Sunday, February 01, 2009

Frontrunners and Dark Horses

The word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many', and the word 'ticks', meaning 'blood sucking parasites'.
-- Larry Hardiman

As the race for District 1 City Council seat starts to warm up there are numerous scenarios being played out in the minds of political junkies Downtown.

The big question is, besides the new lease on life for Alan Gerson, who will be running for that seat. While unopposed in the past, Gerson has a few contenders who would like to replace him. The are a lot of voters who apparently feel the same way. In addition to the race itself, there are rumors that a deal is in the works which would have Alan going out the back door before the Primary to take a position promised him by Mike for supporting the term limits win.

Julie Menin, a recent Republican, is currently a Democrat who is Chair of Board #1 and widely known as desirous of the Council seat. The ill-fated takeover of D.I.D. has abated somewhat and it reportedly earned a bit of ire from Borough President Scott Stringer, who benefited from that club’s support.
Both Menin and Gerson are friends of Bloomberg and were supportive of his term-limits putsch. She has publicly stated that she is not running against Alan and is busy developing a new life as Democratic consultant and blogger (now railing against Republicans). Since there are no term limits on Board #1, we will continue to hear about her views on lots of issues. A large cache of cash and a PR firm will ensure that.

However, some doubt the finality of her public decision and we may yet see some curious twists and Machiavellian turns. As the song says, “See you – in September.”

Pete Gleason has vowed to run against Gerson, regardless of what happens. He is considered an underdog, if not a dark horse. While he has a lot of ground to cover, he is gaining support. He is wrapping up his legal practice and will be campaigning full time starting in February.
He may also garner some unexpected main line political support because of Gerson’s position on term-limits, which was very unpopular among voters. Gleason’s strong points are a following among police, firefighters and civil service as well as disenchanted residents in SoHo and Tribeca who feel that Gerson has done nothing for eight years and then allowed High-Rise Mike another four as a sort of dictator.

Margaret Chin began her campaign at the end of last year and has gathered momentum. She has carefully assessed her chances and is expected to make a solid showing but is one of the dark horses in this race. Her identification with Chinatown is both positive and negative – a strong voter base but a knotty problem with a perceived provincialism. Almost no one looks to the “Communist” label, which was used against her in the past as negative any more - not a few find it charming and oddly nostalgic. Her experience in housing reform, community organizing and social activism are potent strengths.

Evan Lederman, a darker horse, is a newcomer also contemplating entering the fray. His bona fides include membership in the elite law firm of Cravath, Swaine and membership in Community Board #2 where he is Chair of Street Activity and Film Permits. He was also President of NYS Young Democrats. As of this writing, he confirmed considering a run but has not formally decided.

Last, but certainly not least, is the darkest horse. Irrespective of her strong points, not the least of which is a set of judicial robes and having done the job before Gerson, Kathryn Freed is not completely out of the picture. While she will not confirm her intentions – since she already gainfully employed as a Civil Court Judge – there is always the possibility that will have a change of heart. Or, perhaps, a change of direction. That’s a dark horse with a wild card.

As this heats up, we’ll watch the sparks fly.

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