October 19, 2009 @ 5:11 pm
Via City Hall News:
Faced with no primary opponent, Democratic incumbent Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. thought he would cruise to his third term in office. Vallone, who holds the same Queens seat his father held for almost three decades, had only $40,000 on hand a few weeks before election day, and decided to forego matching funds, figuring that they were a waste of taxpayer money.
But that was before Lynne Serpe, a 38-year-old environmental activist and Green Party candidate for the seat announced that she had $100,000 on hand and qualified for over $70,000 in matching funds.
“There are people in the district who have wanted resources that they haven’t gotten in 35 years,” she said. “I think people are ready for a change.”
Still, the disadvantages Serpe faces in terms of name recognition, party affiliation and incumbency are pretty huge, she admits, so her campaign has taken to some unorthodox methods to get out her message. A worm composter is a major draw in the storefront campaign office, and Serpe sometimes picks up trash in public. On breaks from dealing with the rotting waste of Astoria, Serpe tries to draw in voters with teaching sessions about solar panels, and she and her team have gone to local high schools to raise awareness about military recruitment.
“My goal is to win,” she said, explaining that she was buoyed by the surprise primary wins of other left leaning candidates like Danny Dromm. “It’s possible that we’re looking at an entire shift in Western Queens.”
Serpe is faring the best so far among her fellow local Green Party brethren, three of whom are running for Council seats, along with “Reverend Billy” Talen, who is running for mayor.
David Pechefsky, opposing Democratic nominee Brad Lander in Park Slope, is aiming to build on the 20 percent of the vote won by the last Green candidate in the district. To kick off the general election last month, Pechefsky challenged his rivals to a test of mettle: a croquet match.
“Broadly speaking, I think I like the principles of the Green Party, but the immediate impetus was my feeling about the politics in New York City, about there being a lack of democracy in New York City,” he explained. “I want people to feel like there’s a real election.”
All things considered, the local Green Party—reviled by many, resented by Democrats since 2000 and Ralph Nader and the butterfly ballot—is feeling self-satisfied this year. It is quietly raising many times more signatures than needed to get on local ballots and, as in Serpe’s district, doing unusually well in fundraising.
Daniella Liebling, a Green Party representative, attributed the traction in large part to dissatisfaction over the term limits extension.
“Voters of all parties are just so—I can’t even think of the word—just feel completely hopeless,” Liebling said. “I think that issue is huge. And our candidates are certainly pushing that issue ever step of the way.”
Even Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf would not totally rule out the possibility of a Green win.
“Anything can happen, if you look at the growth of the Working Families Party in the last few years,” Sheinkopf said. “Green is hot. It’s politically hot because everyone’s talking green. The president’s talking green, the governor’s talking green, the mayor’s talking green—so why not?”
Along with her Green credibility, Serpe said that voters’ anger over term limits and misbehavior in Albany this summer, have given her an opening. Even trying to beat the Vallone family dynasty is made easier by the fast-changing political world, Serpe said.
“I think all those factors create a fantastic opportunity for someone like me,” she said.