Election Day 2009: 6 Losers to Watch!
It's Election Day and, this being New York, no surprises are expected. As Runnin' Scared has no influence to peddle, we can afford to be brutally honest about this. The Mayor's reelection is treated as a foregone conclusion and, down-ticket, the Democrats are expected to romp (except in Staten Island, where the Republicans are expected to romp -- everywhere, that is, but on the north shore, where Debi Rose is expected to romp).
About the only joy this leaves poll-watchers is seeing how close the also-rans can get. And there are races where they could get uncomfortably close. In fact, in a case or two, they might just pull it off. That's the miracle of democracy!
Here's a short list of contenders who, contrary to custom, could make things interesting today:
Alex Zablocki, Republican, Public Advocate. The challenger to Bill de Blasio is full of what our dear old grandma called piss and vinegar. He appeared at the first New York Tea Party, and spoke at the much-larger second one, denouncing New York's status as "the most taxed state in the nation" and drawing roars from the crowd; if even a third of those people are eligible to vote in the city, Zablocki will make a good showing -- especially versus 2005, when the GOP fielded no candidate and Betsy Gotbaum got 89 percent. He hits relentless the rightwing talking points of the day: He called for volunteers to design ACORN costumes for Halloween, and the 69th A.D. Republican Club recently sent us a note promising Zablocki will "push for lower pension benefits for new city employees in defiance of New York's Working Families Party and their puppet masters at ACORN." But he knows how to pander, too, advocating "more funding for our public schools." That's a winning combination -- or, in this case, a not-losing-too-badly combination.
Jim Lesczynski, Libertarian, Public Advocate. If anyone can give Zablocki a run for his money in the race for second, it's Lesczynski, who boldly promises to "eliminate the position of Public Advocate," which he says is a "do-nothing job that was designed to give empty-suit politicians a place to grandstand." Lesczynski made his Libertarian bona fides by distributing toy guns outside a Harlem public school to make a point about nanny-state laws -- though a sympathetic follower admits, "The good folks in Harlem didn't get the joke." In his last blog post in August, he announced to his readers he was "off the ballot... my heart just wasn't in the race this year, as demonstrated by my lame petitioning effort..." but the Board of Elections still lists him. Clearly he's not running hard, which just shows how much he disdains the office. For some voters that may be motivation enough to vote for him.
Mark Winston Griffith, Working Families Party, City Council, 36th District. Democratic long-timer Al Vann is expected to cruise, but firebrand councilman Charles Barron and Al Sharpton have endorsed Griffith. Why? "People feel like [Vann has] retired on the job," says Griffith. The sometime Huffington Post contributor and liberal Drum Major Institute fellow brings fire to the campaign, and is bent on "liberating Central Brooklyn families from the prison of failing schools." Griffith lost by eight points to Vann in the Democratic primary, and is one of the few contenders to buck his party and stay in the game. Brooklyn Ron calls this the "most interesting race in the city."
Reverend Billy Talen, Green Party, Mayor. You already know about Reverend Billy, whom we have interviewed extensively here, and his Church of Life After Shopping. He's certainly the best-publicized third-party candidate this side of NY-23, having famously heckled Mayor Bloomberg at a debate to which the Reverend was unaccountably uninvited. A recent poll showed "other" candidates drawing seven percent of citizens' support. Voters disgusted with the major parties and looking for a protest candidate are most likely to remember Talen's name, his passion, and his pompadour.
Salim Ejaz, Rent is Too Damn High Party, Comptroller. This Party's mayoral candidate, Jimmy McMillan, runs a close second to Reverend Billy for publicity. But his unwanted ticket partner has raised some ruckus himself. Ejaz, who unlike Republican candidate Joe Medola raised enough money to qualify to debate Democrat John Liu in October, withdrew himself mid-campaign from the Rent is Too Damn High Party over alleged anti-Semitic remarks by McMillan, who in return disowned Ejaz. Registered Democrat Ejaz, who likes to be called Sal, remains on the ballot, and runs on his superior financial experience ("Sal is a professional accountant [CPA], while John Liu just has a bachelor's degree in physics"). McMillan holds a lot of affection from disgruntled voters for running against the hated Eliot Spitzer in 2006, but this week an Ejaz supporter claimed that the "New York Muslim community overwhelmingly supports Salim Ejaz for comptroller." Which of the Rent is Too Damn High candidates will draw the most votes? It's an interesting side bet in an otherwise dull election.
Dan Halloran, Republican, City Council, 19th District. Thanks in part to our own Steven Thrasher, you probably know more about Halloran's religious status as "first atheling," or prince, of New Normandy than his other qualifications for office. The Flushing Republican stands forthrightly against "the 'tax and recklessly spend' policies that make home ownership less affordable." This district was previously represented by the liberal Tony Avella, so Halloran would have been an unlikely victor in any case, but considering the publicity his beliefs has raised -- and the attempts of members of his own party to nudge him from the ballot -- we will be interested to see how many votes he winds up with. If he cracks 30 percent, chalk it up to the intercession of Odin.
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