Daniel L. Feldman

Posts Tagged ‘National Organization of Women’

Unravelling

In National Politics, New York State Politics, NYC Politics on June 15, 2012 at 10:35 am

Alan Hevesi, as Comptroller of the City of New York, served as the most influential trustee of the pension fund for New York City police officers. When the Police Benevolent Association “withdrew” their endorsement of my candidacy for Congress, they claimed that having provided it so early, they had not realized it was for Congress. They then made no endorsement in the race. Their behavior was difficult to explain, other than by hypothesizing that Hevesi engineered it.  I did not blame Hevesi for supporting Katz over me, notwithstanding my obviously superior credentials, in that I had supported Mel Miller for Speaker of the Assembly against Hevesi, and Liz Holtzman for New York City Comptroller – twice – against Hevesi. But I was convinced that Hevesi had stolen my PBA endorsement. That was dirty, and for that I did blame him.

While the New York City branch of the National Organization of Women stuck by their endorsement despite Katz’s entry into the race, based on the length and quality of my record, the State organization endorsed Katz. Whether they did so purely as a matter of gender, or whether Hevesi had some role there as well, I do not know.

Tony Genovesi had warned me, many years earlier, to make peace with Schumer. As far as I was concerned, Schumer had wronged me. In 1998, I did endorse Schumer for Senate in his primary against Mark Green and Geraldine Ferraro, because his immense popularity in his own congressional district, in which I was running, gave me no choice. But I was not and am not a person to truckle, and I would not knuckle under or pledge fealty to him when Tony suggested it, back around 1990, or thereafter. Tony owed me for supporting him against Silver, but he endorsed Weiner, no doubt at Schumer’s insistence. This meant that the thuggish Bernie Catcher and Carl Kruger, Genovesi’s lieutenants, by then respectively a political operative in Trump Towers and the successor to Don Halperin’s State Senate seat, also worked for Weiner.

Then, in July, came the really bad news. Jeff Plaut, of Global Strategies, called me. He had discovered a classic weakness in our polling data. His pollsters had infected their communications with respondents by their support for their client – me. This “infection” skewed the responses heavily in my favor, invalidating the results. Plaut offered to refund the $11,000 or so our campaign had paid him, and I accepted.  We then engaged Penn & Schoen, Doug Schoen’s highly-regarded firm. In a few weeks they had results. Dear and I were polling at about twenty percent, with Katz and Weiner polling at about twenty-five percent.  Schoen did not think it was possible for me to win the race.

At this point, I truly disagreed. With the endorsement of the New York Times and perhaps the other dailies, and with a fine Election Day operation, I thought I could still win. I expected Schumer to endorse Weiner. Schumer had called me early in the year to thank me for endorsing him and to tell me that he would not make an endorsement until late in the race – by implication, out of gratitude for my endorsement. I understood that he would ultimately endorse Weiner, and given his relationship with Weiner, this did not upset me. I knew the Schumer endorsement would help Weiner and hurt me, but I still thought I would win.

Meanwhile, Dear was spending tremendous amounts of money, actually sending CDs (which were more expensive in those days) to each likely primary voter, touting his accomplishments, such as they were. Most of his mailings, though, simply attacked each of us, although his criticisms of Weiner and Katz, perceived as more liberal than myself, were much harsher. On primary day, the Dear campaign would use its superior financial resources to send cars and buses to pick up identified Dear supporters and drive them to their polling places.

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The “Go” Game

In National Politics on May 25, 2012 at 11:00 am

In 1982, a scholarly journal called Political Methodology had published an article of mine, “Games of Skill: Wei-ch’i and a Democratic Primary in Brooklyn,” in which I explained the political strategy with which I won my 1980 Assembly race in terms of the game called “go” in Japan and “wei-ch’i” in China. In go, unlike chess, players best dominate by building strength at the various corners and edges of the board. In the article, I applied the theory literally, showing my techniques of building support in the various geographical reaches of the district.

As noted in a previous post, I contemplated the theory more metaphorically in the congressional race, thinking that my accomplishments for drivers, subway riders, tenants and homeowners would build support in those demographic cohorts of the district. Even in ideological terms, I thought I had put down the right “markers”: in late 1997, as I was gearing up for the race, I asked for and received a letter of endorsement from the New York City Police Benevolent Association, a generally conservative group; and based on my work with women’s groups combating domestic violence, I expected and received the endorsement of the New York City chapter of the National Organization of Women, a generally liberal group.

However, I thought I could apply the theory geographically as well. After all, historically the big Democratic votes in the 9th congressional district came from my own 45th Assembly district, where I would surely do well, and the 39th and 41st, respectively Tony Genovesi’s, based in Canarsie and Mill Basin, and Helene Weinstein’s, based in the half of Sheepshead Bay east of my half, where I thought I also had reason to do fairly well, all in Brooklyn. Since I had supported Genovesi in his brief and abortive effort to depose Silver as Assembly Speaker, I thought I would have Genovesi’s support. On a personal basis, I had pestered the very overweight Genovesi into joining Artie Malkin and myself for racketball games, thinking it would benefit his health. In fact, for his size, Tony gave us a decent game, since he used to be a good handball player and still had some moves. On the Queens side, the 22nd covered most of Rockaway, where I grew up, and Howard Beach, where I had lost my City Council races to Walter Ward, but where I thought I still had friends, like Betty Braton, the district manager who had supported me in those races. Of course, Melinda Katz would be strong in the 28th, the Forest Hills district she represented, but otherwise, I thought I could be the Queens candidate as well as the Brooklyn candidate.  

Beyond such calculations, I simply did not think I could lose to any of these opponents. Indeed, early on in the race, probably in March, 1998, my pollster, Global Strategies, called me and Louis in for a celebratory meeting. Their polls had me beating my opponents by comfortable margins. Jeff Plaut, one of the principals of the group, offered me a congratulatory cigar. This made perfect sense to me. My work, over all those years, benefitting so many key constituencies, I thought, had brought me widespread support.

I really didn’t think I could lose to my opponents, all of whom I considered lightweights. Somehow, after all my years in politics, I still had the notion that substance and merit would prevail. Congressman Jerry Nadler half-joked, at one point, that I had written more books than my opponents had read. My qualifications so clearly outclassed theirs that I could not imagine, for example, that the New York Times would fail to endorse me, even with Schumer’s Luca Brasi on the editorial board (see post #73). I even imagined that the Post and News would feel compelled to endorse me.  I should have taken more of a lesson from the Saturday Night Live skit when Jon Lovitz, playing Michael Dukakis in his debate with Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush, finally said what every Democratic intellectual must have thought the real Michael Dukakis was thinking that year: “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy!”