Thursday, November 6, 2008

Crowley Beats Como for City Council Seat


By Conor Greene

In a rematch of the summer’s special election, Elizabeth Crowley rode the wave of Democratic support on Tuesday night to a victory over freshman City Councilman Anthony Como.

Crowley, of Glendale defeated Como (R-Middle Village) 18,592 to 14,603 this week after narrowly losing to him in the June special election. The win allows Democrats to reclaim one of three City Council seats currently held by Republicans. It also marks the first time a Democrat has represented the 30th Council district since it was created in 1991.

At her campaign celebration Tuesday night in the Woodhaven House, Crowley chalked the win up to more than just the success of Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, given her 12 percent margin of victory. “This was a true representation of the district,” she said, referring to the more than 30,000 residents from Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood who cast votes.

In a reversal from the special election, when she hired The Parkside Group to run her campaign, Crowley focused more this time around on direct contact with voters. While her campaign advisors minimized her contact with the media over the summer, she made herself much more visible and accessible to reporters and residents during this campaign.

“I think the campaign in June was very rushed,” she said. “With this one, I had more time during the summer to contact voters, and think I was able to get my message across to more people.”

An educator who holds a master’s degree in urban planning, Crowley made supporting local schools and addressing quality of life issues, such as traffic concerns, the focus of her campaign. When asked what her City Council agenda will include, Crowley responded simply, “overdevelopment, education and making sure our district is well funded and doesn’t get cut when the mayor bridges the budget gap.”

Crowley credited support she received from the Juniper Park Civic Association with helping her stay even with Como in conservative areas such as Middle Village, where he was counting on a large advantage. “It was good that I went to their meeting before the election, where there were over 200 people I was able to communicate with,” she said, referring to a candidates night last week that Como didn’t attend.

While the civic didn’t formally endorse a candidate, its president, Robert Holden and some members threw their support behind Crowley. “It definitely helped [in that I was able to come close to Como in such a conservative area,” she said of that support. “In Middle Village we nearly had the same amount of votes, and that was probably due to the help of the civic. That should be his base, but it wasn’t.”

In stark contrast to the atmosphere at Woodhaven House, the mood was somber in Como’s Myrtle Avenue campaign headquarters, which he shared with Senator Serf Maltese (R-Glendale). Maltese lost on Tuesday to Councilman Joseph Addabbo after nearly twenty years in Albany (see related story) in a highly contested race.

As results came trickling in from individual polling places, supporters of the Republican ticket appeared resigned that the GOP’s rough night would trickle down to the local level. Maltese and Como arrived at the headquarters after 10 p.m. to deliver the bad news. “Anthony and I have been partners for a long time,” Maltese told the crowd. “Unfortunately, this time we weren’t partners in victory.”

Maltese and Como both blamed their defeats on the huge surge in Democratic voters who went to the polls this year, many for the first time. In council and senate districts that have about twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, the political climate was simply too much to overcome, said Maltese.

“The circumstances were such that, despite our best efforts, it was not something we could achieve and accomplish,” he said, adding that he felt that this was the “best campaign” he and his staff had ever run. “Nothing was going to be easy in this campaign because of the presidential race.”

Como’s comments mirrored those of Maltese, whom he calls his political mentor. He noted that there were a number of paper ballots to be counted, but conceded that they generally go the same way as the machine votes. “We worked very hard and I had a great staff,” he said.

In the wake of the election, Como was not ready to say what he will do moving forward. After running two campaigns over the past five months, he is now looking forward to “getting his life back in order” and said practicing law again is an option. Prior to running for election, he served as an aide to Maltese, a Board of Elections commissioner and in the district attorney’s office. “I look forward to what the future may hold for me,” he said.

The council seat was held by Thomas Ognibene from 1991 to 2001 and by Dennis Gallagher from 2001 until this summer, when he resigned after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a 52-year-old woman. It was those circumstances, combined with the political climate, that opened up the seat to Democrats. This marked Crowley’s third run at City Council, having lost to Gallagher in her 2001 bid to succeed Ognibene.

For Crowley, the hard work now begins, with her main focus on making sure the district receives its fair share of city funding. “The people spoke and need somebody who is going to work hard and bring back the resources,” she said. “The truth of the matter is, he [Como] did not bring back to the district what Councilman Gallagher was able to bring back, the funding was substantially lower, and we can’t have that.”

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