Residency Issues Threaten Michael Blake’s Assembly Campaign

Residency Issues Threaten Michael Blake’s Assembly Campaign

Residency Issues Threaten Michael Blake’s Assembly Campaign
July 30, 2014

Shortly before Michael Blake announced his campaign for New York State Assembly in the Bronx, the Daily News published a story citing a potential residency problem for the Obama acolyte. Opponents claimed Blake didn’t meet the state constitution’s five-year residency requirement to run for state office.

Last week, lawyers representing Marsha D. Michael, a candidate supported by the Bronx Democratic organization filed specific objections to Blake’s petition signatures and residency.

Critics say such challenges thwart democracy.

Benny Catala, Michael’s campaign manager, justified the challenge saying, “Every aspect of [election law] rules and regulations should be upheld [because] no one is exempt.”

"New York permits multiple residences and voting is only one indicia of residence. There are many," cautioned election law expert Jerry Goldfeder.

An independent review of Michael Blake’s residence reveals that prior to registering to vote in the Bronx in 2013; Blake lived and voted in Washington, D.C. Tax records indicate he paid income taxes in the District of Columbia, as well.

Board of Elections records indicate that Blake first registered to vote in New York in June 2013 from Edison Arms, a federally subsidized apartment complex for seniors and disabled people, where his mother lives. Edison Arms, located on Decatur Ave., is in the Bronx’s 78th AD. This past January, Blake re-registered from 837 Washington Ave. in the 79th AD, the district in which he is now running to replace disgraced former assemblyman Eric Stevenson, who was convicted in May of accepting bribes.

Blake appears to have no New York City voting history prior to last year. He voted by absentee ballot in the 2013 primary and general elections. He voted in person for the public advocate run-off election that October. On both of his absentee ballot applications and absentee ballot affidavits, Blake claimed his mother’s Decatur Ave. address as his primary address. Oddly, he had the primary absentee ballot mailed to him at his Washington Ave. address.

Steve Richman, counsel to the New York City Board of Elections, points out that a signed absentee ballot application listing a new home address serves as a “change of address.”

On the general election absentee ballot application that he filed on November 4, 2013, Blake again listed his residence as 2828 Decatur Ave.

Blake didn’t file an official change of address to the 79th AD with the Board of Elections until January 2014—missing the change of address deadline that would have made him eligible to run for the Assembly.

In April, Blake spokesman Andrew Moesel claimed that his candidate had indeed submitted the change of address paperwork in advance of the November 2013 deadline, and blamed the Board of Elections for a clerical mix-up resulting in the appearance that he had failed to do so in time.

The Board of Elections says it does not have evidence to support this contention.

Requests by this columnist to independently review documents that would establish Blake’s residence, such as leases, DMV records and tax returns were rebuffed by his campaign.

Apparently changing its tune, the Blake campaign now maintains that the Bronx has always been the candidate’s home. “This is now a matter for the court and that is where the decision will be made.”

The court case challenging Blake’s residency begins today.

Bronx Democratic party spokesman Patrick Jenkins, responding via email, wrote, “We believe all of the candidates should comply with the rules, the law and the New York State Constitution.” Jenkins expressed confidence that Marsha Michael, the party’s pick, will make an exceptional member of the Assembly.

No matter how you slice it, Blake appears ineligible to run for state office in the Bronx. He fails to meet two basic thresholds: (a) five years in-state residence, and (b) living in the assembly district one year prior to the general election.

The $160,000 Blake has raised—a war chest he has pronounced to be “historic”—his premature $100,000 in spending, the laudatory media profiles he has received, and the alienation of local allies he has provoked, all seems to be for naught.

For some voters, it’s another setback for a beleaguered assembly district.

 

Michael Benjamin is a columnist for City & State, and a former assemblyman from the Bronx. He represented the 79th district—the one discussed in this article—for eight years, from 2003-2010.

Michael Benjamin
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