By Lincoln Anderson
Calling it the passing of the torch to the next leader who they hope will carry on the progressive political tradition on the Lower East Side, many local elected officials gathered on the City Hall steps last Friday to endorse Rosie Mendez for City Council.
Mendez is one of 11 candidates who last week filed petition signatures to get on the ballot in the September Democratic primary for District 2, which stretches from Murray Hill to the Lower East Side.
Among those endorsing Mendez at the press conference were two congressmembers, two state senators, three assemblymembers and two councilmembers, including, of course, Margarita Lopez for whom Mendez was a former chief of staff who has held the seat the last seven-and-a-half years.
The politicians cited Mendezs experience fighting for affordable housing, human rights and civil rights, as well as being a Democratic district leader for almost eight years, after having succeeded Lopez.
Shes been in training for the position, said Congressmember Nydia Velazquez. She knows the issues. She lives the issues.
Assemblymember Deborah Glick said having a candidate of Mendezs caliber who has worked for a councilmember is important because the term limits law has led to a decrease in institutional memory in the council.
Mendez grew up in public housing in Williamsburg and has lived in the district 10 years. She and Lopez are neighbors in the same East Village sweat-equity building, a formerly abandoned tenement building fixed up by the tenants.
Also throwing their support behind Lopez at last Fridays rally were Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, State Senators Martin Connor and Liz Krueger, and Assemblymembers Richard Gottfried and Steve Sanders, Councilmember Christine Quinn and former Councilmemer Miriam Friedlander, who used to represent the district.
In accepting their endorsements, Mendez said, What I have done, I have not done alone. Each and every one of you who walked a picket line with me, who came to protest the auctions of our community gardens
. I think Ive been blessed in this community. And not just today but in the past. The Lower East Side has always been about neighbors and friends helping each other, and today Im humbled by the support.
In petition filing, Mendez came out on top in terms of numbers, claiming to have filed 10,000 signatures. Although only 900 valid signatures of registered Democrats residing in the district are needed, candidates typically try to collect more to defend themselves against challenges to the signatures validity and also as a show of strength.
The other 10 candidates all filed petitions by last weeks deadline. According to reports, Brian Kavanagh is claiming to have filed 5,500 signatures; Darren Bloch to have filed more than 3,000 signatures; Michael Beys more than 2,900; Michael Lopez more than 2,000 and Reverend Joan Brightharp about 2,000.
In terms of the number of volumes of petition signatures filed, according to reports, Mendez filed 12 volumes; Kavanagh seven; Bloch and Beys three each; Michael Lopez, Gur Tsabar and Chris Papajohn two volumes each; and Mildred Martinez, Claudia Flanagan, Reverend Brightharp and Manuel Cavaco one volume each.
Some petitions are being challenged.