District 49 North Staten Island

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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?


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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002

General Election Results

x-Michael E. McMahon, Dem 15,295 - 49 percent
Joseph F. Cammarata, Rep 10,982 - 35 percent
Deborah L. Rose, Lib 4,650 - 15 percent
Susan K. Roecker, Gre 118 - 0 percent

Primary Election Results

Michael E. McMahon 4,937
Deborah L. Rose 4,767
Jon R. Del Giorno 2,986
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)

Incumbent: Jerome X. O'Donovan (can't run in 2001)

The Candidates:

  • Joseph F. Cammarata (Rep/Con/RTL)
  • Mike McMahon (Dem/Wor)
  • Susan K. Roecker (Gre)
  • Deborah Rose (Lib)
General Election Update

Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign Finance Board:

Contributors to Joseph F. Cammarata
Contributors to Jon Del Giorno
Contributors to Mike McMahon
Susan K. Roecker has not filed.
Contributors to Deborah Rose

City's Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District 49

Campaign Feature:
[Campaign Update]

A Staten Island Makeover

Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were "visiting friends and relatives" and "passing through."

But in many ways, district 49 has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The North Shore has the island's most ethnically diverse population, the oldest infrastructure, the densest housing, and is the only safe haven for Democrats in a largely Republican stronghold. The constituents of the area even read different newspapers.

"The rest of island reads The Staten Island Advance like it's the gospel," said candidate Jon Del Giorno. "In our area, people are more likely to read the Times, the Daily News, or ethnic newspapers."

And so district 49, which stretches from the Verrazano Bridge to the Gothals Bridge and north of the Staten Island expressway, faces issues like tourism, waterfront development, immigration, and deteriorating infrastructure that are unique to the area.

The top priority for all the candidates--Jon Del Giorno, Mike McMahon, and Debi Rose--is to make sure that Staten Island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

Area Profile
For a detailed profile of this district from City Project, click here.


  • White, non-Hispanic: 62%
  • Black, non Hispanic: 17%
  • Asian: 5%
  • Hispanic: 15%

Median income:$55,550 (Ranks 10th out of 51)

Unemployment rate: 7%

For more information on this district -- its schools, its crime statistics and more -- click here.

Luckily, plans are already underway to lure tourists with entertainment, shopping, and dining. The St. George area is the site of an $81 million development project that includes a minor league baseball stadium set to open this summer, construction of the National Lighthouse Museum, and exhibition space for the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences. Renovation of the ferry terminal, a new shoreline park, and a waterfront esplanade with retail stores and restaurants are also in the plans.

"It's important that we have someone in office who has a real vision for the St. George area," said Jon Del Giorno, who as "the only candidate who takes the ferry to work" wants to see the terminal and ferry cleaned up.

But even these much heralded improvements present challenges. Mike McMahon said that west of the new stadium area an old gypsum plant presents a significant environmental problem where "the benefits [of new development] will not be felt until it is cleaned up."

Debi Rose said she has concerns about luxury apartments taking priority over affordable housing to the east of the stadium. "The whole of our area needs to benefit, not just the sports enthusiasts, a few vendors, and the wealthy," said Rose.

The North Shore has also seen a great influx of new residents since representative Jerome O'Donovan was elected in 1981. There has been significant immigration from India, Albania, Egypt, China, Poland, and African countries. In particular, the neighborhoods of Stapleton-Clifton now represent the largest concentration of Liberians outside of Africa.

"The strength of the North Shore is our diversity--some of these people have become citizens and some have not," said McMahon. "We have to make sure we help them become members of our community."

Immigration and people who have moved to the area for less expensive rents and easy accessibility to Manhattan have filled the neighborhood schools to the limit and prompted the candidates to put school construction and new libraries at the top on their agendas. "Some of our schools do not have libraries, they just have carts that they roll around the halls with a couple of books on them," said Rose.

The area's streets, sewers, transportation, and shopping districts are also straining under the growing population and development.

"We have the oldest infrastructure in the island, much that has not been improved since it was built," said Del Giorno. "Our streets are narrow, our sewers are breaking, and our old railway tracks are not functional." Creating new parking and mass transit for commuters who use the ferry is also a priority.

It will also take more than museums and the Staten Island Yankees to stimulate the local economy. Many of the manufacturing sites along the waterfront are abandoned, the navy port is empty, and the hospital industry, which is the largest employer in the area, is tightening its payrolls because of increased medical costs.

As far as the campaigns, both Del Giorno and McMahon who have served as aides in city government point to their experience as the reason they should be elected. Debi Rose sees her campaign as "historic" since she is the first African-American woman to run for political office in Staten Island.

The candidates also hope that if elected they can make sure their district and Staten Island gets its fair share at City Hall.

"I want to make sure Staten Island has a place in City Council and that the body can become a true legislative power," said McMahon.

But first they may have to overcome the political past. In 1993, Staten Island residents voted to secede from the city by a margin of two to one. The effort eventually failed, but added to the perception that Staten Islanders think they have little in common with the rest of New York City.

Posted 2/28/01

Campaign Update:

The Democratic primary in the North Shore of Staten Island has turned into a competitive and well-financed race. Jon DelGiorno has raised over $214,000 and Mike McMahon has raised over $224,000, putting the two men among the best funded council candidates in the city. Debi Rose has raised about $125,000, some of which she used to purchase a large roadside billboard http://www.debirose.com/billboard.htm advertisement for her campaign.

The endorsements in these campaigns are also split among the candidates. DelGiorno has the backing of the Staten Island Democratic Party as well as Assemblymember John Lavelle and State Senator Vincent Gentile. McMahon has been endorsed by the Working Families party, the United Federation of Teachers, and Assemblymembers Elizabeth Connelly and Eric Vitaliano, and outgoing Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan. Debi Rose will also appear as a Liberal candidate on ballot.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face Joseph Cammarata, who is running on the Republican, Conservative, and Right-To-Life lines, and Green candidate Susan Roecker in the general election in November.

Cammarata, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 1997, is campaigning on education, crime, and economic development. He hopes to continue the crime policies of Mayor Giuliani and make sure Staten Island does not slip from the City Hall agenda.

Posted 8/31/01

Candidate Biographies

Joseph Cammarata has worked as a high school social studies teacher, an adjunct professor, a police officer in the 101st precinct and a detective. He was assigned to the Bureau of Special Services, where he guarded heads of state, foreign dignitaries, and elected officials like Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan. He served in the U.S. Navy and the Army Reserves. He is a graduate of the New York Institute of Technology.

Jon DelGiorno is the administrative manager for the New York City Board of Elections. He is also a trustee secretary of the Sisters of Charity Health Care System and finance chair of the Richmond County Democratic Party. He has worked as an aide to council members Mary Codd and Nicholas LaPorte and was appointed as the assistant to Staten Island's Deputy Borough President. He serves as a member of numerous civic groups including the St. George Civic Association, Richmond Home Need Services, Mud Land Society, and Bay Street Landing. He is a graduate of New York University.

Mike McMahon is an attorney at O'Leary & McMahon and serves as counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan. Jr. In the past, he worked for Assemblymembers Elizabeth Connelly and Eric Vitaliano. He is the president of the Randall Manor Residents Association and a member of numerous civic associations and boards including Friends of Allison Park, Meals On Wheels, Catholic Youth Organization Advisory Board, Staten Island Symphony, and the Sailor Snug Harbor Little League. He is vice president of the North Shore Democratic Club.

Susan K. Roecker (no information available).

Deborah Rose is an executive director and administrator of the Liberty Partners Program at the College of Staten Island. She is a member of Community Board 1, has served as chair of the Youth Services and Areas Committee, and Community School Board 31. She is board member of the Mental Health Society, a member of the American Cancer Society, and founder of the Black Women's Health Initiative.

Campaign Trail

Democratic North Shore Council hopeful Michael McMahon yesterday said the 120th Precinct should be moved to a modern facility, possibly at the old home port site. He also called for a salary boost for cops and touted a merit pay retention program to keep experienced police officers on the job. McMahon, who picked up the endorsement of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association yesterday, is locked in a three-way Sept. 11 Democratic primary with Debi Rose and the party-backed Jon DelGiorno. (Staten Island Live)

Debi Rose, a Democratic candidate for the North Shore City Council seat, yesterday called for more city services for senior citizens, including affordable housing. (Staten Island)

In a borough where Republicans usually dominate the political landscape, the 49th City Council District on the north shore of Staten Island is an anomaly: a Democratic Party stronghold that for two decades has elected the same councilman, Jerome X. O'Donovan. But now Mr. O'Donovan is one of 35 council members who cannot run again because of term limits he is running instead for borough president--and this previously docile Democratic oasis has disintegrated into a three-way struggle that says as much about this uncertain political season as it does about the district's changing ethnic makeup. Mr. O'Donovan has endorsed Michael McMahon, 43, a lawyer who has worked as counsel to many Democratic officials in Staten Island. The Staten Island Democratic Party organization has endorsed Jon R. DelGiorno, the administrative manager of the New York City Board of Elections. But what once might have been a straightforward contest between two candidates with deep Democratic roots has been complicated by the presence of Deborah Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island. Ms. Rose is vying to become the first black council member elected in the borough. While the district is mostly white, with large neighborhoods of Irish- American and Italian-American families, it has nonetheless become the most diverse community in Staten Island, with a growing population of immigrants from the West African countries of Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria. It is now nearly 20 percent black. Similarly robust immigration from Mexico, Ecuador and other South American countries has pushed the district's Hispanic population to slightly more than 20 percent. Ms. Rose, 49, directs a program that seeks to reduce high school dropout rates. She said is seeking to appeal not only to black and Hispanic voters, but also to women and liberal whites in the district. "With that kind of formula, I can win," she said. "I don't think anyone should write this campaign off." The candidates have similar views, each emphasizing the development of areas along the shore for recreational and business use. They each talk with particular ardor about the need to build new public schools to ease the growing problem of overcrowding. (New York Times)

North Shore City Council candidate Jon Del Giorno's job with the city Board of Elections is drawing fire from his two Democratic primary opponents. Debi Rose yesterday said Del Giorno should resign his position to avoid "the appearance of impropriety," while Michael McMahon called for sweeping changes to the board, which he called "a system of political patronage and bumbling bureaucracy." Del Giorno dismissed their charges out of hand, and said he has no plans to resign. Del Giorno, who has been endorsed by the Democratic Party organization, has served as the board's administrative manager since 1989. He took a leave of absence June 1 to campaign full-time. (Staten Island Advance)

The New York Times called this one of the ten races to watch. While Jerome X. O'Donovan runs for Staten Island borough president, the race to succeed him in the Council has turned into a battle between two Democratic factions. Michael E. McMahon, a lawyer, has the support of elected officials, while Jon R. Del Giorno, an official at the city's Board of Elections, has the backing of the borough's party organization. Also aggressively campaigning is Deborah Rose, a college administrator, who is seeking to become Staten Island's first black elected official in a district that has grown increasingly diverse. (New York Times)

Two North Shore candidates are among the biggest money-raisers of the more than 280 candidates running for the City Council this year. According to city Campaign Finance Board (CFB) filings this week, Michael McMahon has raised $145,870, while Jon Del Giorno, his opponent for the Democratic nod in the 49th Council District, has raised $139,799. Liberal Party candidate Debi Rose, who is also seeking the Democratic line, has raised $46,992. Republican, Conservative and Right to Life candidate Joseph Cammarata has raised $13,170, according to the Campaign Finance Board. (Staten Island Live)

The Working Families Party City Council hopefuls Michael McMahan and Janey Moran, after candidates pledged to uphold the party's platform, which includes raising minimum wage, limiting development and expanding bus service on Staten Island. (Staten Island Advance)

Night after night in New York City, fundraising events take place, in people's apartments or slightly garish catering halls. And whether the affairs are standard or eclectic, they are all driven by the same desire: campaign cash. And they are taking place with a frequency that politicians and donors alike say is unprecedented in modern city politics.

"Let's say you get 10, 20 or 30 people at a fund-raiser from just one apartment complex, even if they bring checks for just $25 each," said political consultant Lincoln Mitchell. "Those contributions are matchable and you help to build a volunteer base of people who will work for your campaign and spread the word."

That was the thinking of Michael E. McMann, a lawyer who is an aide to the man he hopes to succeed, City Councilman Jerome X. O'Donovan, a Staten Island Democrat. Mr. McMann had a fund-raising event this week with about 30 Staten Island residents at the home of some friends. Over bruschetta and white wine, the guests heard Mr. McMann's views on a variety of local issues.

"It's wonderful to get the campaign contributions," Mr. McMann said. "But the real value is meeting new people." (New York Times)

"Between the three of us, we probably agree on almost every single issue," says Jon Del Giorno, one of three candidates running for the City Council seat from the North Shore of Staten Island. While it is true they all want to build a new school in the area, fight overdevelopment, and reduce traffic congestion, they disagree about whether Staten Island should secede from New York City. Debi Rose is against secession, Michael McMahon is for it, Del Giorno has not made up his mind. NY1

Queens Democratic leader Thomas Manton gave $250 to former elections board official Jon Del Giorno, running to succeed Staten Island Councilman Jerome O'Donovan in City Council District 49. (Daily News)

Debi Rose said local Democratic leaders told her she would be the Ralph Nader of the district 49 election and would steal votes away from the other two candidates. The Democratic leaders have a different view of the conversation. Nonetheless, it's become a topic of conversation in Staten Island political circles. (New York Times)


Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.

Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)

2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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