13, No. 16
24 - Sept. 6, 2000
With Dem Machine's Backing,
Seabrook Aims for Congress
By HANNAN ADELY
congressional races are usually predictable affairs with the incumbent
usually sailing to victory in both the primary and general elections.
But this year the chief of the Bronx Democratic Party, Assemblyman
Roberto Ramirez, put the weight of his political machine behind Congressman
Eliot Engel's opponent, State Senator Larry Seabrook. And, as even
Engel admits, that has made the race in the 17th Congressional District
anything but predictable.
Seabrook, who is African American, is considered to have a fighting
chance because of the large black and Latino population in the district.
It wouldn't be the first time Seabrook has defeated an incumbent.
In 1984, Seabrook, then a college Political Science instructor, became
the first African-American to win a Democratic primary nomination
for Assembly in the north Bronx, defeating five-time incumbent Vincent
Marchiselli. Seabrook went on to win the Assembly seat.
But Seabrook, who served in the Assembly for 12 years and is now in
his fourth year in the Senate, has been dogged by allegations of scandal
and absenteeism. Seabrook was investigated in 1995 for misusing $390,000
in state and city funds earmarked for a youth program. After the investigation
found little evidence of the youth programs existing, the funds were
cut off. And in 1997, Seabrook was accused of submitting business
expenses on 15 days when he was absent or excused from legislative
Seabrook has also been widely criticized for his attendance record
in Albany. In 1995, the Daily News reported that Seabrook, then an
assemblyman, missed 466 votes, slightly more than a quarter of his
When he does attend legislative sessions, Seabrook votes along liberal
lines, supporting measures for abortion rights, affirmative action
programs and campaign finance reform.
Among Seabrook's supporters are east Bronx assemblymen Jeffrey Klein
and Stephen Kaufman. In an interview earlier this summer, Klein praised
Seabrook's ability to work well with other elected officials and the
community. "He's a proven coalition builder and I think he'll carry
that over into office," Klein said.
Although some political observers have accused Ramirez of endorsing
Seabrook to garner black support for Bronx Borough President Fernando
Ferrer's mayoral bid, Ramirez said that's simply not true. "My history
has been supporting the best candidate," Ramirez said. Seabrook's
qualifications include his "ardent support" of bilingual education
and his activism on the issue of police brutality and campaigning
to end the U.S. Navy's military maneuvers on Vieques Island, Puerto
Rico, according to Ramirez.
To his supporters, Seabrook, president of the Association of Black
and Puerto Rican Legislators, is a strong advocate for minority issues.
He boycotted a session of the state legislature to protest of the
police shooting of unarmed immigrant Amadou Diallo and has pressured
his colleagues to pass legislation concerning police brutality. And,
according to news reports, he has also been a vocal critic of cutbacks
in education funding, and led protests over Governor George Pataki's's
proposed budget in 1995 that would have slashed funding for higher
On the home front, Seabrook was involved in efforts to stop the construction
of a "hot sheets" motel that east Bronx residents feared would bring
prostitution to the community.
But some community leaders who reside in the east Bronx and parts
of Mount Vernon, say that even though Seabrook takes their side on
many issues, he does not make himself available. Gloria Alexander
of the 47th Precinct Clergy Coalition, an east Bronx community group,
said that when the group has tried to contact Seabrook on issues of
concern to them, they have gotten no response.
Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis said he considers Seabrook a personal
friend who has always been helpful, but he chose to endorse Engel
in the race for Congress. "It's in the interest of the City of Mount
Vernon," he said. "The congressman has always delivered for this community."
Editor's Note: Despite repeated attempts, neither Larry Seabrook
nor his staff responded to Norwood News requests for an interview.
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