There may be thousands of New York City Jews upstate in Catskills camps and rentals for the summer, but the area seems to have lost its cachet as a political hotspot. So far, despite new life being breathed into the area by non-Orthodox city dwellers, only longshot candidates for mayor have traveled up Route 17 to press the flesh (among males) at bungalow colonies and pizza joints in such hamlets as Monticello, Woodburne and Swan Lake.
An email to spokespersons for the major candidates for mayor asking if they planned to journey to the Jewish Alps yielded no replies as of this writing. So far, ony Sal Albanese, a low-polling Democrat, has also made the trip. In 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent the day shmoozing Jewish vacationers in the Borscht Belt.
Catskills maven Phil Brown of Northeastern University said the decline of big resorts like Grossinger’s or the Concord, which regularly hosted governors and senators and the like, makes the trip less efficient for a campaign planner. “There aren’t many big venues left,” said Borwn. “I don’t imagine they’re ging to go to 20 or 30 bungalow colonies and talk to 20 or 30 people at each one.”
With five weeks to go until Primary Day, the other candidates are obviously focused on venues closer to home, with Republican frontrunner Joseph Lhota campaigning heavily for the Russian vote in Brighton Beach and elsewhere, together with David Storobin, who was briefly a state senator and now wants to be the only Jewish Republican in the City Council. On Monday, Lhota launched a small business tour of the five boroughs. “The launch of today’s small business tour is about establishing a dialogue between the next mayor and our small businesses,” said Mr. Lhota. “Many of them are really struggling under the City’s burdensome tax and regulatory policies.”
William Thompson, meanwhile, gave his ascendant campaign – he’s benefitting from Anthony Weiner’s poll slippage – a shot in the arm last weekend with an all-night campaign swing through the boroughs, covering lots of bases and reminiscent of Rudy Giuliani’s frenetic bus tours in the home stretch of his successful 1997 re-election bid. Earlier last week, Thompson stopped by The Jewish Week for an extensive interview you’ll read here on Wednesday.
Another Weiner beneficiary, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, is also ramping up the campaign schedule with a five-day tour of what he called emerging industries.
“Over the next five days, de Blasio will talk with immigrant entrepreneurs, visit a successful workforce development program, and meet with leaders and workers in the city’s growing tech, manufacturing, design, film and television sectors,” according to his campaign. “On each day of the tour, de Blasio will propose new policy ideas to continue to grow these industries and to improve the pipeline from New York’s public schools and city university system to opportunities in these sectors as well as in New York’s healthcare industry. “
It’s part of what the Times called a risky strategy: asking the public to shift from the “smooth-running, highly efficient apparatus of government under Michael Bloomberg … to embrace a much different agenda for City Hall – taxing the rich, elevating the poor and rethinking a Manhattan-centric approach to city services.”
As for Weiner, he’s breathing new life into his troubled campaign, too, by releasing a second set of ideas, on top of his first 64, titled Even More Keys to the City – 61 Additional Ideas to Keep New York the Capital of the Middle Class.” According to a statement, at a park in Queens, Weiner was to “outline his additional ideas and proposals to move New York City forward by improving the foundation for middle class families and those struggling to make it there.”
Continuing to be dogged by questions about the timing of his more recent online dalliances, and the release of a pronographic video by Sydney Leathers, who says she was long the object of his remote affections (undenied by the candidate) Weiner’s campaign posted his own video showing that he’s factored questions about his personal life into his campaign. In the video he tells a critical City Island voter that he or anyone else is welcome to vote against him, but notes that others who like his ideas should have he chance to support him, an idea well-received by some of the audience members who applaud and one case shout “amen.”
Weiner also questions why rival candidates keep calling on him to drop out rather than contrast their ideas with his. They’ll have a chance to d just that on Tuesday morning at Hunter College at a Town Hall forum sponsored by some powerhouse organizations: The AARP, NAACP, Hispanic Federation, Asian American Federation, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
Elsewhere, Times correspondent and ponderer Jodi Kantor goes there in Sunday’s paper, asking what’s up with Jewish men and sex scandals and considering whether it is a sign they have “arrived” as fully assimilated Americans. And “finally,” life imitates Roth’s “Portnoy’s complaint.”
Frontrunner Christine Quinn is enjoying her return to the top of the ballot in recent polls. A rosy interview with the Times’ Maureen Dowd notes, in addition the color of her toenail polish and her indecision on whether have kids, that Quinn can’t quite get people swaying in churches, like the smooth-talking Weiner. But it adds that she’s learning to be tough against critics on the campaign trail. On what is perhaps her biggest vulnerability, the rap that she enabled Bloomberg’s unpopular third term (and her own second term as speaker) by rolling back the popular term limits, an upbeat Quinn dodged he question and says she has no regrets about having a productive relationship with the mayor.
“Look at Washington, where you’re either all in or you’re the devil. Who does that help?” Quinn said, ostensibly referring to partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill.
Less jovial this week is comptroller John Liu, who is facing a potential $3.5 million hit in lost matching funds from the city’s Campaign Finance Board, which cited widespread suscpicion of violations related to a 2011 investigation of straw donors that led to two federal convictions.
“The Board did not approve a public matching funds payment to John Liu’s campaign for mayor during today’s meeting, because there is reason to believe that violations of the Act and Board rules have been committed by his campaign,” said Father Joseph Parkes, chair of the CFB in a statement.
“The evidence suggests that the potential violations are serious and pervasive across the campaign’s fundraising. Several key personnel involved in fundraising while potential violations have occurred have maintained positions of significant responsibility within the campaign throughout the 2013 election cycle. The campaign has placed in a major role at least one person who admitted to a plan to violate campaign finance law.”
Liu’s spokesperson hasn’t yet responded to our request for comment, but his lawyer, Marty Connor told the Post the CFB “staff is proposing is the death penalty for minor transgressions.”
Liu, who is likely to appeal the ruling, has just 6 percent of likely Democrat voters in the most recent Quinnipiac poll, edging out only Albanese at 2 percent, perhaps wishing he’d run for re-election instead. Or, perhaps not.
In other longshot news, independent candidate Jack Hidary, a Sephardic businessman from Brooklyn and Yeshivah of Flatbush graduate, seemed to have a celebrity email endorser, Isaac Mizrahi, who proclaims that “Jack is a successful entrepreneur and has dedicated his time and energy to community service and education.” We wondered if the sender is the noted fashion designer, or one of perhaps hundreds of Sephardim in the area who share that name.
But the Hidary campaign set us straight on Tuesday, saying this Isaac Mizrahi is a supporter of the campaign, but not the designer.