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SPECIAL ELECTION COVERAGE: Vanessa Gibson Touts her Experience in Albany

May 29, 2009

GibsonAssembly member Aurelia Greene stepped down recently after 27 years on the job, to accept an offer to serve as Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.’s deputy.

Before leaving, she announced that she’d like her chief-of-staff, Vanessa Gibson, a Morris Heights resident, to run for her seat in the 77th Assembly District, which covers Highbridge, Morris Heights, and Morrisania.

Since then, Gibson, who jumped at the idea, has picked up the support of the Bronx Democratic Party and the Working Families Party, and is considered the favorite to win the special election on Tuesday, June 2.

Because of Greene’s sudden departure, the candidates have had only a few weeks to get their campaigns off the ground. Gibson, 30, has been so busy, she wishes she had “a clone.”  Typically, few people vote in special elections, Gibson says, and so she’s been rushing around the district letting people know there’s an election coming up, and that she’s the Democratic candidate.

Is she confident of victory? Yes, she insists, not least because the Democratic Party is helping to get the word out about her campaign. The party decision to back her shows they have “confidence in my ability to be a leader,” she said.  Also, she says she’s well known in the community for the work she’s done on Greene’s behalf these past few years.

(Turnout is usually low in special elections because voters have no other reason to go to the polls other than to support their chosen candidate. There’s no presidential race, for example, to draw voters out. Expect a vote count in the high hundreds or low thousands.)

Gibson grew up in Brooklyn and did her undergraduate degree at the University at Albany (SUNY) where she majored in sociology. As part of her studies, she interned at the State Capitol and was assigned to Greene’s office. The two hit it off. That was eight years ago. Gibson ended up working for Greene full-time in Albany, and more recently in the Bronx.

She says her years under Greene (whom she calls a “pillar of this community”) and her “Albany experience” makes her a strong and able candidate. “It’s not just about knowing your district, and knowing what your district needs,” she said. “You also have to understand how Albany works. I feel that I have that.”

If elected, Gibson says she would work to ensure landlords and property managers better maintain their buildings. And she’d look to bring more senior housing and middle-income housing into the district. “We need a middle-income housing component, because in order for our neighborhoods to flourish and to have some economic stability and viability… we need more than just low-income residents,” she said.

She said she’d welcome development, particularly development that brings in jobs, and not just retail jobs. “We need more jobs that pay [better] so they [people] don’t have to have two or three jobs to take care of themselves and their families,” she said. 

Gibson, whose career has taken off thanks to that internship in Greene’s office, would also like to see more opportunities for youth to intern and volunteer. And she wants to see a “computer center” built to encourage teenagers to use computers and learn about the Internet. “I’m a huge Internet buff, like Blackberry all the way!” she said. “And so I think we need some sort of computer center [in the district]. If you don’t learn now, technology keeps moving, and if you don’t move with it you will be lost.”

According to the latest campaign filings, Gibson’s campaign had raised $11,100, as of mid-May. Speaking earlier this week, she now puts it “close to 15.” Interestingly, Joel R. Rivera, Gibson’s opponent in the race, has raised more. Rivera, though, was forced to run as a Conservative, which could hurt him next Tuesday. (More on Rivera here.)

Gibson is also likely to benefit from the Bronx Democratic Party’s support – mailings and phone calls announcing her candidacy, for example. 

(According to Gibson, there’s a Republican in the race, but the Bronx Republican Party didn’t return a voice message requesting details. Meanwhile, the State’s Board of Elections Web site makes no mention of a Republican candidate.)

Assuming she wins, Gibson, who just completed a Masters in Public Administration at Barach College, says she’s excited about what she and her fellow legislators will be able to accomplish. “Now that both houses [the Senate and the Assembly] are under Democratic control it really allows a lot of the issues of working families to be addressed,” she said.

UPDATE: According to Chance Haywood, president of the Bronx County Young Republican Club, the Republican candidate is Barbara Bowland.  Bowland doesn’t appear to have done much fund-raising or campaigning, however.


Editor’s note: visit Gibson’s campaign Web site here.


3 Responses to “SPECIAL ELECTION COVERAGE: Vanessa Gibson Touts her Experience in Albany”

  1. SPECIAL ELECTION COVERAGE: Joel R. Rivera: I’m the “Community’s Candidate” : Mount Hope Monitor on May 29th, 2009 6:51 pm

    [...] If Rivera, though, was after Foster’s support for his assembly campaign, it hasn’t been forthcoming, at least not publically. And in Gibson he’s up against another African-American. (More on Gibson here.) [...]

  2. Tues, June 2nd: Special Elections in the Bronx « OntheWilderSide on June 1st, 2009 8:43 pm

    [...] Assembly covers Highbridge, Morris Heights, and Morrisania. The candidates are: Joel R. Rivera and Vanessa Gibson. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Shooting of State Trooper May Bring Back Death [...]

  3. Gibson Victorious in Assembly Race : Mount Hope Monitor on June 7th, 2009 5:12 pm

    [...] Editor’s note: For more on Gibson and her plans for the district see here. [...]

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