Daniel L. Feldman

The political configuration of 1998 and the 9th congressional district

In General on April 13, 2012 at 10:14 am

The political configuration of 1998, though, posed far worse threats to my congressional prospects than that of 1994, although I refused to admit that fact to myself or to others. Nine years had passed since my D.A. race, so much less of the name recognition that campaign had generated would remain than in 1994. And, in 1994, 30-year-old Anthony Weiner had served on the New York City Council only for two years. By 1998, Weiner had six years of incumbency in a district that largely overlapped my Assembly district,but in cluded about twenty percent more voters.  Before that, he had worked for Schumer for six years. I had worked for Schumer from 1977 mid-way through 1980. Weiner started working for him in 1985. Perhaps Schumer had learned to encourage ambitious staffers to run for office, instead of treating them the way he had treated me. Or, more likely, Schumer saw a far more kindred spirit in Weiner – a young man burning with political ambition, unburdened by strong ethical or policy convictions, who would do anything to advance himself. In any event, their relationship remained so strong that even after six years as a member of the City Council, and now as a candidate for Congress, Weiner still acted as if he were a member of Schumer’s staff. I learned this at a 1998 outdoor summer event at Kingsborough Community College, overhearing Weiner on his cell phone counseling Schumer that the event had drawn a large enough crowd to warrant Schumer’s attendance.

Weiner wasn’t my only problem. In 1994, 29-year-old Melinda Katz had only just been elected to the Assembly, succeeding Alan Hevesi, for whom she had worked as a baby-sitter, and who backed her against a Democratic district leader who the Queens County Democratic organization preferred. Hevesi was, as Tom Robbins wrote in the Village Voice in 2009, “a fierce backer of his young protégé.” By 1998, she had compiled a thin record of accomplishment, but enough to justify her candidacy to herself and to Hevesi.

At 49 years of age, after eighteen years in the Assembly, I had won significant legislative victories for drivers (such as forcing the Parking Violations Bureau to pay a “fine” to drivers it had harassed unreasonably for tickets already paid or wrongfully issued), subway riders (such as establishing the Transit Corps of Engineers which, during a critical period, raised the morale and performance of transit engineering from unsafe to professional levels), tenants (such as ending the practice of double-billing tenants for rent paid in cash by requiring the issuance of rent receipts), and homeowners (such as establishing the Tax Assessment Small Claims Court, which reduced the perfunctory affirmation by the Tax Commission of tax assessment increases on homeowners from 97 percent down to 77 percent).  No other legislator could match my record of achievement on behalf of those four interest groups – drivers, straphangers, tenants, and homeowners. If I won their support, I should be able to beat any opponent. Dozens of my other legitimate legislative accomplishments had tangibly improved the lives of New Yorkers. I had proven myself highly effective in the role of a legislator working in the interests of my constituents.

So I should win a race for congress overwhelmingly, right?

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