How’d Yassky Do It? Maybe His Family’s Campaigning. (Or the Times Endorsement.)


By Aaron Howell

The day after the primary, it’s hard to pinpoint the deciding factor in David Yassky’s strong finish in the comptroller’s race, which forced a runoff with John Liu. (In its last-minute poll, SurveyUSA showed Yassky at 22 percent — virtually tied with Melinda Katz, and well behind Liu at 37 percent. Yassky ended up with just over 30 percent, while Katz faded to 20 percent.)

It might have been his father recruiting voters in front of the new Whole Foods on the Upper West Side; his mother stumping all day at P.S. 163 on West 97th Street (one of the largest polling places in the city); or Yassky’s election day barnstorming of the Upper West Side where, the Brooklyn councilmember said, “people don’t know me very well.”

(Obviously some in the neighborhood — like the man who heckled Yassky for five minutes at 72nd and Broadway over his vote in the city council to extend term limits — knew him well enough already.)

Joan Paylo, a district leaders for the 69th Assembly District and member of the Community Free Democrats political club, acknowledged that “term limits are very important in this area.” But for Yassky volunteer Corey Johnson, who works on Wall Street, that wasn’t a deciding factor. “The term limits vote put a lot of council members in a bad position,” said Johnson. But he still admired Yassky as a “progressive” elected official.

Yassky favors this impression: “I am not as traditional a politician, not as established as a player,” he said, “and I consider myself more of a progressive thinker.”

Yassky didn’t have much union support in the race. (Only two unions endorsed him: The Freelancers Union and the American Federation of Musicians Local 802.) Yassky’s campaign press officer Danny Kanner attributes that to “David’s willingness to speak the truth [to the unions] on what this city really needs to do in the next 10 to 15 years” to balance its budget. This may include Yassky’s plan to create a new Teir 5 pension for new city workers that would provide them with less money for retirement. (One voter yelled at Yassky, “Yeah, it’s all about fiscal responsibility — cut the pensions!”)

He did have other kinds of support, though. Gotham Gazette reported Yassky received $268,420 from the real estate lobby. Real estate developers such as David Kramer, vice president of the Hudson Companies, were prominent at his post-primary celebration.

Kanner nonetheless affirms that Yassky can stand up to powerful lobbies. He cites his work on the Brady Bill during his tenure with Senator Charles Schumer; his attempts to get Exxon Mobil to clean up the Greenpoint Oil Spill; and his support of affordable housing.

Maybe the low turnout helped Yassky. Maybe his endorsement by the New York Times turned the trick; Yassky seems to think so himself. We won’t know till the electoral maps are out, but maybe his family’s campaigning on the West Side picked up a few votes, too.