Dec 09, 2011
By Howard J. Kopel
It has been a few weeks since the elections here in Nassau County, and I have had time to reflect on what has happened, gain perspective and try to figure out what I, and all of us, can learn from it. We entered a fraught election season during a severe recession, at a time when we were experiencing painful pullbacks in government. How would people react to these steps? Unions, especially the police and their supporters in the Democratic Party made a cynical, furious and expensive attempt to preserve their unaffordable and, in some cases, outrageous benefits at a cost of “just a little bit extra taxes” on homeowners. Would that work?
We got some answers on Election Day, when Republicans retained control of the Legislature, but lost one seat. Republicans also retained control of other local jurisdictions. In my own race, I was “targeted” by the Democrats as they perceived me to be extremely vulnerable. Result? I won by almost 20 points, far more than any other seriously contested race this year. On the other hand, a long serving Legislator in an adjoining District suffered a narrow defeat. Why the disparity? Let’s take a look.
- Good government pays off, electorally. The administrations in the Towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay have been providing good service to residents, while not raising taxes. These administrations were returned to office with overwhelming majorities. In the face of actual results, opponents could not mount a credible campaign. Nassau County was in a different situation. Having been controlled by the Democrats for many years, its finances were a disaster. When Republicans took over at the beginning of 2010, we took steps to force government to live within its means, and end the theretofore endless tax increases. I promised that I would not vote for any new taxes, but would insist on belt tightening instead, and I kept that promise. I also was successful in having some available resources reallocated to some long neglected, but vital, infrastructure repairs, as I had promised. I believe that people saw this and appreciated it.
- Politics based on character assassination works; however, how it works is unpredictable. Republicans, including me, faced veritable mountains of cash and torrents of half-truths, misrepresentations and outright lies deployed by the Democrats, certain unions and some of their fellow travelers. There were commercials on the air, and endless mailings replete with name calling, distortions of fact and pure fantasy. I know, because I got a good deal of feedback, that voters saw through these tactics and resented them, with something of a “boomerang” effect. Voters are a lot smarter and more informed than many politicians are willing to credit them for being. For our part, I am proud that my campaign did not ever resort to these tactics. We stayed strictly within the facts and trusted the voters to see through the smoke and noise created by our opposition. It paid off.
- Who we keep company with counts a lot. In an adjoining Legislative District, the incumbent had regularly won over determined opposition, notwithstanding an overwhelming advantage in numbers of registered Democrats over Republicans. This time, a campaign worker made a racial slur and this was successfully exploited by the Democrats. The fact that the candidate was indisputably not a racist, and that the worker was disowned by the incumbent and banned from the campaign proved to be insufficient.
- Voters sometimes make bad choices. OK, so this one is more my opinion than an obvious, unassailable, fact. The defeated incumbent in the adjoining area is a devoted, hardworking representative of his community, prominent and influential in the Legislature. Trading his influence and experience for a new, and untried member of the legislative minority seems to me to be a bad deal for that community. Political junkies may recall that I replaced a Deputy Presiding Officer, and wonder about my point. The difference was that my election switched the majority to my side. I also like to think that I represent the community better than it had been represented previously.
So, what’s next? First of all, I want to thank all of you who went out and voted for me. I am humbled and grateful, and I will do my very best to deserve the great honor that you have given to me. At the same time, I am cognizant of the fact that I represent all of the people in the 7th District, including those that voted for my opponent, and those that did not vote at all. I intend to build on the momentum of my first term, and help lead Nassau to a time when we can exit austerity without new taxes, and with our financial house in order. In doing so, I welcome your help, your advice and even your criticism.
Please write to me at 1550 Franklin Avenue, Mineola, N.Y. 11501, or call my office at (516) 571-6207 with any ideas, issues or concerns that you may have. I cannot always do what everyone wants, but I promise to listen. I can’t help everyone with every problem, but I promise to try.
Filed Under: Howard J. Kopel
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