Morris Park, Pelham Parkway, Throgsneck, City Island, Woodlawn,
Norwood, Wakefield, Yonkers, Pelham, Pelham Manor, New Rochelle,
In May, long-time Republican State Senator Guy Velella was indicted by the
Manhattan District Attorney on charges of bribery, relating to contracts
funded by the state government between 1995 and 2000. Velella adamantly
denies the charges, but this indictment appeared -- at least for a while --
to open a door for a strong Democratic challenger.
Earlier this year, Lorraine Coyle Koppell, wife of City Council member and
former State Attorney General G. Oliver Koppell, began to collect petitions
and gear up to face Velella in a General Election. Koppell ran against
Velella two years ago, but could not match the Republican's fundraising
efforts and failed to bring out the vote. This year, she believed things
would be different. That was until July when she and her husband decided to
lend their money and support to Senator Eric Schneiderman, who was facing a
serious challenge from former City Councilman Guillermo Linares.
After Koppell's departure from the race, the Democrats tapped Frances
Mahony. Mahony is the former chief-of-staff to Assemblyman John Dearie. She
also has run the Bronx office of Congressman Thomas Manton and currently is
in charge of the Bronx office of Congressman Joseph Crowley.
Mahony commends much of Velella's work in the Bronx thus far. When asked
about Senator Velella's recent indictment, she declined to comment. " I've
seen so many negative campaigns and people demeaning people," Mahony said.
"I'm not running on Guy Velella's problems. I'm running my own campaign on a
For the most part, Mahony thinks the process in Albany gets the job done.
But this lifelong resident of the Bronx thinks Albany would be much more
efficient if they had more women around. "Yes I think [the state legislative
process] works," Mahony said. "But being facetious--they need more women
there. Women get things done. When we start things and we finish them."
Women's issues are a central theme in Mahony's campaign. Mahony said she
doesn't want to run on bunch of issues that could dilute her main message,
so for the next several months and if elected, the next several years, she
will focus on increased mammography screening, women's health benefits and
women's education. Mahony believes this is what her constituents want from
their representative in Albany. "Working in a Congressman's office and
writing a women's column for the local paper, have put me in touch with what
women go through and what they need," Mahony said.
Senator Velella is focusing on his record and what he has done to improve
the quality of life in the district. He refuses to discuss the indictment,
aside from denying any wrongdoing.
Velella emphasizes his relationship with the police in his district and his
efforts to increase their effectiveness. He points to the $200,000 grant he
secured from the state to purchase a borough-wide mobile command center to
extend police reach around Yankee stadium in response to Woodlawn residents'
complaints about a lack of police presence. Velella delivered a similar unit
to the 47th Precinct, following through on a campaign promise made to the
officers of the Bronx during the 2000 election. In July, the Velella brought
a $60,000 fireworks show to Orchard Beach calling it his celebration of the
If elected, Velella says he plans to continue his community based efforts
and to lend his continued support to School Board and Education reform.
Velella introduced the official Senate plan to reform the New York City
Board of Education last May.
Voters' opinion about Velella's indictment is mixed. In a recent television
news poll of Bronx residents, 51 percent of respondents said that the
bribery allegations against the Republican Senator would change their vote
come Election Day and 48 percent responded that the allegations would have
no effect on their voting behavior.
On the streets, support for Velella is high and many people seem unfamiliar
with Mahony's name. Voters from both parties lauded the recognizable changes
the Republican Senator has made in the community and expressed indifference
about his indictment charges. "The Senator has done good things here," said
Bronx resident Joy Perdy. "He's kept his promises and been really visible in
the community. I have to say I haven't heard a lot about the other
"The charges won't change my vote," said Bronx resident Max Steiner. "You
vote for a candidate who gets things done for the people who live here."
For others, the charges against Velella do make a difference. West Pelham
resident Rick Haggerty, who recently met Mahony, said he may vote for an
unknown. "I'm not sure what she is all about or what she wants to get done,
but she wasn't indicted," said Haggerty.
--posted September 22,2002