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July 21, 2019

New York pols hash out the upcoming legislative agenda and jockey for open seats at the Somos conference in PR

November 8, 2018
Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, D-Bronx, center,stands with members of the New York Assembly Democratic Conference during a rally at the state Capitol on the last scheduled day of the 2018 legislative session Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. (Hans Pennink / AP)

The polls closed and the pols headed south.

New York City’s elected officials, consultants, lobbyists and politicos about town descended on San Juan Wednesday evening for the annual Somos El Futuro conference, the first held since Hurricane Maria hit the island.

Few were there for the panel discussions — the annual post-election event is typically an opportunity not just to foster the city’s relationship with Puerto Rico, but for political types to don some casual clothes and break down Tuesday’s wins and losses and what comes next.

“I think we understand that Somos gives us an opportunity to come together, the issues that we’re fighting for in New York, you know, the session is coming around the corner, we have a number of workshops all dedicated to our agenda, but we also want to not lose sight of the fact that we play a role as a diaspora for Puerto Rico,” Bronx Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, chairman of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force that hosts of the event.

That role includes advocated for the people of Puerto Rico to resolve their “status,” Crespo said.

“Until the people of Puerto Rico really have the representation that comes with being American citizens, that’s our role is to be there for them and to mobilize and advocate and raise awareness about their needs, and we saw that never more than after Hurricane Maria,” he said.

Of course, there will be some partying — in his welcome remarks Crespo noted there would be old-school hip hop in the hotel’s nightclub Friday night — and tons of politicking.

“Can’t put too many politicians together without talking a little politics,” Crespo said.

This year’s conference comes with the added intrigue of a special election for public advocate — which essentially began weeks ago but has now kicked into high gear with Public Advocate Letitia James making her election as state attorney general official Tuesday night.

The bar at the El San Juan was buzzing with talk about who the frontrunners in the crowded, off-season election would be — with sources saying Councilman Jumaane Williams, who won’t be attending this year’s conference, was already lining up support from a slew of officials and had been calling people at all levels of government looking to get them on board. Others noted the potential fundraising prowess of Assemblyman Michael Blake, a vice chair of the Democratic National Convention.

Former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito — a native of Puerto Rico who will be at the conference — is also likely to run for the seat, a source close to her has told the News. Her predecessor, Christine Quinn, is also eyeing the seat. And a slew of Council members — much of the body will be term-limited in 2021 — have also stated their intentions to run.

Whoever wins will then have to run again, in a potential September primary and certain November election, to hold the seat for the rest of James’s term. For an ambitious pol, or one who has been out of office for a few years, the gig can be a quick road to becoming a mayoral contender.

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