The Rockaway Irregular
There's no easier way to say it. In this year's race for State Assembly in the 23rd AD, in which I was the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party candidate, I got my head handed to me. My colleagues and supporters have offered me a variety of ways to think about this, noting that we did succeed in providing voters with a genuine choice, something that was paramount in my mind when I first decided to run. They've also pointed out that my numbers were "respectable" in a year when Democrats trounced Republicans across the spectrum. But, in fact I got only 23.7% of the vote vs. Audrey's 76.3%. That's respectable?
A decade ago I took my old political mentor, Tom Swift, to task for only winning 27% in his second run against Audrey, thanks to a lackluster campaign in which he sometimes seemed asleep at the switch. But I couldn't even break 25% across the district in my race, though GOP and conservative votes combined have tended to produce a 30% bedrock number for our side in the past.
I did better in the western end of Rockaway of course, where I hang my hat, but even there the best I could do was 37% in the 50th ED - which isn't even mine! In the 49th, where I reside, I came in at only 34.6%. Overall, in the Belle Harbor/Neponsit area, I managed 33.9%, stronger than in most other areas but clearly not strong enough. In Breezy we almost matched the 50th ED's 37% number with a very respectable 36.9%. But even taking these relatively strong areas together, we still fell well short of the 40% threshold I'd hoped for, overall, to demonstrate a strong sentiment for conservative policies in our communities.
On the eastern end, the Far Rockaway area, where I lived for a time after my wife and I married, I did much, much worse. The numbers I've seen so far suggest that I came in around the mid-teens at best in key areas and this dragged our overall numbers down on the peninsula. In the end we were reduced to hoping for substantial support from conservative Republican areas on the mainland to pull our sizzling electoral fat out of the fire. But in Howard Beach, where I was unable to get the most widely read local newspaper to even give me coverage during the campaign, we couldn't break out of the twenties. I don't know how we did yet in Broad Channel or Ozone Park, but given the final tally, it's clear we didn't do well in those areas either.
It was a Democratic year my friends and supporters say. And we didn't have much money (I think we spent about $2500 in total). More, the local media were mostly lined up against us.
Though a few papers, like The Wave, were good in giving us coverage, most of them simply maintained a kind of radio silence regarding our efforts, with The Forum in Howard Beach being the most egregious in its absolute refusal to carry any of our articles or press releases.
I was also not the best candidate in the world. I found that I hated running around in the evenings, all suited up, from one meeting to another, checking my watch, skipping dinner, hastily reading my notes to be sure I was up on all the points I wanted to talk about when I got up to speak. And I didn't much like public speaking either (though I learned anew that I can do it when pressed). Nor did I like the task of soliciting folks for votes or money. One of my strongest supporters accused me of being shy, even timid he said, about asking for contributions. He was right, of course.
So where does that leave things? I wanted to run this year because I believed elections without candidates competing against one another are a travesty. And I wanted to present voters with a different agenda, a different vision.
While Audrey ran on a platform of "more" of everything, including more government spending for more programs and more benefits, both for individual voters and community groups, I made the case for restoring fiscal accountability by cutting spending and lowering taxes, opening up the electoral process to increase personnel turnover in Albany, and eliminating the legislative strictures that have prompted some to call our legislature the "most dysfunctional in the country." Clearly my message resonated less well with district voters than Audrey's did.
And so, as the numbers demonstrate, the voters of the 23rd AD have made their choice resoundingly, deciding not to send me up to Albany to replace Audrey after all. I can only wish Audrey the best and congratulate her on her very strong win. I'm glad we were both able to run a civil campaign to the end, avoiding the bitterness and partisanship that has marred so much of electoral politics in this country in recent years. Sharing Audrey's concern for, and belief in, our community, I want her to know that I hope she will be successful in her efforts for this area though I cannot promise I will always agree with her or refrain from criticism.
As for my group, the Rockaway Republicans, I hope they won't take my overwhelming defeat at the polls as a commentary on their efforts. They have built themselves up from nothing in less than three years to become a voice, if still only a minority voice, on our peninsula. Through their efforts we have reached out and established ties with many Republicans throughout the city, some of whom were also extremely helpful throughout these past few grueling months. To those folks, too, I must extend my deepest thanks.
I couldn't have run the race alone and I'm certain the percentages I got wouldn't have even been as high as they were without the dedication and good will they brought to the table. Now the voters have spoken, sending Audrey back to Albany as their duly elected representative for two more years and me back to the exile of political punditry where, perhaps, I am somewhat more suited than I was as a would-be politician.