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Race to Fill Inez Dickens' Harlem Council Seat Gears Up

By Dartunorro Clark | January 9, 2017 2:40pm | Updated on January 9, 2017 4:42pm
 The candidates running in the District 9 race, include, from left to right: Charles Cooper, a former Community Board 9 vice chair and businessman; Marvin Holland, policy director for TWULocal 100; Dawn Simmons, a teacher and social worker; Mamadou Drame, a community activist; Pierre Gooding, former general counsel for Success Academy; Donald D. Fields, a businessman; Troy Outlaw, a former City Council aide; State Sen. Bill Perkins. Not pictured: Todd R. Stevens and Shanette M. Gray.
The candidates running in the District 9 race, include, from left to right: Charles Cooper, a former Community Board 9 vice chair and businessman; Marvin Holland, policy director for TWULocal 100; Dawn Simmons, a teacher and social worker; Mamadou Drame, a community activist; Pierre Gooding, former general counsel for Success Academy; Donald D. Fields, a businessman; Troy Outlaw, a former City Council aide; State Sen. Bill Perkins. Not pictured: Todd R. Stevens and Shanette M. Gray.
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HARLEM — The fight to replace Inez Dickens is getting crowded.

Among the 12 candidates vying for the longtime representative's city council seat — which will be vacated when Dickens takes her new post as state assemblywoman — are political newcomers, community leaders and established politicians.

With a special election slated for February 14, two of candidates in the field — State Sen. Bill Perkins and Marvin Holland — stand out from the pack, banking on name recognition, record and political experience to win the seat which covers Harlem and parts of the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights.

Dickens handily won her race for the state Assembly, a seat formerly held by Keith Wright, after terms limits forced her out of the council.

Wright ran an unsuccessful bid for outgoing U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel’s seat and recently took a job with a lobbying firm. 

Holland, the political director for Transit Workers Union Local 100, told DNAinfo New York that his grassroots work and political lobbying in Albany and the city council were catalysts for seeking elected office for the first time.

“I can do more for the community by running for office,” he said. “Understanding how the messy sausage is made."

“Everyone during my time in Albany, they talk about how dysfunctional it was, but I was able to get things passed,” he said, pointing to a veterans bill his organization lobbied for.

Holland said as a union leader he’s built recognition in the community.

“No one is going to outwork me, no one ever has,” he said. "No one’s going to bring a coalition together like I can.”

He did, however, note the challenges of running against Perkins, who held the seat prior to Dickens and is recognized by voters throughout the district.

“Bill Perkins is a known commodity, there’s no denying that,” he said.

“I think people will begin to see that I’m not an unknown in Harlem and people are going to get behind me.”

And yet that’s where Perkins says he has the upper hand.  

“I’m not running on a name,” Perkins said emphatically. “I’m running on a record.” 

Perkins said he has a “head start” on how to “navigate the system,” having been the councilman for the Ninth District before moving to the senate in 2006. Like Dickens, term limits forced him to seek elected office in Albany.

Perkins also said he does not think voters will see his hopping between different elected positions as a negative.

He said, however, voters will pick the person who they think will do the best job.

He said he decided to come back to the council because, “I believe I can do more from the perspective of the council than from the perspective of Albany.”

“Not to dismiss the value, but being in the minority is not as fruitful, so to speak,” he said.

“At one point in time we were in the majority, the difference is day and night in terms of delivering resources.”

Other candidates include:

►Charles Cooper, a former Community Board 9 vice-chair and businessman;

►Mamadou Drame, a community activist;

Donald D. Fields, a businessman;

►Pierre Gooding, former general counsel for Success Academy;

►Troy Outlaw, a former City Council aide;

►Dawn Simmons, a teacher and social worker;

► Athena Moore, an aide to the Manhattan Borough President;

►​ Larry Scott Blackmon, the former Deputy Commissioner for Community Outreach at the city Parks Department;

► Todd R. Stevens (no information publicly available)

► Shanette M. Gray (no information publicly available)