It’s Primary Day. The candidates have been scrambling to make last minute subway pitches, spend their final dollars on radio and television ads, and send volunteers to push campaign literature in people’s faces. So what does New York — a city where so many people appear detached from local politics — look like on the eve of a citywide election? And where did some of the candidates spend the evening before election day?
Just outside the subway station at 125th and Lenox Avenue, a middle-aged woman named Karen Battle hands out pamphlets in favor of John Liu for the office of comptroller (the city’s financial manager). Why was Battle, an African-American woman from the Bronx, spending her Monday afternoon in Harlem volunteering for a Chinese-American councilman from Flushing, Queens? After explaining that she feels like giving back to her community, she points to Reverend Al Sharpton’s name on the list of endorsements in the campaign brochure. “Al Sharpton is a fan, and anything Al Sharpton says he’s a fan of, I’m a fan too.” Liu also “exposed the MTA fraud,” she explained, but wasn’t exactly sure what that was (she had learned about it from staff members on Liu’s campaign)…
Liu’s opponent, David Yassky, a Yale-educated lawyer who is a councilman from the yuppified or fast-yuppifying Brooklyn corridor that runs from Greenpoint to Park Slope, was in a poorer part of his district last night. At the Church of Life Tabernacle on the border of Bed Stuy and Crown Heights, Yassky was being honored by the 76th Precinct Community Council for decades of service in helping the local precinct fight crime. “He’s running for Comptroller, so he likes the money!” a presenter announced. If he wins, she went on, we’ll all get more money! Yassky, a youngish white guy, seemed at home in this community meeting in this carribbean and black church.
Yassky’s very warm reception was still minor compared to that of Leticia James, the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill councilwoman who also showed up at the Tabernacle of Life. (Apparently James goes to these meetings pretty regularly.). Though this fiery anti-term limits pol from the Working Families Party may not get much love from Bloomberg Administration, within her own district she is queen. Wherever she is, whether it’s a DC 37 city workers union event or a community meeting at the Tabernacle of Life Church, James knows how to work a room. Just about everyone greets her like an old friend. How are you feeling about the race tomorrow, Tish? (James is running for relection). “Oh please,” she says. Totally relaxed.
Yassky, who has won endorsements from the Times and the Daily News, is running hard for comptroller. What will you do on your first day in office, we asked? Calm and upbeat, he has the job completely mapped out. He’ll ask his ‘division of productivity” to find where the weakest ten percent of every agency’s budget is being spent and fix it. He’s meet with his pension staff to discuss “ethical pension management” and his budget staff to discuss “transparency in the budget….” And so on. “The meetings are the easy part,” he conceded. “The harder part is getting things done.”