I think of the RedState community as my extended family, and I’m grateful to all of you for reading my past missives on markets and finance. I’ve been all but absent from the front page for months now, and I owe you an explanation.
First, my businesses have been performing very well this year, and being a CEO is time-consuming. Second, and more interesting to most of you, is that I’ve bitten the poisoned apple of electoral politics.
My wife, Paula Hostetter, was engaged as the campaign manager to Angelo Maragos, a young businessman who embarked on the seemingly quixotic task of running as a Republican for New York City Council. I got sucked in because a political campaign needs management-type people who can build a strong team quickly, and there I was.
I’m tremendously proud of Paula, who has run a tough, disciplined campaign against the longest possible odds (more on that in a moment). We definitely broke through the clutter to reach our voters. We ran a multi-dimensional campaign that was long on organization and strategy. I can tell you that the last few years of hanging around the assorted political junkies and professionals that comprise RedState’s contributor roster, gave us insights that paid off big-time.
I’d like to say that tomorrow the voters of western Queens will decide whether we made the sale. That’s where the picture gets complicated.
New York City Council District 26 is part of Congressional District 12. This is hard-core Democrat country, with a 6 to 1 edge in voter registrations over Republicans. No one can remember the last time a Republican even made the attempt to run for this Council seat. In 2005, the field was split between a Democrat and a Green Party candidate. The Democrat got 90% of the vote. That’s what I mean by long odds!
But Paula made two decisions: first, that Angelo is an attractive candidate. And second, that if conservative Republicans are ever going to start taking back local government from the entrenched, fossilized Democratic machines, someone would have to go first.
So it was off to the races. I’ll give you the whole story of the campaign in subsequent posts after the election. What I want to call to your attention today is the nature of our opposition, which gave us the thematics for the campaign.
If you read Moe Lane’s fine post yesterday, you know who we’re fighting again: ACORN, and their New York-based cat’s paw, the Working Families Party. I’ll have a lot more to say about this, but while I’m introducing my candidate, let me also introduce our opponent: James Van Bramer.
Bramer is a former gay-rights activist who lost a council race eight years ago in a different district. Looking for a fresh start, he moved to our district and (at least outwardly) cleaned up his act, losing most of the lunatic-left rhetoric and going for a more mainstream appeal. Trained as a journalist, he took a job as a PR person for the Queens public library system.
Back in 2001, he was one of the early members of the Working Families Party, an ACORN front group co-founded by none other than Bertha Lewis. The stated charter of WFP is to move the Democratic Party to the left. Their real objective, however, is to steal elections and to actively hijack the Democratic Party. This year, they're finally coming close.
The first evidence came in the Democratic primary, two months ago. Unlike 2001, Bramer won this primary, earning him the ability to run in the general election on both the Democratic and WFP lines. (New York's oddball fusion-voting system means that both lines add to his total.)
To call Bramer’s primary win an upset is a strong understatement. His opponent (while no prize as a campaigner) was a lawyer and long-standing member of the local Democratic machine. It was simply assumed that she would sail to a primary win, on the endorsement of every machine pol in sight. Bramer beat her by nine points.
This is where Data and Field Services comes into the picture.
DFS is a private corporation spun off from the WFP to provide data and canvassing services to WFP candidates. Because they’re private, they don’t disclose who funds them, and they don’t say what it costs them to actually provide their services.
What the Democrats started noticing in the summer, is that Bramer was somehow fielding large teams of well-trained, tough canvassers. But due to New York’s stringent campaign-finance disclosure laws, everyone knew how much he was spending on the campaign, whom he was paying, and who was giving him in-kind services.
The problem is that the numbers didn’t add up. He was getting a first-class operation at a cut-rate price. And he was one of a group of WFP candidates around the city that got the same deal. At this point, the New York City Campaign Finance Board raised a stink. DFS was warned not to violate the law, which strictly limits the amounts that individuals, unions, and corporations can donate to political campaigns.
The suspicion is that the WFP has funneled about a million dollars into DFS this year, much of it from ACORN and the SEIU. And this money was quietly used to illegally support the campaigns of the WFP candidates.
In more than one case, Bramer’s included, this resulted in surprising primary wins. The local Democrats, long accustomed to winning elections without even trying, have been bested at their own game. And Bramer is now on the general election ballot as a Democrat, in a 6-to-1 Democratic district. Now you see why I said that WFP’s objective is to hijack the Democratic Party.
Needless to say, the dirty tactics have carried over into the general election.
In addition to the possibly-illegal campaign financing, our opponents have indulged in petty lawbreaking all over the district. (Just today, we caught them on video, illegally putting up campaign posters in forbidden places.)
They’ve run a content-free campaign full of brazen lies, including the whopper about getting endorsements from the New York Times and the New York Daily News. (Both papers endorsed Bramer in the Democratic primary, but neither one has made an endorsement in the general election.) Bramer was endorsed by a huge list of labor unions, and by the NY12 Congresscritter, Joe Crowley, who (just imagine) is one of the few that voted against defunding ACORN in the wake of the child-prostitution flap.
Bramer and his people have also been seen going around to voters asking them to sign pieces of paper. This could be innocent. But absentee-ballot fraud and illegal poll-voting has long been an essential part of ACORN’s bag of tricks. We’ll be watching them like hawks tomorrow.
From the start, the theme of our campaign has been the fight against illegal behavior by the WFP, and the strong special-interest influence on our opponent. We also heavily emphasized the WFP’s connection to ACORN, which has a history of shaking down real estate developers here in New York (the Atlantic Yards case in Brooklyn being a notable recent example).
It will do the voters of New York no good to elect a fleet of new officials with ACORN/WFP connections, who can be counted on to make Bertha Lewis a shadow participant in every land-use and development issue that comes to City Hall. That’s the reason we’re fighting so hard to win this election.
Tomorrow at the polls, we’ll either win honestly, lose honestly, or have the election stolen from us. But whatever happens, we’ve shaken up a corner of New York City that is unused to political debate.
And we’ve thrown quite a scare into a lot of people at the WFP. They never expected in a million years that a serious conservative Republican would field a tough and disciplined team, and turn this election into a shootout.
And yes, we’re keeping the team intact. There are a lot of important races coming up next year.
Wish us luck. A win for us is a win for you. Visit electangelo.com to see some of our ads (including the squirrel hiding the acorns, that a local newspaper editor tried to spike). And watch this space for the results.