2011-10-21 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

The Special Election: Voting Against Personal Interest, Sometimes
Commentary By Howard Schwach

It’s a strange time in America, what with thousands of protesters crowding the financial district in Manhattan and in other cities; with the approval rating of Congress running at about 14 percent and with the two major parties rushing back into their corners on the left and the right.

Strange times make for strange election results.

I once believed that people voted their personal interests, and perhaps that was true at one time.

No longer. At least, it seems that way. Except for the Orthodox, who vote as a block and always vote their own special interests. And, the election results seem to show that the middle class votes against its own interest, while the poor do vote their interest.

Take a look at the two special elections that impacted Rockaway on September 13.

Running for the Assembly seat vacated by Audrey Pheffer were Orthodox Jew Phillip Goldfeder and Breezy Point resident Jane Deacy, two candidates from isolated and insular communities at either end of the Rockaway community.

Running for the Congressional seat vacated by Anthony Weiner, were Breezy Point resident Bob Turner and the Democrats’ hand-picked candidate, David Weprin, who doesn’t even live in the district he sought to represent. No attractive candidates here.

Deacy, despite all she and her husband, Ed, proclaim, is a Tea Party Republican, with all of the baggage that appellation brings.

Deacy, as you would expect, won with huge pluralities in Breezy Point.

With a total of 1,830 votes in Breezy, she had 1,608, while Goldfeder had 222. I am surprised that he got that many. Perhaps Deacy is not universally loved in her own community.

As you would expect, Bob Turner took Breezy Point with big numbers as well.

With 1,837 total votes cast, Turner had 1,621, Weprin had 214 and Socialist Chris Hoeppner had one.

In both cases, a classic case of voting interests – a largely conservative community voting for two locals.

It was largely a no-brainer for those voters.

It gets a little stranger as you move eastward on the peninsula.

The largest number of votes in the election, as usual, came from the eight districts that poll at PS/MS 114 in Belle Harbor. Those voters come from Neponsit, a wealthy, conservative enclave where the houses go for a million plus and from Belle Harbor, where most of the residents are upper middle class and middle class city blue-collar workers and professionals.

Yet, they voted for Deacy and Turner, two candidates that believe in reducing government involvement in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs.

They both have signed the tax pledge that would keep the government from increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Yet, Turner won almost two to one in those precincts, and Deacy won with a slightly lower plurality.

I have to wonder why a city worker with a pension, or one working toward a pension and lifelong health benefits would vote for somebody who wants to reduce both.

Perhaps it’s the same reason that the unions are getting involved with the 99 Percent movement on Wall Street – they are tired of Democratic politicians selling them out to highly-paid lobbyists and special interests.

They are tired of Democratic politicians who seem to be thieves in the night, more intent on filling their own pockets than on helping their constituents to live a better life.

Perhaps that it why they bought into the Republicans’ siren song of less government involvement in our everyday lives and less government spending – even when those spending cuts are against their own interests.

As you move east, however, the vote begins to switch.

At PS 225 in Rockaway Park, the votes for Weprin and Turner were virtually even. Weprin got 502, Turner 532. That area is made up of mostly working class people who, it seems, are opposed to the economic policies of our Democratic president and were voting as much against Obama and Congress as for Turner.

The same was true of the Assembly election. Goldfeder got 523 votes there, Deacy 503.

By the time you get east of Rockaway Park, the vote begins to swing to the Democrats.

The one that stands out is the vote at the Young Israel of Bayswater and Wavecrest on Beach 9 Street. In that precinct, Goldfeder got 1,216 votes, while Deacy got just 21. If you do not believe that the Orthodox vote as a block, look again at those numbers.

Of course, the Congressional district and the Assembly district do not overlap, so there was no special election for Congress in any of the precincts east of Beach 85 Street, where the vote at Services for the Underserved was 9-4 for Weprin.

In the Assembly race, however, Deacy got killed by the lower middle-class and lower-class votes in Far Rockaway.

In the senior citizens buildings on the beachfront – always Pheffer strongholds – Goldfeder won by 3 to 1. At IS 53 in Far Rockaway, a mixed venue of Orthodox Jews and welfare recipients, Goldfeder beat Deacy by 544-31.

At the Far Rockaway Educational Campus, the vote was 101-12 for Goldfeder.

At PS 104, in the middle of the eclectic middle class community of Bayswater, the vote for Goldfeder was 642-52.

What does the election mean for Rockaway? That remains to be seen. It may well be that both of the winners will be out of office in a year or two, when real candidates, and not handpicked political hacks, get to run.

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