In what was described as a close vote, Assemblyman Nick Perry has been elected the new Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian legislative Caucus. He beat out a fellow Brooklyn Democrat, Walter Mosley, for the position in a race that many viewed as a showdown between the old and new guard in the state Assembly.

The Jamaican-born Perry, who is 64, was first elected to the Assembly in 1992. Mosley was first elected to the Assembly in 2012 to replace now-Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

For weeks, there was a belief among some of the younger members that Mosley had the election in the bag. He was even introduced recently at a press conference as the “next chair” of the caucus, to which he replied a terse “not yet.”

But that was soooo two weeks ago.

The new dynamic, which took shape relatively quickly, had the members rallying around Perry and rejecting Mosley. So what happened?

According to Mosley, who I ran into outside the Assembly chamber Monday evening just as the votes were being tallied, last week’s controversial vote on the troubled East Ramapo School District was to blame.

“East Ramapo killed me,” the assemblyman said, bluntly.

East Ramapo is a district where Orthodox Jews play a dominant role on the local school board. Those same Orthodox board members tend to send their children to private schools and Yeshivas. The charge has been that money is being diverted out of the public school system to benefit the private and parochial school kids, and as a result, some 9,000 black and Latino students get short-changed.

I don’t have any hard demographic data here, but suffice to say there is a belief among some of the Latino Assembly members that the majority of those 9,000 students are Latino, and many hail from immigrant families. It’s a sensitive and politically explosive matter.

You throw in the fact that some Latino Assembly members were already were unhappy there was no Latino candidate running for the position of caucus chair – the last chair, Assemblyman Karim Camara, who resigned his seat to take a job with the Cuomo administration, is also African American – and you have the makings of a divided caucus at vote time.

That is precisely what happened.

Specifically, the vote last Thursday was to establish an independent monitor for the East Ramapo School Board. But according to some, Mosley was nowhere to be found. He not only failed to vote, but he was “hiding out” near the restroom to avoid having to explain his vote (or non-vote, as the case may be).

The caucus is an extraordinarily important body within the Legislature. It is the first line of defense on minority issues. Its members are often out front, providing a champion for those who sometimes don’t have as strong a voice in the debate as they should on the critical pieces of legislation that impact their lives.

The caucus has consistently proven its ability to stand up to leadership when needed. Whoever leads the caucus needs to be ready to take on the tough fights – like when people try to dismiss the concerns of often disenfranchised NYC residents who are disproportionately lower income New Yorkers. Leadership means taking a stand – even when it is unpopular to do so – particularly on sticky issues involving race and religion.

Asked about his conduct during the East Ramapo vote, Mosley was unapologetic, saying he would do exactly the same thing again.

But as one observer put it…leadership also means learning from your mistakes.

The vote tally

The vote tally