Primary Culler: Incumbent Gerson Battered in Council District 1


The primary’s a week away — we know, it snuck up on us too — so we figured we’d look at the state of play in some of the races. Today it’s the 1st City Council District.

Incumbent Alan Gerson is back on the ballot after a petition snafu. He’s got a ton of endorsements, including those of Sheldon Silver and Christine Quinn, and, to repeat, he’s the incumbent and this is New York, so he has to be considered the favorite…

…or does he? On Friday the Times endorsed someone else: “Newcomer Jin ‘P.J.’ Kim is a South Korean immigrant with degrees from Princeton and Harvard Business School”…

The Times also called Kim “vibrant.” But what’s he done? He served on CB1 for two years, worked at McKinsey, and ran a couple of non-profits. And as head of the Undergraduate Student Government at Princeton, the Daily Princetonian reports, Kim “sat on the search committee that chose Shirley Tilghman as the U.’s 19th president.” We might call him the Hope and Change candidate (get a load of his web site’s color scheme). Kim also has the backing of the large DC37 union.

Maybe the Times, interested in looking independent, was taking a shot at someone they perceived to be one of the less popular incumbents. They took space in their endorsement to say Gerson “has moved too uncertainly on vital issues.” What they mean we can’t be sure, though it may have something to do with his weak attendance record in the council; Streetsblog has given Gerson a hard time for foot-dragging on pedestrian and bike issues. But one thing that will almost certainly lose him some votes in the liberal district is his support for Bloomberg’s term limits overthrow, for which some of his fellow Democrats have criticized him.

Lawyer and Rebuild-Ground-Zero gadfly Pete Gleason is a down-to-earth, hi-howareya kind of guy (picture a young Lennie Briscoe) who leans on his history as a cop and a fireman — though the Voice‘s Wayne Barrett and Georgia Bobley questioned the extent of his service in each capacity. He’s done his part to damage Gerson by snagging the Downtown Independent Democrats’ endorsement, which Gerson had won in the previous two campaigns, and that of former Mayoral candidate Freddy Ferrer.

That leaves Margaret Chin, ongtime activist and perennial candidate (CIty Council Watch calls her “District 1’s Answer to Harold Stassen”). She has the backing of The Villager and the Downtown Express, neighborhood freebies the power of which shouldn’t be underestimated in a small-scale race. And old-timers will at least remember who she is.

(We listened when Gerson, Chin, and Gleason pitched to the Village Independent Democrats in April.)