I congratulate the Haitian community on a victory that is long overdue. No other ethnic community in this city has endured such a long drought when it comes to political representation, though others are approaching that point. It is my hope that City Councilman Mathieu Eugene will have the guts, independence and tenacity to do great work for all the residents of the 40th Council District. His election is truly historic.
Eugene’s victory does remind us, however, that well-organized forces win elections — even when they are outspent. This message needs to be heard across the City, not just within this district. The fact that 1199 has mastered certain techniques and has an embedded constituency within certain districts affords that union a particular level of power. Where is the rest of labor? Not all unions agree on all things. How come few other groups have the roots and the pulling operation to have an impact on elections — particularly low-turnout elections such as this special?
The endorsement of any newspaper SHOULD matter, as well as other endorsements, if a campaign is organized and equipped to use the ammunition that has been provided. At a time when the political game is becoming increasingly sophisticated, we are seeing less and less sophistication within certain communities and more surrender to distractions (and by sophistication I do not mean abandonment of tried and true strategies such as door-to-door campaigning). Therefore, the most sophisticated campaign wins.
And, even worse, this concentration — or isolation — of strategic excellence is NOT increasing voter participation overall. We have become comfortable operating within predefined turnout parameters that are, frankly, unacceptable if New York City is to be truly representative of its people (ethnically, racially, gender-wise and policy-wise).
Being a candidate is very hard work. These days, building a meaningful organization is even harder — even for a block association or civic organization, let alone a political group. Virtual organization has value, but is NOT a substitute for face-to-face contact with real people. Virtual organization is helpful, but it cannot establish the same gut-level commitment to change at the local level that can be achieved at a good, fired up meeting.
The fact that so many candidates stepped forward in the 40th District was a good thing. The fact that so few were able to operate effectively was sad.
This is a time of change and we need leaders who do not fear an empowered and politically active electorate. We need leaders who will be clear that added value comes from having additional voices heard — not simply voices they can control.
I am sure no one is more disappointed this morning than Mo Razvi, who had the funds needed to operate a good campaign but who succeeded in bringing out only a fraction of his Pakistani community — and few others — on his behalf. He should not give up. Jennifer James should not give up. Ricky Tulloch should not give up. Karlene Gordon should not give up. This election represented their first forays into the fray and each one showed different but potentially valuable strengths — as well as weaknesses. There are other offices out there of different sorts and there are people who need to be replaced. (Reprising the campaign against Dr. Eugene this September, however, will not be constructive — particularly not for Razvi or James.)
On the other hand, Wellington Sharpe should rethink his political future, as should Zenobia McNally, Joel Toney and Harry Schiffman. For different reasons, either they now represent the past, not the future, or they have not proven to be effective enough as candidates and political mobilizers. There are other valuable roles to play in working to improve our communities.
And then there’s Jesse Hamilton. He really has to rethink his entire approach to politics, because he is now on the edge of political irrelevance. For Jesse, this campaign was ill-advised and he definitely did not make the most of the opportunities he created and those that came his way. Hopefully, there are some constructive lessons in this spanking for him to learn.
Only in New York …