By Stephen Witt
Longtime lawmaker Assemblywoman Annette Robinson (Bedford-Stuyvesant) on Saturday announced she is retiring from her seat and quickly endorsed and pledged her support for Community Board 3 Chair Tremaine Wright as her successor.
The announcement came over the weekend at the Vanguard Independent Democratic Association Breakfast. VIDA also nominated its President Henry Butler to run as a Hillary Clinton delegate in the upcoming April 19 Democratic Primary.
Robinson’s retirement sets up an expected tough race for the 56th Assembly District seat between Wright and community activist Karen Cherry.
Both candidates come from the neighborhood. Wright grew up on the same block off Tompkins Avenue in a tightly knit multigenerational family. She went on to receive a BA from Duke and a JD from the University of Chicago Law School, where one of her professors was President Barack Obama.
After graduating, she opened the Common Grounds Coffee House at 376 Tompkins Avenue, which enjoyed a good reputation for both political discourse and artists. However, last year, Wright closed the coffee shop.
In 2009, Wright, along with four other candidates including current City Councilman Robert Cornegy, unsuccessfully challenged VIDA founder and veteran lawmaker Al Vann when he decided to run for a third term in the City Council. In 2012, Wright joined VIDA and she currently is the chair of Community Board 3.
Wright said in a statement that she was elated to receive VIDA’s endorsement and plans to run a strong, people-powered campaign.
Cherry grew up in NYCHA’s Tompkins Houses on the northern end of the district. A longtime community activist, she cut her political teeth as an active member of former Congressman Ed Towns’ United Democratic Club. She went on to work for Towns as a community liaison for over 20 years and currently works in the same capacity for Bushwick Assembly member Erik Dilan.
“I’m all about transparency and speaking the truth,” said Cherry, who said she has already garnered support from Towns for the run and is talking to several other people both in and adjacent to the district.
Cherry said the issues are as diverse as the district. “Every section has its own issues. In the NYCHA developments the issues are more about jobs, education and crime. In other parts, it’s about longtime tenants being kicked out and homeowners wanting to stay in their homes,” she said.
Cherry said she is about going straightforward and talking about the issues, and also paid tribute to Robinson.
“Annette (Robinson) has a good conscience and does what’s right,” said Cherry. “I’m honored to run behind her and fill that seat. She was always about informing and letting constituents know the resources out there and that’s good leadership.”
The New York State Assembly Primary is slated for Sept. 13
Editor’s disclosure: The author of this story, Stephen Witt, read from his novel, “American Moses”, at Common Ground and also played songs from his EP, “Simply Stephen Witt”, at the coffee shop.