Now that he’s won the Democratic nomination for the 39th Council District, Brad Lander is facing two challengers: Republican Joe Nardiello and Green Party nominee David Pechefsky. We checked in with both upstarts to see if they stand a chance against the better-funded, better-known Democrat.
Carroll Gardens resident Joe Nardiello is a man of contradictions. He touts the economic development work he did for both the Dinkins and the Giuliani administration, yet lambastes government waste. He champions the heroic work done by public school teachers, yet says he’ll take on their union. He says he’s done a bang-up job as the director of business development for his legal services company, yet also admits he just got laid off because the company isn’t doing as well as it once did.
And even when discussing whether he can beat Democrat Brad Lander, Nardiello is all over the place.
“I can beat him — 80 percent of the public has had enough with politicians and politics as usual,” he said. “Brad Lander is politics as usual.”
Then, a few seconds later, he challenged Lander to reject public financing of his campaign for the oddest of reasons.
“He doesn’t need public money to beat me,” Nardiello explained. “Why should he spend taxpayer dollars on mailers when he can win without them?”
Nardiello promised to campaign on several issues: opposing residential parking permits, making public schools better (including PS 58, where he sends his 8-year-old), and working for the dissolution of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
He was reminded that he’d still likely lose even if every Republican in the strongly liberal 39th District voted for him.
“This campaign will cross over,” he said. “People think politicians are lower life forms. But I’m a crossover candidate. I’m an organic Republican. I belong to the Park Slope Food Co-op. I haven’t spent my whole life trying to get elected.
“I don’t want to be labeled, except this,” he added. “I am a Brooklynite.”
The Green Party standard-bearer also isn’t sure if he can beat Democratic nominee Brad Lander.
When asked how he could triumph over a popular Democrat in a hugely Democratic district, Pechefsky paused for about 20 seconds.
“We have to engage him,” he said, pausing some more. “There were so many unanswered questions from the primary campaign, such as what are you going to do when you get to the City Council?”
We pressed Pechefsky for his own answer to the same question.
“It’s not so much what will you do, but how will you function in that environment where the speaker has all the power?” he said. “We have to show voters that they don’t have to accept that this is the way it is, that we could have something different.”
Changing the culture of the Council is this 41-year-old former Council staffer’s main reason for running. In fact, whenever Pechefsky talks about his three stints on the legislative side of City Hall, he talks about the “institutional reform” he’d seek if elected.
When reminded that voters tend to nap whenever a candidate talks about institutional reform, Pechefsky, the father of two public school kids, said his priorities would be getting more pre-K seats in the district and cleaning the Gowanus Canal.
But he always comes back to the Speaker.
“I am someone who can build a coalition inside the Council to take on the speaker,” he said. “That’s the key issue. You can only have business as usual unless we do that.”
But is that the key to beating Brad Lander?
Again, a long pause.
“Yeah, why not?” he said. “I stack up well in every way. I have experience and substance. If people really want change, I will beat Brad Lander. If people are happy with the status quo, he wins easily.”
Election day is Nov. 3.