All Politics is Local, and Man Does It Hurt Sometimes
by Anthony Stasi
Feb 09, 2010 | 3395 views | 0 0 comments | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Special elections like the one that took place on Tuesday (Editor's note: This column was written before the actual election.) are fun to watch because if nothing else, it offers underdog candidates a chance to get elected.

The tactics in this race were the real news. The thing to take from this election, no matter the outcome, is that David Weprin is not any less prepared for this office because his father and brother represented the 24th District. It is unfair to hold his pedigree against him, unless he campaigns on the family name and makes that the issue for his being elected.

Bob Friedrich had the advantage that other candidates have had in the last two years - a special election. Friedrich has run for the City Council before, also against a Weprin. Special elections are great because they bring out the voters that really want to vote. In a general election, a challenger can get swallowed up in a wave that might come from another race at the top of the ticket. For instance, in presidential years with the turnout being high, Assembly races get pushed down to the bottom of the ballot, which means they appear below judicial races (and nobody follows those races).

All of this means that on Tuesday, February 9, there was a real election in the 24th District. Unfortunately for Friedrich, and apologies for mentioning this in print twice in as many weeks, the Assembly race does not come with matching funds, although special elections are set up differently anyway. It is here where running against a familiar family name is a real disadvantage. If Paul Vallone had won his primary in the 19th City Council District last year, he would have had his family name as a slight advantage. But his challenger on the Republican side would have at least had the chance to tap into matching funds and mount a challenge. In this kind of race, Friedrich is left to his fundraising capabilities because it’s a special election and the Assembly is dollar for dollar.

This race has gotten a little ugly, which means it's closer than you think. The clean ones are usually not competitive. The Weprin camp's decision to send out campaign literature with a swastika was beyond risky. He was trying to make the case that Friedrich would not support hate crime legislation. That does not mean that the candidate is soft on the issue necessarily. Weprin could have made the case better than sending out literature like that, especially in a district where a lot of voters (and both candidates) are Jewish. It would have been offensive regardless of the ethnic break-down of the district.

What is becoming the biggest non-issue in campaigns lately is when candidates switch parties. Friedrich ran on the Republican line and said that he would caucus with the GOP if elected, but he is still a registered Democrat. Weprin claims that Friedrich cut a backroom deal with Republicans to get on their line. A backroom deal? The state GOP doesn’t have anything to bet with. What could they offer him? Starbucks gift cards? What kind of deal would there be? They are too far back in the minority to sell out. Calling Friedrich an extreme conservative might be considered an insult - to extreme conservatives. Friedrich is a Democrat, running on the Republican line. He’s not the first candidate to take the GOP for a test drive, and he probably will not be the last.

I congratulate the people of the 24th Assembly District, for they have a race.

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