Mirsky Scores Three Lines In Assembly Hunt
Despite long odds,Stu Mirsky, a local writer and former Assistant Commissioner inthe New York CityHealth Department,residing in Rockaway, Queens,recently secured three ballot linesin his drive to unseat two-decade incumbentDemocratic Assemblywoman Audrey Phefferinthe23rd AD. A registered Republican andfounding member of the recently established Rockaway Republicans, Mirsky has long voiced his concern atthe lack of political choiceafforded local voters and urged an injection of new blood into the political process.“The worst thing," says Mirsky, "is going into the voting booth each Election Day and seeingonly one name on a ballot line. What kind of choice is that? How can wecall that democracy?"
When no one else stepped forward to challengethenearly twenty year incumbent in his Assembly District this year, Mirsky decided tojust do ithimself. But it wasn't an easy decision, and it doesn't promise to be an easy race. Mirsky had toconvince three feuding Republican clubs to put asideold grudges and support him and he had to win over the Queens County Republican organizationwhich had long viewed him, and the club he's affiliated with, withdistrust. "But we did it," notes Mirsky with no little satisfaction as he contemplates the long, grueling hours of discussions and negotiations that precededparty unification.“We managed it, despitea number of stubborndisagreementsthat have kept usat odds for years."
Mirsky's group, the Rockaway Republicans got its start in 2004 by organizing and spearheading a political effort for George W. Bush. In 2005, they followed that up by initiating and hosting a downstate Republican Grassroots Summit that brought party leaders and activists from all over the greater metropolitan area together in Rockaway to share ideas and developstrategies forrevitalizingthe state GOP.
In late 2005,the Rockaway Republicans surprised party regulars by successfully winning 28 positions on the Queens County Republican Committee (out of31 races they contested) as they challenged their district leaders for control of the 23rd AD. Although unsuccessful in that challenge, they succeeded in shakingup a previously sleepy local party organization,eventually making peace with thevery leadership they hadat first opposed.
Later, after splitting their newly won votes on County Committee between the incumbentCounty Chairman and his insurgent opponent,the Rockaway Republicans patched up their differences with incumbent leader State Senator Serph Maltese and eventually won his confidence, receiving a long sought, and much coveted, state GOP charter at his hands.
In 2006, with no candidates on the local horizon willing to challenge the long time Democratic incumbent in the 23rd AD, Mirsky decided to bite the bullet himself. Reaching out to all three local GOP clubs and to the County organization, Mirsky made his pitch for unity and was rewarded by a strong, combined effort to get him on the ballot. All three clubs (plus some volunteers from out of the area) joined together to secure nearly twice the number of petition signatures needed to put him on the GOP line.The Queens County Conservative Party also offered an endorsement andgathered enough signatures to get him on their line, too. In a final coup,23rd AD Independence Party leader John Baxter threw his support toMirsky, as well,and collectedthe signatures needed to get himthe Independence line.
New York State's unusualelection law requires a substantial number of signatures fromregistrants in each party to place candidates on local ballots, makingit a major challenge to win a place on any politicalparty'sline withoutthe backing of astrong organizationwith plenty of volunteer petition-carriersto call on, or lots of money to pick up the slack. But Mirsky's group managedthree lines this year without either substantial organizational support or big money. In fact, the Mirsky campaign has yet to raise a single dollar in contributions.
`Going into what still promises to be an uphill fight against a long time incumbent Democrat, in a district with a strong Democratic enrollment advantage, Mirsky's serendipitous candidacy now seems well positioned to surprise. Recently sketchingout hisreasons for running, Mirsky emphasized the needto restoresanity and fiscal discipline to state governancein Albany.
"We spend way too much in this state," he notes, "even in flushtimes and our current crop of state legislators just lack fiscal discipline. Worse,state government is structured to minimize individualresponsibilityso legislators aren't held accountable forvotes that increase state debtor for giving us the highesttax rates in the country. My main reason for wanting to go up to Albany isto start to turn that around. I want to makeit harder for the legislature to spend more than it takes in andto keep raising ourtaxes in support of theirbig spending habits. In the course of this campaign, I'll be releasing a number of position paperson a variety of issues spelling outthe details of my proposals. Then it'll be up to the voters to decide ifit's time to changeour representation in the Assembly by sending someone like me up there to putthe brakes on."