Republican Event Illustrates Challenges

Republican Challengers Meet at Lundy's-Cherry Hill in Sheepshead Bay
Republican Challengers Meet at Lundy's-Cherry Hill in Sheepshead Bay

Yesterday morning, the Republican challengers for Comptroller, Public Advocate, Brooklyn Borough President and the City Council’s 46th District gathered under the  roof of the historic Lundy’s building. The event was the Republican party’s first endeavor to meet voters as formally endorsed candidates. What they encountered was a smattering of supporters, more food than people, and one lone reporter: me.

It was a hum-drum occasion. The Republicans each spoke briefly about their experience and reason for running. It was a litany of complaints about corruption and mismanagement, paired with promises to shine a light on the darknesses of political patronage and the Democratic machine. They promised more transparency in the issuing of contracts and to pressure contractors to do work efficiently. And they promised restraint and common sense, in place of, oh, say, $64 million amphitheaters next to synagogues.

But more than anything else, the event and its lack of coverage illustrated the chief hurdle the Republican party faces in local New York City elections: stigma.

Gene Berardelli, who is running for Lew Fidler’s seat in the City Council, called it the “Scarlet R”. Republican candidates in New York City face a steep uphill battle, as years of Democratic dogmatism threaten their credibility.

After all, this is a group many in the media regard as “token” challengers – and some even forget to mention at all. Courier-Life for example, has completely omitted the Republicans from their new election website. No, I don’t mean they’re not covering them (which they’re not). I mean they’re not even listed as challengers.

It’s bad enough we live in a two-party nation, but a one-party city is simply unacceptable. What, after all, has decades of one-party rule given us? What are we to benefit from the elimination of choice?

I’m not suggesting you should go out and vote Republican this year. What I’m suggesting is that you should have the opportunity to learn about a Republican from your media.

What I learned from yesterday’s meeting was that NYC Republicans are not the ravenous beasts of the national party. They’re home grown, and their opinions can stray far from the usual brand of Republican. Some, like Berardelli, are staunchly pro-environment. Many are pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights. Some may even believe in universal healthcare (okay, I haven’t met one of those – yet). What we have in NYC is a unique flavor of Republican – one that has adopted many of the national Democratic Party’s favorite issues while shaving off the dead wood of our city’s machine politics.

Again, I’m not suggesting you vote for a Republican in November. But you should attend a meet-and-greet. You should look at their websites. And you should ask yourself how fair your usual news outlet is being by muting these voices.

Ned Berke is a life-long Democrat. He has never voted Republican. In fact, the only time he voted for another party was during college, when someone got on the New Jersey gubernatorial ticket as “Weedman.” At that time, Ned felt Weedman deserved that vote for being skilled enough to navigate NJ’s electoral bureaucracy while high. That was pretty cool.