The Rivera people were the aggressors, Dinowitz claims.
City Council member Maria Baez, who supports Rivera, told me this morning that she saw Dinowitz physically fighting with members of the county committee, but did not provide details.
The fight speaks to the level of tension in the Bronx Democratic Party right now, although Dinowitz went on to say he wasn’t hurt, and didn’t seem to want to make a big deal out of the shoving match.
"That’s not the main story of the night,” he told me.
The main story is that Rivera, who is Puerto Rican, has recently faced criticism for not being more inclusive of the borough’s other ethnic communities, represented by Heastie, who is black, Dinowitz, who is Jewish, and others.
Both sides brought an entourage last night. As Heastie stood onstage to start the meeting, a member of the rival faction, Maria Baez, announced she was going to open the meeting. According to people I spoke with, much yelling ensued.
“Physically, we couldn’t stop them,” Dinowitz, a Heastie ally, told me via cell phone.
Rivera was elected by supporters who now say they won.
But after the raucous meeting, after Rivera’s people were gone, the rebel group conducted its own vote and elected Heastie.
Heastie is challenging Rivera’s election by saying some of the people who cast votes for the county leader were not legitimate voting members of the organization.
It’s likely the whole thing will end up in court.
Jerry Goldfeder, a lawyer with Rivera’s faction, said via text message, “I was advised that Jose was elected. If unhappy people go to court, so be it.” Goldfeder also said that in order to maintain his objectivity and ability to represent his client, he did not attend the meeting.
Heastie, in a brief conversation last night, spoke as the new county leader, and said what he has to do now is “heal” the organization and bring both sides together.
[image from tinatinatina's flickr page]