Forget the mayoral, comptroller and public advocate races. The best political show in town is taking place in Bayside, Queens where leaders are wrestling with the question of whether a strong Republican city council nominee should be forced from his race — just because he’s a card-carrying pagan.
The candidate in question is GOP council nominee Dan Halloran who was revealed in a September 17 story in the Queens Tribune to be a member of a religious organization that is, well – heathen. Here’s how the Tribune described it:
“Halloran is the ‘First Atheling,’ or King, of Normandy, a branch of the Theod faith of pre-Christian Heathen religions assembled in the Greater New York area. A group of dedicated fellow pagans swear their allegiance to him through oaths of fidelity, allowing luck from a series of ancient gods – specifically the ‘Norse’ or ‘Germanic’ gods Odin, Tyr and Freyr – to pass through the King to his kinsmen.”
In a website that quickly disappeared after the Trib story ran, Halloran wrote: “We believe in and honor the Gods and Goddesses of the North, spirits of the land, and the memories of our ancestors,” he wrote.
That sounds tailor-made for participation in the Bloomberg-Quinn axis now ruling City Hall, but the story has stirred up big problems in Queens along with a different kind of debate about religious tolerance.
Up until the story ran, Halloran was the odds-on favorite to win the November general election against newcomer Kevin Kim who won last week’s Deocratic primary against a crowded field seeking to fill Tony Avella’s vacated seat.
Now all bets are off, and City Hall news blog reports today that Republican leaders are negotiating to swap Halloran for Paul Vallone, member of the illustrious Queens Democratic clan who lost to Kim in the primary.
Reports City Hall’s Chris Bragg, Halloran would get a judgeship instead (presumably since paganism is tolerated much more on the bench than in the council.) This is easier said than done, however, because Halloran hasn’t been an attorney for the required 10 years. One solution broached by Queens GOP leaders, reports Bragg, is to nominate Halloran “regardless” and worry about “the legal ramifications later.” Sounds right to us.
That might be enough for your average mini-scandal, but there’s more: Halloran is calling foul on the story – not because he’s ashamed of his religious affiliation (“I am not comfortable with injecting my religion into my politics,” he told the Trib. Hear Hear!), but because a Kim campaign consultant also happens to be the VP of the Queens Tribune, and because Queens congressman Gary Ackerman, who founded the paper and still holds a chunk of it, used to be Kim’s boss and who urged his old employee to make the race, says City Hall.
Kim appeared this morning in City Hall plaza along with other Democratic council primary winners to endorse Bill de Blasio for Public Advocate. Asked about his rival, he offered the politically savvy response of any frontrunner. “I don’t want to comment on anyone’s religion,” he said. “It’s up to the Republicans who they nominate.”
He did acknowledge that Tribune VP Michael Nussbaum (a veteran Queens Democratic party player who was nailed on a bribery rap in the Donald Manes scandal, oh and who also organized Democrats for Bloomberg in 2005) is a paid consultant to his campaign and that he used to work for Ackerman as a constituent advisor. “You’ll have to ask the Tribune about their articles,” he said. “It has nothing to do with me.”