Big changes are happening in the Bronx.
In a few weeks, Democratic district leaders across the borough are expected to vote on their next county chair, a political position that holds a lot of sway in determining which candidates to support for elected office in the borough.
Sources say State Sen. Jamaal Bailey is the leading candidate for the role. He spoke with us exclusively about the position.
“I am certainly interested in being the chair,” he said. “And I’ve had good conversations with district Leaders around the county who vote to determine who the next Democratic County Chair will be.”
Much has changed in the Bronx in just the last few months. Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr., a controversial figure for his conservative views, lost his bid for Congress. Diaz and his son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., have been active in Bronx Democratic politics since the 1990s.
Diaz Jr. recently announced that he would not run for mayor, as had long been expected. And earlier this year, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, a protege of Diaz Sr., announced that he was resigning from Bronx politics.
The old guard has been criticized for being insular and a bit of “boys club.” Bailey rejected that characterization but acknowledged a need for the party to go in a different direction.
“We have to be more receptive and listen what the people of our borough,” he said. “those who elect us, are saying. And it looks like folks want us to do something differently.”
Marjorie Velazquez is a district leader now running for City Council. She is a supporter of Bailey as county leader.
“I think that for a while it seems like folks have felt removed from decision making, removed from conversations,” she said. “And how do we open that door up, or how do we let people know that that door is being opened?”
And the faces of representation are also changing in the Bronx, home to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others who are expected to be seated as members of Congress in January. That includes Ritchie Torres, the openly gay City Councilman who defeated Diaz Sr., who is known for making anti-gay remarks, and Jamal Bowman, who defeated Rep. Eliot Engel, long-serving incumbent in the north Bronx, in their Democratic primary.
The Bronx Democratic organization represents one of the last political machines in the city. But by embracing reform, it could help maintain their power broker status for the upcoming mayoral election. County leaders have not committed to any one candidate now that Díaz Jr. is out of the race.