Crowded Race Shaping Up To Replace Robert Jackson

Councilman Robert Jackson is planning to run for borough president in 2013, and already a host of candidates are lining

Robert Jackson (Photo: Facebook)

Councilman Robert Jackson is planning to run for borough president in 2013, and already a host of candidates are lining up to take his place for the Upper Manhattan council seat.

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Among them are longtime Washington Heights politico Maria Luna, who last ran for this same seat in 1992, a current and a former district leader who squared off in a pitched electoral battle last year, an aide to neighborhood institution Charlie Rangel, two former challengers to Mr. Jackson, a community board vice chair and a 24-year-old City Council staffer from across town.

Legislative lines for the District, which currently includes Morningside Heights, West Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Central Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood, could shift before the race next year. In the meantime,  many of the aspiring heirs to Mr. Jackson’s seat are watching each other and other local politicians before deciding what move to make.

Mr. Jackson originally entered the City Council in 2002. Mark Levine, a Democratic District Leader and founder of the Barack Obama Democratic Club, who was the runner-up to Mr. Jackson during his first race told The Politicker he’s “definitely” going to try for the seat again–unless there’s an opening in the State Senate.

In 2010, Mr. Levine ran against former Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat in the race to replace Eric Schneiderman in the State Senate after Mr. Schneiderman became State Attorney General. Mr. Espaillat is planning to run for a seat in the House of Representatives if a majority Latino Congressional district is created in the area. If Mr. Espaillat does indeed abandon his Senate seat for a Congressional campaign, Mr. Levine said he’ll bid for that rather than a spot in the Council.

“I feel like I would be in a good position. I have to wait to see how the final maps come out before committing, but that’s the only thing that would pre-empt a Council run,” Mr. Levine said.

Mr. Levine has worked closely with the Working Families Party and hopes to receive their endorsement in the race.

Sources familiar with the Northern Manhattan political scene say April Tyler is also considering a run for the seat. Ms. Tyler was a Democratic District leader from 1993 until last fall, when she was unseated in a dramatic electoral upset by a relative outsider, Marisol Alcantara. As of this writing, Ms. Tyler did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Ms. Alcantara also might enter the race, though she said she’s waiting to see how the lines are drawn.

“I’m not thinking about it right now, you know, I just got elected as a District Leader six months ago and I just got a job with the National Action Network,” Ms. Alcantara said. “I’m just waiting to see what the deal is going to look like and I’m going to fundraise for my next District Leader race.”

Ms. Luna, who has been described as a “political legend in Washington Heights,” has been involved in uptown politics for nearly three decades. She became a District Leader in 1983 and unsuccessfully ran for the district seven Council seat in 1991 is also considering  a bid to succeed Mr. Jackson.

“I am considering, but seriously considering. I tried before in 1992, I didn’t make it,” Ms. Luna said. “The reason why I’m seriously considering it is because this is an open seat now, I think that there is an opportunity now, things are really a little more open for women. The second thing is that I think that I have the know-how, and the experience and the time served in our community.”

Ms. Luna said she’s being careful about making a final decision because it’s a choice she wants to make “at the right time for me.”

“The reason why I haven’t openly announced is because of all the factors that come around when you announce this; a whole set of things that you need to do, like the fundraising and the process. It’s not complicated, but it makes people a little more cautious,” Ms. Luna said. “We’ll see what happens, it’s going to be interesting. It’s a personal decision, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.”

Mr. Solano, who worked for then-Senator Hillary Clinton, former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and former Speaker Gifford Miller prior to joining Mr. Rangel’s district office, said he’ll work for Ms. Luna’s campaign if she decides to run. Otherwise, he’ll be running for Mr. Jackson’s seat himself. Mr. Solano thinks a lot of the other potential candidates are waiting to see what Ms. Luna decides to do.

“Maria Luna, she’s considering running as well, and although she’s saying that she might, she hasn’t decided yet,” Mr. Solano said. “So, if she gets in a lot of people are going to get out and work her campaign. I’m going to go work her campaign. So, we’re just waiting.”

One person who’s definitely going to run for Mr. Jackson’s old seat is Cheryl Pahaham, the departing vice chair of Community Board 12. Ms. Pahaham said she’s attracted to the race because it’s an open seat in a diverse and progressive district.

“It’s an open seat, it’s an interesting district, because it’s not necessarily the kind of district is predetermined by the majority ethnic group,” Ms. Pahaham said. “Another thing I really like about the district is that people are very progressive. There are people who love activism and they really want their political leaders to be active on their behalf.”

Uptown insiders also say Julius Tajiddin, a community activist who previously ran for the District 7 Council seat in 2009, is considering trying again next year. As of this writing, Mr. Tajiddin has not responded to a request for comment on this story.

A final potential candidate for Mr. Jackson’s old seat is Rakim Brooks, a 24-year-old aide to Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has said he’s considering starting a Council campaign. Mr. Brooks declined to specify which district he plans to run in beyond saying he won’t challenge his current boss, who represents the district adjacent to Mr. Jackson’s. Since there aren’t any other open seats in the area, speculation is Mr. Brooks is planning to enter the District 7 race.

Crowded Race Shaping Up To Replace Robert Jackson