City BOE agrees to use modern tech for tallying votes
July 17th, 2012

Unofficial election night results will now be read from portable memory devices at police precincts, rather than off strips of paper, after a unanimous decision by the city’s Board of Elections earlier today.

The results will then be transferred to the New York Police Department, which will give the data to the press.

Elections Commissioner Juan Carlos “J.C.” Polanco said the new election night process will be in place for the September state and local primary elections.

“This is exciting for us. What it’s going to avoid is the element of human error,” he said, adding that the result would be “incredible accuracy.

The current process involves scissors, tape and calculators, and requires BOE staffers to count votes by hand late into the night.

Problems with the current process were highlighted after the June 26 primary, when unofficial election night tallies showed U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel beating his closest challenger by a respectable margin. Rangel’s lead narrowed over the next few days as it became clear that hundreds of votes had potentially gone uncounted because of the byzantine tallying process. (Rangel still won in the end, even after the votes were accounted for.)

The board was roundly criticized in the press for their handling of the election.

By on July 17, 2012, 6:07 pm
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State Board of Elections gives city counterpart more encouragement
July 17th, 2012

All four commissioners of the state Board of Elections now say the city can change election night voting procedures without a change in state law. Here’s the letter the NYBOE sent today.

It’s an encouraging sign, though it still remains to be seen whether the city’s BOE will follow through.

The issue is expected to be a topic of much discussion at this afternoon’s NYCBOE hearing. Watch our Twitter feed for updates.

By on July 17, 2012, 1:29 pm
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New front in battle for state Senate
July 13th, 2012

Eighty-two-year-old Republican state Sen. Owen Johnson has indicated he will not seek reelection this year, throwing into doubt the balance of power in the Senate.

Democratic County Legislator Ricardo Montano will now face whomever the GOP establishment picks over weekend meetings, according to Newsday.

Last time around in the legislative soap opera, Senate Democrats looked to be positioned well to pick up and defend seats on Long Island until, well, they blew it in a pretty ugly way.

Democrats face an uphill battle this year as Republicans control the Senate 33-29 and also appear to have the loyalty of the Independent Senate Democrats, who have toyed with running incumbent Democrats in the primary and have met with at least one primary challenger to a long-term incumbent Democrat.

By on July 13, 2012, 12:21 pm
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AP: BOE can change election night counting process
July 13th, 2012

The Associated Press is reporting that the city Board of Elections has received a legal opinion from the State Board of Elections that would allow them to change their election night closing procedures without actually changing the law.

As we reported earlier this week, the city BOE is considering changing its procedures so that it can use electronic data from voting machines when polls close to tally unofficial vote counts rather than using the current process that involves using scissors, tape, and calculators and requires BOE staffers to count votes by hand late into the night.

Recent elections, including the Congressional contest between Rep. Charles Rangel and State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, have seen election night totals come in drastically different from the eventual official count. Elected officials like Councilwoman Gale Brewer and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh want to change the process to avoid a further corrosion of public trust in the election process.

As we reported yesterday, Brewer will be holding a Council hearing on August 8 to look into the recent problems at the BOE.

Brewer has supported a Kavanagh-sponsored bill in the Assembly that would have allowed the BOE to use electronic data. The measure passed the Assembly but failed in the Senate; now it looks like the board can move ahead with the change in process without any official legislation.

By on July 13, 2012, 9:05 am
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The Races for DA
November 6th, 2011

Three of New York City’s five district attorneys are up for re-election this year, but for only one — Staten Island Daniel Donovan — is the contest’ outcome in any doubt.

(For more on who can vote and how this year, go here. For more on the judicial contests, go here.)

Two of the veteran prosecutors, Richard Brown in Queens and Robert Johnson in the Bronx — will appear on the Democratic, Republican and Conservative lines and will not face any opposition.

Brown, who will turn 79 later this month, is headed to his sixth-term.

Johnson, who already is in his sixth term, was the first black district attorney in the state. In a somewhat strange twist, he received a rating of “not approved” by the city bar association this year. Johnson attributed the rejection to his not agreeing to an interview with the association and said he thinks it make little sense for the group to rate candidates in uncontested elections.

“If they think that I have not demonstrated the qualifications to hold this office,” Johnson told Reuters, “they must have been stuck in a cave for the past two decades.”

The bar does not explain or amplify on its ratings although they do not endorse candidates they can’t interview.

The Staten Island race offers a reprise of the 2007race in which Republican Donovan defeated Democrat Mike Ryan with about 70 percent of the vote. Donovan has the backing of the Independence Party too, while — perhaps owing to a long-standing rift between Donovan and Conservative Borough president James Molinaro, Ryan has the Conservative Party line.
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By on November 6, 2011, 9:58 pm
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Here Come the Judges
November 6th, 2011

Occupants for 29 seats on the bench in New York City will be selected Tuesday — at least theoretically. In many cases, though, the primary process and political insiders have filled the posts already — leaving voters with nothing more than the opportunity to ratify the choice.

All candidates for Manhattan judgeships — including places of the state Supreme Court and Civil Court — face no opposition. All have the Democratic Party line; a few also have the GOP nod. In no case, though, have the Republicans — or any other party for that matter — put forth candidate who is not the Democratic standard bearer. In the one judicial race on Staten Island the sole candidate — Acting Judge Joseph J. Maltese — has support from the Democratic, Republican, Conservative and Independence parties.

The contested elections come in Brooklyn and Queens. There are no judicial races — contested or otherwise — in the Bronx.

(For more on who can vote and how this year, go here. For more on the district attorney contest, go here.)

More on the individual judicial races after the jump.
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By on November 6, 2011, 9:54 pm
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A Quiet Election Day
November 6th, 2011

Even by the standards of the off-off-year election — those contests in odd-numbered years when there is no mayoral race — this is a non-election election year.

There are no contested races of any kind in the Bronx or Manhattan, according to the Board of Elections’ lists of candidates. In Queens and Brooklyn, the sole seats up for grabs are judgeships. Only Staten Island residents will have the chance to vote for or against someone they might actually have heard of: Republican District Attorney Daniel Donovan, who faces a challenge from Democrat Mike Ryan. It’s a repeat of their 2007 contest.

(For details on the district attorney race, go here. For more on the judicial contests, go here.)

Sleepy elections occur about once every four years in New York, Unlike the one in 2007, this year’s features no ballot measures, fewer contests for the bench and no particularly high profile ones. As is often the case in general elections in New York City, many candidates including those for some important posts face no opposition.

More voting details after the jump.
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By on November 6, 2011, 9:39 pm
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Former Bloomberg Aide Found Guilty of Larceny
October 21st, 2011

John Haggerty, the political consultant charged with stealing millions from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign, was found guilty of grand larceny in the second degree and his company was found guilty of money laundering in the second degree.

Haggerty avoided the more serious charge of larceny in the first degree. Haggerty was accused of funneling $1.2 million of campaign cash through the Independence Party to strengthen ballot security but instead used $1.1 million of the money to buy a house.

Bloomberg had to testify on the stand and Haggerty’s lawyers claimed Bloomberg lied and that Haggerty was paid for the work he had completed. Haggerty could face 15 years in prison.

The case is seen as a major victory for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance whose office has suffered major public defeats this year.

By on October 21, 2011, 2:01 pm
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Education Councils: Weak by Design
October 3rd, 2011

Whatever else it has and has not done, the system of mayoral control of schools as practiced in New York City must have set some kind of record for the creation of toothless bodies.

The chief one of course is the Panel for Educational Policy, which as Patrick Sullivan, a member, wrote on New York Public School Parents, routinely rubber stamps Department of Education contracts even ones dripping with corruption such as the agreement with Future Technology Associates.

The impotence of the PEP is hardly surprising Bloomberg always vowed the body would not do anything. But committed parents across the five borough hoped the Community Education Councils, heirs to the former Community School Board might function a bit better. They were, alas, wrong.

A report released by four of the five borough presidents (all but Staten Island James Molinaro), Pubic Advocate Bill de Blasio and parent leaders, tells some of the sad history of the councils under this administration, focusing to a large extent on the repeatedly botched election for members in 2011.

To remedy this and other ills, the report calls for major changes in the current two-tier voting system, where parents first cast an advisory vote and then leaders of parent organizations in the respective area make the final choice. The borough presidents et al would replace that with an actual election among parents. They would also improve training for council members, call for the councils to do more outreach and revise the council’s responsibilities. (Now the most meaningful thing they do is approve school zones within the district, influencing which neighborhood sends its children to what school.)

Perhaps most notably, the report’s writers would take the responsibility for the councils away from the Department of Education and give it to an independent nonprofit or government body.
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By on October 3, 2011, 3:20 pm
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Discussing Cuomo's Glow
September 28th, 2011

Even on a day a public employee union dealt him a serious setback few would deny that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has emerged as an exceedingly adroit politician. And none of members of a panel on Cuomo and the Media at the New School last night even tried to.

If their assessments of the governor varied at all, they ranged from skilled to brilliant. And the four reporters, joined by one pollster, did differ on how long the governor could keep his glow.

“This is an administration incredibly interested in managing their message. They are enormously good at it. They are artists,” Liz Benjamin of State of Politics and the evening’s moderator said, setting the tone from the get-go.

To control his image and his message, the governor and his minions call and lobby reporters ceaselessly but rarely publicly. “He almost never goes on the record in a free setting,” said the New York Times‘ Nick Confessore.

The panelists seemed almost in awe of Cuomo’s skills — his ability to listen to people and engage with them, his focus on two or three key things and skill at avoiding distractions, his hard work, his smarts, his ease with “working a room.” (Panelists declined to discuss his capacity observed on at a lake in the Adirondacks last month, to walk on water)

“His job is to manage his positive image, and he’s doing an excellent job,” said Steve Greenberg, pollster with the Siena Research Institute.

So will his star ever fade?

Possible answers after the jump.
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By on September 28, 2011, 6:45 pm
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Gillibrand Raises Off of 9th CD
September 16th, 2011

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is asking supporters for cash in the wake of Bob Turner’s upset victory over David Weprin in the 9th Congressional District. A mailing went out from the Gillibrand camp this morning capitalizing on recent Republican victories and saying “we need to show the naysayers the strength of this campaign by reaching our goal of $150,00 before the crucial September 30 filing deadline.”

The NY Post ran an editorial by John Podhoretz yesterday titled “Is Gillibrand the Next Weprin?”

“The NY-9 results suggest Gillibrand can be beaten by someone who runs a clever and well-wrought campaign,” wrote Podhoretz.

“Gillibrand hasnt made the sale with New Yorks voters despite having served in the Senate for nearly three years. She was appointed to the seat in 2009, and then won it herself last year against a comically hapless Republican. In last monthss Siena College poll, her approval rating was only 46 percent — and an incumbent running for re-election with an approval rating below 50 percent is generally deemed vulnerable to defeat. Even more important, and more threatening to her future, is this: An amazing 30 percent of New Yorkers have no opinion of her. That means, as the political consultants say, that she can still be defined — and defined negatively.”

He goes on to speculate that the usual Republican suspects could challenge Gillibrand–Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki or Rep. Peter King but recommends Randy Atschuler abandon his bid to challenge Rep. Steve Israel (although it looks like Podheretz confused Israel with Rep. Tim Bishop *Thanks Colin!*) and instead face Gillibrand, “in an anti incumbent year.”

Team Gillibrand seems to be taking the Weprin loss as a wake-up call or at least sees it as an opportunity to boost fundraising. Gillibrand has been prodigious fundraiser since she won election to congress in upstate New York in 2006.

“The recent loss in New York City’s 9th Congressional District is a major wake up call,” reads the fundraising message. “After a summer dominated by conservative talking points all over the airwaves, a Tea Party Republican was able to garner 55 percent of the vote in a Congressional District with a 3-to-1 Democratic registration advantage. If you weren’t concerned about losing progressive voices in the Senate before, you should be now.”

Having covered Gillibrand since her days as a Blue Dog Democrat in a very Conservative upstate district it is hard not to giggle a bit when she warns of Tea Partiers and losing a progressive seat. Nonetheless she has transformed herself into a progressive leader in the Senate. Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 16, 2011, 12:21 pm
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Manhattan District Leader Results
September 15th, 2011

Must still be recovering from the late blogging Tuesday. Thanks to the readers who pointed out the mistakes in this post. The corrected copy is below.

Now that Bob Turner has been officially sworn in as a member of Congress, we can turn to some less heralded races: notably those for district leaders in Manhattan. As we have noted before, these contests often shape up as proxy battles for larger factional fights within a party.

Contests in districts 64 part C and 66 part B featured battles between the longtime party reform organization Lower Manhattan DemocratsDowntown Independent Democrats and the more recently formed Downtown Independent Democrats Lower Manhattan Democrats. In all three contests the newer older club won out, with Paul Newell and Jenifer Rajkumar besting Jeff Galloway and Linda Belfer in the 64th. John Scott defeated incumbent David Reck, one of the founders of Lower Manhattan Democrats, in the 66th by a wide margin.

UpdateNewell notes that the Lower Manhattan Democrats now have no district leaders.

The incumbents held on in district 64 part D in Chinatown where Herbert Kee and Jenny Low fended off Paul Lee and Jin Mei Chen.

Farther uptown, incumbent district leader John Ruiz held off a challenge from community organizer Edward Gibbs, a former convict who has also been a community organizer.

And in another battle reflecting party rifts, also in Harlem, this one in the 70th district part D Jamaal Nelson bested two other candidates, Brian Benjamin and Michael Adams. Benjamin had backing from Manhattan party chief Keith Wright and other area district leaders and State Sen. Bill Perkin was pushing for Adams, one of his aides. But the victor prove to be Nelson, who the Daily News reported recently, had support from former Mayor David Dinkins and some charter school supporters. Nelson also tried to capitalize on being the only one of the three to live in part D.

In other Manhattan contests in district 68 part A Diane Green bested Theresa Richardson and in district 70 part D Marisol Alcantara defeated April Tyler.

By on September 15, 2011, 3:00 pm
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54th Post Mortem
September 14th, 2011

So Vito Lopez er — I mean Rafael Espinal won the 54th Assembly seat vacated by Darryl Towns by a pretty hefty margin.

Now that Espinal and I will be spending so much time together in Albany maybe he will answer basic questions about where he stands on the issues.

Being that he is safe in his seat and will likely hold the seat for years to come — barring some scandal –he really doesn’t have anything to lose by saying where he really stands. For those who don’t know, the Assemblyman-elect filled out questionnaires from the Working Families Party and Conservative Party in totally contradictory ways and tried to dictate terms of an interview with the Gazette before running out on a scheduled interview.

It may be safe to assume that Espinal will be toting the Assembly Democrats talking points — or at least Lopez’s — when he arrives in Albany.

So how did the race actually break down?

Unofficial results show that the Conservative Party line really did not put Espinal over the top in any sort of way. According to unofficial results from the Board of Elections, out of 5,900 votes cast Espinal received 2,226 votes or 37.73 percent of the total vote on the Democratic line. He received 321 votes or 5.44 percent of total votes on the Conservative Party line and 73 votes on the United We Can line. Unsurprisingly It was the Democratic line that did it plain and simple — and for that he has Lopez to thank.

Meanwhile, Jesus Gonzalez brought in 1,913 votes or 32.42 percent of the total vote on the Working Families Party Line. The WFP’s get-out-to vote efforts, the Daily News endorsement and Gonzalez’s organizational skills a helped him get over 30 percent of the vote–but it wasn’t enough.

Meanwhile, Deidra Towns brought in 1,367 votes or 23.17 percent of the total vote on the Community First line. Towns’ campaign relied heavily on her name recognition and did not stake out a strong policy platform but if she or Gonzalez had the Democratic line either of them would likely have been sitting pretty.

Would it have made a difference if either Gonzalez or Towns stood aside to make a two-way race? It seems that way. But would the establishment crowd have gone with Espinal if Towns left? And would as many people showed up to vote if Gonzalez, the young organizer, hadn’t stirred the pot? Who knows.

But this is what makes special elections so special — the party establishment almost always win.

By on September 14, 2011, 3:21 pm
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Message from the Ninth Congressional District
September 14th, 2011

With Republican Bob Turner preparing for his swearing in as the new representative from New York’s ninth district theories are flying as to how the Democrats managed to lose a seat they have held for 90 years and what, if anything, it means.

Turner, who hammered away at government spending during his campaign, told his victory party that he won because of Barack Obama, “We’ve been asked by people of this district to send a message to Washington and I hope they hear it loud and clear,” Turner said. “This message will resound for a whole year.”

The White House, not surprisingly begs to differ. Asked about the result, press secretary Jay Carney said, “Special elections are often unique and their outcomes dont tell you very much about future regularly scheduled elections You can make those predictions and look foolish in 14 months or not, I’m simply saying we do not view them that way [as a referendum].”

Overall Democrats tried to paint the outcome as the result of a number of largely local factors while Republicans and Conservatives saw it as a piece of a bigger picture. It’s the dance that takes place after almost every special election though the parties switch partners as circumstances change.

More comments and reactions after the jump.
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By on September 14, 2011, 2:45 pm
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The Organization Man
September 14th, 2011

At times he may have seemed like the candidate who couldn’t shoot straight but Rafael Espinal has emerged as the winner of a hotly contested three-way race for the Assembly seat from the 54th district in Bushwick. With some precincts still out, at midnight, Espinal had 42 percent of the vote versus 32 percent for Working Families Party candidate Jesus Gonzalez and 26 percent for Deirdra Towns, sister of the former Assembly member, Darryl Towns.

Espinal, an aide to City Councilmember Erik Dilan, did not run a terribly adroit campaign. He dodged interviews, boasted of his fealty to the party machine, gave conflicting answers to basic questions on candidate questionnaires and was lampooned for publishing a newspaper of his own when none of the real ones endorsed him.

His victory in a three-way race raises all kinds of questions about whose candidacy hurt and helped whom and there are other issues to ponder as well.

To wit, Espinal (a.k.a. Vito Lopez) forces claimed victory earlier in the evening with only 10 percent of the vote reporting on the sources most of us mortals see. According to Colin Campbell of BK Politics, Lopez has poll watchers who get the news before the rest of us do. If true, that seems to raise all kinds of tantalizing possibilities that almost certainly can’t be explored at midnight. (Update: We should have known that other candidates can have poll watchers too.)

In any event, aside from David Weprin’s defeat in the congressional race by Bob Turner, Lopez had a good night, with Espinal’s victory and the win by Sharen Hudson in the contest for Civl Court judge. And Weprin’s defeat was almost certainly more of a blow to Queens boss Joe Crowley (and maybe to Barack Obama) than it was to Lopez.

By on September 14, 2011, 12:19 am
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Council and the Court
September 13th, 2011

Whatever his legal problems, Ruben Wills will remain on the City Council. Elected last year to fill the seat from the 28th district in south Queens after the death of Thomas White, the law requires Wills to go back to the voters this year. By a resounding margin, they let him keep the seat.

With almost all precincts reporting, Wills had 69 percent of the vote, compared to17 percent for former Councilmember Alan Jennings, 8 percent for Michael Duvalle and 6 percent for Clifton Stanley Diaz.

Since his election last year, the press unearthed some legal difficulties for Wills, including an unresolved misdemeanor case dating back to 1996 and open warrants for failing to pay more than $25,000 in child support payments.

That, though, may well have paled in voters’ eyes when compared with Jennings’ record. Accused of sexual harassment, he was censured by the City Council when he served on it, threw a metal object at a reporter and generally engaged in some fairly bizarre behavior.

In the two court contests yesterday — both for Civil Court — Sharen Hudson, reportedly the candidate of the party organization, holds a substantial edge over Cheryl Gonzalez, who was endorsed by the Times and some insurgent Democrats. In a Manhattan Civil Court contest, Tony Cannataro appears to have defeated Sabrina Kraus.

By on September 13, 2011, 11:55 pm
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Two Assembly Seats Decided
September 13th, 2011

One barely had to wait for the results given the apparent lopsidedness of the contests but enough unofficial returns are in to call two of the four Assembly seats up for grabs in the city.

East Side Republicans extended their losing streak (decades ago this was GOP turf) as the Democrat, community board member and attorney Daniel Quart bested another attorney, Paul Niehuas, to fill the seat from the 73rd Assemby District. The seat became vacant when Jonathan Bing stepped down to take a state post.

With 25 of 113 precincts reporting, Quart was besting Niehaus by a 2-to-1 margin.

In Queens’ 27th district, Michael Simanowitz handily defeated Republican Marco DeSena to take the seat previously held by his old boss, Nettie Mayersohn. With about a third of precincts reporting, Simanowitz had 74 percent of the vote with DeSena at 26 percent.

By most accounts, Simanowitz had left little to chance. Mayersohn ran for re-election last fall and then suddenly decided a few months later that she wanted to spend more time with her family and resigned. That left the job of picking the Democratic nominee for her seat to party bosses –rather than the party rank and file. And when one Democrat did try to take on Simanowitz, the Board of Elections knocked him off the ballot on a technicality.

A little known onetime political aide, DeSena had little name recognition and even less money.

By on September 13, 2011, 11:15 pm
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Espinal Gets Endorsement--From Himself
September 12th, 2011

Thanks to City Hall News and The Brooklyn Politics Blog for breaking and sharing this!

You know that guy Rafael Espinal? The candidate in the 54th Assembly District who has the Democratic and Conservative lines? The guy whose campaign demanded I agree not to ask questions he didn’t like before an interview, threatened a walk out and then ran out of the room after I approached the candidate for the interview and promised he would be right with me? Well he is up to some more crazy hijinks. Read our original story about the race here.

In case being backed by power brokers like Assemblyman Vito Lopez and Sen. Martin Dilan wasn’t enough to ensure his victory Espinal’s campaign seems to have sent out campaign literature in the form of a newspaper–the “Prime Time News”–is flush with an editorial board that evaluates all three candidates in the race for the 54th AD–Deidra Towns, Jesus Gonzalez and Espinal and surprisingly–this fictitious editorial board arrives at the decision to endorse Espinal.

Colin over at The Brooklyn Politics transcribed the entire faux editorial here. Colin has been cataloging the creative campaign literature he is finding all over Bushwick.

One piece of campaign literature accuses Jesus Gonzalez–the man who has received editorial endorsements from the Daily News and El Diario–of saying he would welcome sex offenders into the community at a town hall meeting in Cypress Hills earlier this year. Colin and I were there. Colin took video and points out that Gonzalez did not say he “would welcome sex offenders into our community.” I checked my recordings of the affair and I can also confirm he did not say that. Head over to Colin’s site and check out the video of the meeting.

I recommend following Colin on Twitter at @bkpolitics and checking in with his blog if you are interested in tomorrow’s special election. Also, don’t forget our Guide For the Last Minute voter.

By on September 12, 2011, 3:34 pm
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Weprin Cancels Debate
August 29th, 2011

Democratic congressional candidate and State Assemblymember David Weprin has withdrawn from tonight’s scheduled debate with his GOP rival, Bob Turner. The two men are locked in a tough contest to succeed Anthony Weiner in the Ninth Congressional District in Brooklyn and Queens.

Robert Holden president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, cosponsor of the debate, said he checked in with Weprin’s campaign earlier today and was told “logistics” would make it impossible for Weprin to appear un idle Village tonight.

“The hurricane caused major logistical and scheduling problems for the campaign and thus David is not able to make the debate this evening,” Weprin campaign spokesperson, Liz Kerr said in an emailed statement.

Many of Weprin’s people had been unable to get to work today, and the candidate’s schedule was throw into disarray by cancellations due to the weekend’s storm. While there apparently is little to no lingering damage near Bel Mondo Restaurant in Middle Village, where the debate was to take place, there are reports of some flooding in other parts of the district.

Holden, though, was not accepting the hurricane as a reason for Weprin’s change in plans. “This stinks to high heaven,” Holden said.

He said the candidate’s people had been voicing concern about the debate for the past week, expressing fear it could get disorderly and pressing for a forum instead of an actual debate. Holden said he had promised that the debate would be well run no placards allowed and some police on hand but he added, “I can’t guarantee youre not going to get tough questions.”

The cancellation “is going to backfire for Weprin big time, “Holden said. “Anybody who would do this would not be a straight shooter in Congress.”

Last week, the two men engaged in a debate before a rowdy crowd in Kew Gardens. According to, members of the crowd called Weprin a liar and a hypocrite, prompting the moderator to admonish the crowd and threaten to throw people out of the synagogue where the debate took place.

In an editorial this weekend, the Daily News cast doubt on both candidates’ ability to answer questions tough or otherwise. Asked the size of the national debt, the News said, Weprin was off by a mere $10 trillion. And Turner said the city should using its zoning power to block a mosque near Ground Zero even if such action violated the Constitution.

“Suspecting that neither candidate was well-versed in national or local matters, we asked each 10 questions about issues, places and people in the district,” the editorial said. “Weprin and Turner each got seven of 10 answers wrong. Giants they are not.”

The race has become increasingly contentious. With many viewing the Sept. 13 special election variously as a referendum on President Barack Obama, Congress and same-sex marriage, both parties have focused resources in the district. Even Jerry Springer has gotten into the act.

By on August 29, 2011, 1:17 pm
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Trying to Interview Espinal
August 24th, 2011

Having the support of Councilman Erik Dilan, Sen. Martin Dilan, Assemblyman Vito Lopez as well as the Democratic, Republican and Conservative lines heading into a special election would make just about anyone confident. But it is not clear if it was confidence or concern that kept 54 Assembly District candidate Rafael Espinal from taking part in an interview with the Gotham Gazette for our story on the race.

Having the backing of those kind of power brokers might make it unnecessary to speak to the press if you assume the public will simply vote the Democratic line, whether they know your name or not.

I began conversations with Michael Olmeda, Espinal’s spokesman, early last week. After numerous back and forths it seemed that we were set to speak at 2:30 p.m. last Thursday, before the town hall meeting in Cypress Hills.

But on Wednesday Olmeda called to say the interview might not happen. I called Olmeda around 1 p.m. on Thursday to check in.

Olmeda told me the scheduled interview was off but said an interview was possible after the town hall–if I wasn’t going to ask questions, “that everyone else is asking.” I asked what questions those might be. Olmeda said Espinal was tired of answering questions about his Conservative Party endorsement and his beliefs. Espinal has come under fire for his opposition to same-sex marriage.

I told Olmeda that I did not intend to repeat other articles but wanted to talk about issues. Olmeda said that he and his candidate would walk out if I asked questions he didn’t like but said he would talk to the organizers of the town hall at the Cypress Hills Senior Center about getting us a space to use after the event had concluded.

I live Tweeted the event and after it concluded I approached Espinal–introduced myself and told him that we had an interview scheduled. He asked for a minute to speak to his family. I agreed and mingled with the crowd. Moments later I returned to where Espinal had been and he and his entourage were gone. I left the building to look for him and immediately called Olmeda. Olmeda, who sounded quite annoyed, told me, “I didn’t see you there.” Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 24, 2011, 3:30 pm
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