This column was originally published on January 6, 2014. Former Assemblyman Stevenson’s federal corruption began that day. A week later, the jury returned a guilty verdict on all four charges. Under NYS law, Mr. Stevenson was immediately expelled from office.
Challengers Eye Scandal-Plagued Bronx Assemblyman
BATTLE IN THE BOOGIE DOWN
Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, who is set to go on trial for corruption charges, may have some political problems, too.
The Bronx Democrat is likely to face several challengers this year if he chooses to seek re-election, and some of those candidates are already ramping up their operations, sources said.
“I don’t believe Stevenson is worthy of re-election,” Michael Benjamin, a political commentator who represented the Morrisania-based seat before Mr. Stevenson, told Politicker. “A number of people have approached me about running and at this time, I haven’t given it serious consideration. I’m not ruling it out. I learned from Sean Connery that you never say never.”
Mr. Stevenson, who was arrested in April and charged with taking $22,000 in bribes from four adult day care center developers in exchange for trying to help their business, has maintained his innocence. But his brand may have already been irreparably damaged by the allegations.
Mr. Benjamin, according to the Bronx Times, has been eying a run since September, though he initially downplayed such talk. A columnist for both City & State and the New York Post, Mr. Benjamin has carved out a niche for himself in local politics beyond his old stomping grounds. In September, he told the blog Welcome2TheBronx he preferred to stay in the private sector.
Another candidate, George Alvarez, is more committed to knocking off Mr. Stevenson and told Politicker that he has set a lofty goal of raising $100,000 to defeat the incumbent pol. Mr. Alvarez, who heads a political consulting firm and boasts a master’s degree in computer science, said he is content to run with or without the Bronx Democratic Party’s official support.
“What I’m trying to accomplish and demonstrate is that not all politicians come out of the same box. I think we have to prove to our people that not every single politician is corrupt,” he said. “We need to get the resources we need in order to uplift the community.”
The district, though majority Latino, boasts a large and higher-turnout black population that helped elect Mr. Stevenson and could propel someone like Mr. Benjamin, who is also black, into office again. Mr. Alvarez argued, however, that demographics are in his favor.
“Traditionally the district has been represented by an African-American candidate. If you see the demographics now in the district, they’re not the same as they were 20 or 30 years ago,” he argued. “Hispanics are dominant in the district.”
Also eying the seat are two district leaders, Tee Lawton and Cynthia Cox, sources said. Mr. Lawton has run for the seat before.
But driving out Mr. Stevenson won’t necessarily be easy. He hails from a local family dynasty: his father and grandfather were elected officials in the district and multiple candidates could split the anti-incumbent vote.
Mr. Stevenson did not immediately return a request for comment. His trial starts today.