Meet Melissa Mark-Viverito’s Biggest Fan

Melissa Mark-Viverito and Clark Pena. (Photo: Facebook)

Melissa Mark-Viverito and Clark Pena. (Photo: Facebook)

The speaker’s race is generally decided by the council’s 51 members in a series of backroom deals, but that isn’t stopping one fan of a leading candidate from launching a public campaign on her behalf.

Clark Pena, a long-time community activist and campaign volunteer, has begun a grassroots effort to try to boost the candidacy of East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, a leading contender for the job.

In addition to a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter to engage community members, Mr. Pena, who is operating independently of the campaign, has been recruiting a contingent of volunteers, whom he hopes will bolster Ms. Mark-Viverito at candidates’ forums, hand out leaflets outside City Hall and council members’ offices at 250 Broadway, as well as phone bank in communities to shore up support.

“I believe that it’s her turn. So what I’m trying to do is to mobilize,” Mr. Pena told Politicker in an interview this afternoon. “We need someone who can have checks and balances and will be not only be the speaker of the council but the speaker of the people.”

With no Latinos in citywide office, the significance of electing Ms. Mark-Viverito, he said, would be especially profound.

While Mr. Pena–whose personal Facebook page features dozens of posts and photos of the councilwoman–said that he recognizes the fact that the vote to replace current Speaker Christine Quinn will not be made by the public, but thinks that grassroots organizers can still play a role.

“Of course it’s up to her colleagues, but I think all of her colleagues will be listening to the will of the people,” he said, arguing that the dynamics of the council have changed since four years ago.

“There’s a different feel in the air politically right now. I think there’s more of a progressive movement,” he said, pointing to a crop of incoming progressive members who don’t necessarily have deep ties to their respective county organizations.”They will make their own decision. I have the strange feeling that it’s not going to be the county bosses having backroom deals. I think it’s going to be different this time.”

The efforts are the latest in what appears to be growing momentum around Ms. Mark-Viverito’s candidacy, which had for a long time been dismissed by insiders as unlikely. In recent days, Ms. Mark Viverito has received significant attention. 1199SEIU toasted Ms. Mark-Viverito at a reception last night at the Somos festival, according to Capital New York, while Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez declared her the “front-runner”–in a two-page print spread–among the more than half-dozen members vying for the role.

But, observers and insiders say that things could change rapidly, with much depending on mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s calculations about who will best serve his agenda in the role.

“It’s all buzz here,” said Baruch College professor Doug Muzzio, who will be moderating the first forum between the candidates later this month. “It all depends on essentially, for the first time in 20 years, what the mayor wants, the mayor really should be getting.”