A Republican contender for a Civil Court judgeship in overwhelmingly Democratic Brooklyn — who has run as a line filler for his party in previous years — is surging, thanks to the notoriety that comes from running against a controversial, ethically challenged, homophobic and largely absent Democratic opponent.
The Republican, James McCall, lambastes his opponent, former Councilman Noach Dear, as measuring himself for judicial robes before the election has even taken place.
“I’m running for judge, and Noach Dear is running for cover,” quipped McCall. “That speaks for itself.”
McCall, 59, a lifelong Bay Ridgite and Reagan Democrat, insists he stands a chance, even though a Republican has not won a contested judgeship in Brooklyn since the middle of the 20th century.
“We’re doing a lot of what we need to do to win this race,” McCall told The Brooklyn Paper. “It’s down to whether we can truly activate the Republican base.”
He’s trying to do it with energy — appearing virtually everywhere in the Fifth District, which includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace — and humor. His newspaper ads offer voters a “Top 10 list” of “reasons to vote for Jim McCall.” The first reason given by the hefty lawyer: “Black judicial robes are very slimming.” The 10th? “He’s not Noach Dear.”
McCall hasn’t confined his campaigning to cutesy ads. He’s pressed the flesh at senior centers, the Bay Ridge Community Council, Republican clubs, and most oddly, at a meeting for the Lambda Independent Democrats, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political club.
Dear’s been doing his part for McCall, too, by doing next to nothing to energize the Democratic base. Even his endorsements by Borough President Markowitz and county boss, Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D–Bushwick), have backfired with political insiders who called it payback for Dear’s pledge to stop running for office and having his record repeatedly dredged up.
Dear served as a Borough Park councilman for 18 (pre-term-limit) years, during which he spearheaded the opposition to the landmark 1986 gay rights bill in the Council and then, after the bill passed, sought to overturn it.
Dear’s record remains tarnished by corruption and ethical lapses. The Village Voice recently reported that when Dear ran for Congress a few years ago, his staff forged 47 money orders in other people’s names to hide a donation of $40,000, then 20 times the legal limit. The Voice also reported that in 1991, Dear was “receiving nearly $250,000 a year from a charity he headed called the Save Soviet Jewry Foundation.” He later returned more than $37,000 after an investigation by the attorney general.
Moreover, much of the money to finance his campaign for Civil Court judge has come from taxi corporations, the very same ones he is charged with regulating as a commissioner on the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
Unlike Dear, whom the City Bar association rated unqualified for the job, McCall — who was rated as “approved” — is an attorney with years of experience in the Kings Country court system. For the past four years, he’s worked as a Civil Court attorney. Before that, he worked as trial attorney, mostly doing personal injury defense for insurance companies.
McCall believes that Dear is so bad a candidate that it will override Brooklyn’s knee-jerk Democratic leanings. Indeed, the Lambda club almost endorsed its first Republican last week to protest Dear’s candidacy. Even so, club members — all liberals — had plenty of good things to say about McCall.
“Dear has been so vile in his homophobia that we [should] support a Republican to defeat him,” said Ralph Perfetto, a district leader from Bay Ridge who accompanied McCall to last week’s Lambda endorsement meeting.
For now, McCall hopes to ride the anti-Dear bandwagon into office. “I am completely and 100 percent the alternative to Noach Dear.”
General Election, Tuesday, Nov. 6. For information on your local poll site, call (212) VOTE-NYC or visit www.vote.nyc.ny.us.