Democratic Alliance endorses differently


By Aliza Appelbaum

The Northwest Bronx Democratic Alliance has endorsed two Albany outsiders for key primary races in the 2010 elections.

The NBDA endorsed Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice for state attorney general and community organizer Mark Levine for the 31st District state Senate seat.

“These two races are in dire need of good, new people, and when you have qualified candidates step up, it’s exciting,” said Tony Cassino, former member of Community Board 8 and one of the founders of the NBDA.

The Northwest Bronx Democratic Alliance was founded in 2001 to rival the Ben Franklin Democratic Club, which is the club to which local elected officials, like Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and City Councilman Oliver Koppell, belong. The club endorsed state Sen. Eric Schneiderman for state attorney general, and Marble Hill Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat for the state Senate seat being vacated by Mr. Schneiderman.

But while the Ben Franklin Club has endorsed familiar Bronx faces and allies for the two races, the NBDA has opted to go in the other direction.

“It’s a sad fact that Mr. Schneiderman and Mr. Espaillat are neck-deep in the political mud an filth of Albany’s abysmal and exclusive legislative club,” said Brad Trebach, also a former member of CB 8 and an executive committee member of the NBDA. “Both of our candidates are not from that system.”

Mr. Cassino agreed, noting that anyone currently serving in the state government has already had some kind of chance to reform it.

“Who gave us Pedro Espada? The state Senate,” Mr. Cassino said. “They voted him their leader. The responsibility of saying ‘yes’ goes on the shoulders of everyone in that body.”

Even Mr. Espaillat, who serves in the Assembly, is not substantially different, Mr. Cassino said.

“It’s hard to reform things if you’ve been a part of the problem all those years,” he said. “I don’t think we need somebody from Albany to make a move to another seat. We need someone there who has not been part of that culture.”

Both clubs aim to represent the northwest Bronx, which is more or less the 81st Assembly district seat held by Mr. Dinowitz, and parts of the 31st, 33rd and 34th state Senate district seats held by Mr. Schneiderman, Pedro Espada Jr., and Jeff Klein, respectively. The NBDA has a slightly smaller reach than the Ben Franklin club, and has not yet decided whether to endorse in the 33rd. But while local pols flock to the Ben Franklin Club, the NBDA has a distinct lack of elected officials in its ranks.

“There’s a big difference between us and the local politicos,” Mr. Trebach said. “We’re supporting people who will look out for the northwest Bronx and its concerns. The local politicians are simply looking to cut the best deal for themselves.”

The NBDA has a little more than 100 members, and the 20- member executive committee made the endorsements unanimously, Mr. Cassino said. They have not yet decided whether to endorse a candidate in the crowded race to replace Mr. Espada in the 33rd district, hoping, like the Ben Franklin Club, that the field narrows itself down so they can consider supporting a candidate before the primary.

Support, Mr. Trebach said, means galvanizing voters to rally for those candidates, raising awareness and funding and getting petition signatures.

“It’s not a hollow endorsement, we intend to work for these candidates,” Mr. Trebach said.

Mr. Cassino said he mostly hopes that new candidates like Mr. Levine and Ms. Rice will inspire people to come back to the polls.

“Voter participation is so low, people are so tuned out because of what people were talking about … people are so disgusted with the whole process,” Mr. Cassino said. “These two candidates are slam dunks.”