Incumbent Eric Ulrich, a Republican, was running against State Senator Joe Addabbo, Jr. when the storm hit last year. While Ulrich was active and visible in the aftermath of the storm, he did have to continue to try to win an election.
This year, the Democratic Party is endorsing District Leader Lew Simon, a mainstay politician in the Rockaways. If this race becomes about multiple issues, then Ulrich is in a good position to defend his seat. If the election becomes about the Rockaways, then it could be anybody’s guess because we just don’t know what an election one year after the storm looks like.
Ulrich unfortunately hit bad luck in two elections. Last year, he was bogged down in a race for the State Senate that he probably would not have jumped into if state Republicans did not strongly encourage him to do so. They wanted another vote in Albany and they saw Ulrich as a potential winner.
Whether or not Ulrich lost because many of his supporters – in the same neighborhoods that helped Republican Bob Turner win congressman Anthony Weiner's old seat - were hit by the storm is just not known. What is known is that the storm is going to be a central issue again.
Simon has shown interest in being more than a district leader before. He has run primaries against fellow Democrats. He has shot from the hip on occasion, to a point where he had to backtrack a little. This may not hurt Simon, since the City Council is not Congress and people sometimes like a little unpredictability. Remember Councilman Al Stabile referring to Mayor Rudy Giuliani as Mussolini?
This race comes down to two things: a potentially amped up focus on Rockaway and what kind of relationship Simon has with fellow Democrats. If there is one thing these two men have in common, it is their willingness to take on their own party.
This should not pose a problem for Ulrich, as he will gobble up most GOP and Conservative votes, and some Democrats with which he is popular. So, the question of how many Democrats Simon can mobilize will be important come November.
It is not easy to tell if Anthony Weiner is going to remain in the mayoral race by the time this goes to print. Seeing as he has a war chest and does not need the party machine to back him, he may just stay in and see what happens.
Either way, we can be confident this primary will result in a run-off. Christine Quinn will be one of the top two finishers. Who will be the other? I have been writing that Bill Thompson is the real heavyweight in this primary, and I am still pretty certain about that.
Political consultants refer to something called an “invisible primary.” The invisible primary consists of the endorsements that a candidate attracts over a campaign. If Thompson is in the lead or a strong second in the polls, I would expect to see Bill de Blasio and John Liu drop out and get behind Thompson.
All of these folks want to go all the way to the primary, but if de Blasio and Liu do not get enough traction, they might be better off getting behind Thompson, who is a strong finisher in elections like this.