’Tis the season to be campaigning.
Like a winter blizzard, City Council hopeful Jo Anne Simon blanketed voters’ mailboxes from Greenpoint to Brooklyn Heights with a four-page glossy mailing last week in the opening round of campaigning for an election that will not take place until next September.
When asked why she dropped a big chunk of campaign change on a mailing that will be long-forgotten by next year, Simon said she didn’t want to waste any time in reminding voters about her candidacy to succeed Councilman David Yassky.
“Two-thousand and nine is going to be a big year in New York City and I want people to know that I’m running,” said Simon, a lawyer and District Leader for the Democratic Party in Boerum Hill.
Competition will be cutthroat to succeed Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) — especially if the two-term councilman doesn’t run for his seat again. Yassky has said he is running for Comptroller, though the Council’s divisive vote to extend term limits, a measure Yassky supported, allows Yassky to run for a third term on the Council.
Until the dust settles on Yassky’s plans, Simon is one of six candidates (she’s the only woman running).
Simon’s glossy mailer mentions her membership in civic associations, offers positive press clips about her, and features the obligatory photos of her with cute babies. Given that so few New Yorkers can name their member of Congress, political consultants said Simon’s mailing could have an important upside.
“The argument for doing them is to get your name-recognition up,” said a Democratic consultant involved with one of the candidates in the district. “But I still think it’s too soon for a big mailing. People will forget about it.”
Aspiring pols typically inundate voters with campaign literature in August and September prior to the primary election — though well-funded candidates have little to lose by spending about $7,000 to $10,000 on a direct mail piece in the early stages of the campaign.
Simon certainly has the money. Through July, the last time figures were released, Simon’s war chest boasted $55,037, the most of any candidate for Yassky’s seat.
Evan Thies, a former Yassky staffer and current Community Board 1 member was second with $38,620; followed by Stephen Levin, chief of staff for Assemblyman Vito Lopez with $31,298; Ken Diamondstone, a former state Senate candidate, with $30,188; Ken Baer, the former head of the New York State chapter of the Sierra Club, with $12,093; and Isaac Abraham, an activist in the Hasidic community in Williamsburg, with $2,926.
There’s another reason why Simon put out her campaign mailing so early. In January, Thies will take a leave of absence from his job in public relations to become “a full-time candidate.”
“That means that every minute of every day is devoted to the election,” he said.
Of course, all bets are off for Thies if Yassky abandons his longshot bid for Comptroller and returns to the council race. Thies has said he would not run against his former boss, who would have a formidable fundraising base.
The pre-game action is not limited to the 33rd district either. A congested pool of candidates is vying to succeed Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope) in Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace and Kensington. Though he, too, could run for his council seat again, DeBlasio is running for public advocate after dropping his campaign for borough president when the term limits extension enabled formidable incumbent Borough President Markowitz to run for a third term.
The race to succeed DeBlasio already includes Josh Skaller, Brad Lander, Gary Reilly, Bob Zuckerman, Craig Hammerman.
All the candidates have been campaigning for months, and some have held behind-the-scenes fundraisers, but Skaller took his campaign public on Election Day. Knowing that Brooklyn voters would turn out in droves for the historic election of Barack Obama, Skaller, a member of Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, targeted these highly motivated voters by hitting polling sites around the district and handing out fliers.
“Those people are likely voters,” he deadpanned. “We gave out a lot of lit.”