2011-07-15 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

A Tale Of Two Special Elections
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Governor Andrew Cuomo (why do I always want to type Mario as his first name) has done lots of good things in the short time he has been in office, but he did not do right by Rockaway and the other communities involved by calling special elections to fill the seats vacated by former Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (moving on up to a lifetime appointed position) and former Congressman Anthony Weiner (sexting himself to oblivion – at least for now).

Cuomo could have allowed the election calendar to play out. Then, we would have had a real primary race between now and the primary election.

Instead, he chose the special election route and handed the party bosses the chance to pick the candidates who will run in November.

Talk about democracy. There is no democracy when political parties are involved and the electorate is bypassed in the name of democracy.

The fact that the political bosses have lost their ties to the electorate has been made clear by the choices the political bosses have handed us.

First, let’s take a look at the two candidates for the Assembly seat vacated by Audrey Pheffer when she became the Queens County Clerk.

The Democrats have given us V. Philip Goldfeder, who doesn’t like to use his real first name and calls himself Phil.

Goldfeder once worked for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican. Then, he worked for a few other politicians before landing with Senator Charles Schumer.

He is the darling of the Orthodox Jewish community in Far Rockaway, and his young age (30), does not seem to deter the political bosses from pushing him for a state office right out of the box.

There are reports that the Orthodox communities in Brooklyn and Nassau County are fundraising for his race, even though he will not represent them.

How did Goldfeder get the nod?

Four people were eligible to vote to choose the candidate – not the entire Democratic electorate, but four politicians.

Frank Gulluscio did not show up, leaving just three – Jo Ann Shapiro, Lew Simon and Geraldine Chapey. Hardly the group you would want deciding who was going to represent you in the State Assembly.

Simon nominated himself, and when nobody seconded his nomination, the Queens party leader did.

Shapiro nominated Goldfeder and Chapey seconded it. It was clear from the time that Shapiro stepped out of the race that the party wanted Goldfeder and had promised Shapiro something to step back and let Goldfeder have the nomination.

It was even clearer when she nominated Goldfeder and then political hack Chapey, who has been in hiding ever since she lost the last special election for City Council to both Eric Ulrich and Lew Simon and has steadfastly refused to say where all the public money her non-profit got over the last ten years was spent, seconded the nomination.

Perhaps the party traded her a continuing slot as Democratic District Leader for her vote for Goldfeder. She is well know for trading votes, because that is how her mother became a State Regent – but that’s another story.

There is a convoluted weighted voting system, and Simon was outvoted by a good margin, giving Goldfeder the ballot slot.

Now, Phil Goldfeder is a young, personable kid, but he has little knowledge of the real Rockaway, coming from the isolated and insular Far Rockaway Orthodox community.

He would not be my candidate for anything until he grows up and gets out into the real world.

I do not want somebody representing me whose first allegiance is to his religion and not to his constituents.

Then, you have the Republican candidate, Jane Deacy.

Deacy lives in Breezy Point, a community that is as isolated and insular as the Far Rockaway Orthodox Jewish community.

The Republicans seem to look at Breezy Point as its Valhalla, because both of this year’s candidates come from that community, called “The whitest community in New York City” by the New York Times after the last census.

It is a community where half of Rockaway could not live because you need three residents to vet you in order to buy a house there. Do you want somebody who lives isolated from half the community to represent you in legislature? I do not.

She was a cop and has some realworld experience, but her political ideas are anathema to me, as they will be to many in the district.

Her ideas are more Tea Party than mainstream Republican. She wants to privatize Social Security and do away with Medicaid. She wants to “reform” Medicare. You know the story.

The campaign should be interesting, if not inspiring.

I can’t vote for either of them, and will probably skip the Assembly election altogether.

Then comes the Congressional race. I want to bring back Tony Weiner. I don’t really care what he did privately. That’s between him and his wife. He was the best Representative we had and the most honest politician I have ever dealt with in 25 years of doing this business.

I know that his failure to control himself calls his character into question, but I still think he’s the best candidate.

That’s neither here nor there, however. He ain’t coming back anytime soon.

The Republican nod goes to Breezy Point resident Bob Turner, who got 40 percent of the vote against Weiner last time around in a mid-term election in which most Republicans beat their Democratic incumbent opponents.

Turner is a political nobody. From what I hear, he had not even been very active in Breezy Point affairs and he wants to be a Congressman.

On the Democratic side, Queens Democratic leader Joe Crowley chose his old friend, David Weprin.

Here is the way it will play out.

Why Weprin?

Weprin will promise to be a good boy and not run against Crowley when the 9th District is carved up and Crowley gets the Rockaway portion of the district. Michael Grimm will get the Brooklyn portion.

Weprin will quietly fade away and be given a plum political job paying three figures for being a team player.

If Turner should win, he will have the job for a year, perhaps 18 months at best. Then, he too can go home to Breezy Point and say he had his cup of coffee in Washington.

That’s the way it goes in politics.

All politicians are whores – for power, to win one more time.

What say do we get?

Thanks to Cuomo, we get the choice of bad alternatives chosen by the party bosses.

You may believe that we have a democracy, but the parties keep proving over and over again that the people only get to rubber stamp the choices of the political bosses.

And, it doesn’t stop with the major parties.

The Working Families Party and the Independent Party quickly nominated Goldfeder, the Democratic candidate.

The Conservative Party nominated Deacy, the Republican candidate.

Vivian Ratay Carter. an attorney who works for The Wave as an advertising representative jumped into the Assembly race with a nomination by the Green Party.

Carter is active in many local environmental, civic and church organiations

And, at the last minute, a new candidate for the Congressional seat materialized as well.

He is Christopher Hoeppner, who once ran for mayor of Seattle, Washington.

He now works building electronic equipment in Queens, and he is the candidate of the Socialist Workers Party.

Should be an interesting race. Wish we could have picked the candidates.

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