Fidler, Nelson Defeat Opponents; Does It Even Matter?

There were no surprises in the local City Council races, as incumbents Lew Fidler (46th District) and Michael C. Nelson (48th District) bested their opposition in this year’s races by a wide margin.

Fidler picked up 79.23 percent of the vote (17,101), leaving Republican opponent Gene Berardelli with 19.46 percent, or 4,201 votes. Libertarian candidate Derek Sacerdote took the remaining 1.31 percent (282). Nelson’s lead was larger, with 89.83 percent (12,528), versus Conservative candidate Stephen Walters, who collected 10.17 percent (1418).

As readers of Sheepshead Bites know, the race for the 46th District was spirited, with often heated back-and-forths between Berardelli and Fidler on this site (here and here), culminating in a taped debate. At issue were term limits, discretionary funding, and negative campaign tactics.

In the end, Fidler attributed his win to running a positive campaign, telling Yournabe.com “negative campaigning isn’t tolerated” in the 46th district, a dig at Berardelli’s website, TheFidler.com.

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On an editorial note, this hardly passes as news, as Democratic candidates are almost never ousted in Brooklyn. Just take a glance at Yournabe.com’s front page, and you’ll see headlines – probably written days before – like this: “DeBlasio wins in landslide…”, “Gentile has easy win…”, “Williams coasts to victory…”, and so on.

Such headlines are so predictable, even before campaign season starts, that it’s ingrained into the mind of every voter, candidate, and reporter from the outset. So when Fidler attributes his win to the other side’s negative campaigning, we have to wonder if it has more to do with self-fulfilling prophesy.

This year was the first time I’ve ever reported on campaigns. And as I followed the fights, it became obvious to me that I was the only one that did. Except for token articles about scandalous claims – like the “anti-semitism” debacle – even the local media didn’t bother reporting the opposition. And for that, we all suffer.

Brooklyn needs real elections to fix its problems, and for that, it needs more media covering the opponents. I’m not saying the Democrats need to be voted out, but elections – especially City Council elections – are a time for discussion about a community’s future. When the opposition isn’t taken seriously, the people are deprived of that discussion, and the incumbent slips by with little accountability.

During various times in our reporting, Fidler intoned – though never said – that Sheepshead Bites’ coverage was biased towards Berardelli. I think Fidler would’ve considered biased any coverage of Berardelli that didn’t lampoon him. And I don’t blame him, candidates in Brooklyn are not used to seeing their general election opponents taken seriously, so any attempt to is cast in a light of suspicion.

That needs to change. Not to the detriment of Fidler or other incumbents, but to the benefit of us all. Courier-Life editor Ken Brown told one caller who asked about more coverage for the opposition, “Republicans aren’t newsworthy.” That needs to change. When anyone – civic group, blog, or business – holds a debate between all the candidates and it doesn’t get a lick of coverage, that needs to change.

Sheepshead Bites was proud of our part in reporting on the 46th District campaign. We wish we had the resources to have covered the 48th District – and others – better. And we’re also proud that a councilman like Lew Fidler, who believes in communicating with his constituents and engaging his opponents, represents an area we cover.

But our pride is tempered by the realization of a failure of an entire industry to even partially fulfill its raison d’etre. News media exists to inform the public. This elections proved to me just how cataclysmically they fail at that. And they wonder why their future looks as grey as the paper they print on.

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