Kirsten Gillibrand Backs Bronx Assemblyman’s Bid for DNC Vice Chair

Assemblyman Michael Blake.
Assemblyman Michael Blake. Leigh Vogel/Getty Images

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a tight ally of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, today backed  Bronx Assemblyman Michael Blake’s campaign for Democratic National Committee vice chair—his highest-power endorsement to date.

Blake, a veteran of President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and the White House, announced that he was running for the position last December. The 34-year-old assemblyman’s platform—”Build Our Bench. Strengthen Our Party. Embrace Our Future.”—centers on building up dynamic candidates for local offices and recruiting top strategists in the DNC, spearheading a mentorship-based candidate support program, holding a quarterly messaging workshop with top party staff and officials and being a national surrogate for statewide and local party fundraisers, trainings and meetings.

Gillibrand—the Democrat who replaced Hillary Clinton as the junior senator from New York in 2009—said that Blake has the “determination, experience and energy” to help rebuild the Democratic Party after the hemorrhaging of the past two election cycles.

“I endorse New York Assembly Member Michael Blake because I know as DNC vice chair he will bring invigorating change in leadership to the party because of his proven campaign experience and wins in state and local elections throughout the country,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “Assembly Member Blake is exactly the progressive voice we need to help us rebuild our movement, unite Democrats, and forcefully push back against President Trump and obstructionist Republicans.”

Blake, for his part, said that he appreciates Gillibrand’s endorsement and praised what he described as her leadership on issues such as immigration reform, advocating on behalf of military families and keeping illegal guns out of New York City, among other issues.

“Now, as I campaign across the country with a new vision called #LeadershipForTomorrow, I am honored to have the endorsement of Senator Gillibrand who—within our state and party—has been such a dynamic force for progress,” Blake said in a statement.

Political insiders told the Observer last month that the Bronx County Democratic Committee is not thrilled about his candidacy, given that he won his seat in 2014 by defeating a machine-backed candidate. Several critics accused him of him of moving too fast, given that he is still relatively new to elected office, and claimed he is using his Assembly seat as a launching pad for national glory—likely in Congress.

But Bronx State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres previously told the Observer that they support Blake for the intra-party post. So do several Midwestern party leaders: current DNC Vice Chairman R.T. Rybak—former mayor of Minneapolis and the first big-city mayor to endorse Obama for president—and David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.

The election for vice chair will take place next month among 450 voting members of the DNC, who will collectively elect the chair, five vice chairs, a treasurer, a secretary and a national finance chair. Given that there isn’t a Democratic president in office, the seats have now become competitive.

The candidates for DNC vice chair include Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng, who is running for reelection; Melissa Byrne, former national Get Out The Vote digital director for the Bernie Sanders campaign; Mitchell Ceasar, former chairman of the Broward County Democratic Party; and Elizabeth Jaff, head of business development and campaigns for Crowdpac, Inc.

Other candidates are Lorna Johnson, the honorary consul for Jamaica in Los Angeles; Latoia Jones, assistant director of human rights for the American Federation of Teachers and co-founder of Black & Engaged; Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party; and Adam Parkhomenko, co-founder of Ready for Hillary and was appointed by DNC Interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile to serve as the DNC’s national field director for the general election.

Kirsten Gillibrand Backs Bronx Assemblyman’s Bid for DNC Vice Chair