I want to thank the hundreds of registered voters who kindly (and sometimes warily) answered their doors when I recently came knocking to ask for their signatures so I could get the chance to run for the State Assembly in the fall. I’m honored they listened to this old newspaperman explain why I’ve grown so tired of writing about corruption that I felt I had to do something about it.
So many people wished me luck that I’m energized by their spirit. Some wanted to know my platform. I wanted to say that I believe in the principles of the Age of Reason, that I support the arts and sciences, that I believe in social and economic justice for all, and that I intend to protect our environment for future generations of Long Islanders. But usually I only had time to say that I’m for ethics reforms: When I vote on measures for the public good, I don’t want to discover later, thanks to a federal prosecutor, that the legislation lined some hidden person’s pocket.
Of course, in my quest, I did meet a few folks who took one glance at my green petition sheets and looked like I was offering them a moldy jar of sour pickles. That’s democracy; I get it. These are troubled times for our republic and our state. From Albany to Hauppauge the feds have been probing into the darkest corners of the corridors of power to uphold the rule of law. I understand voters’ anger and disgust. But apathy is not an option for me.
And so that’s why I enlisted my wife, my sons and my friends to join me as we knocked on a thousand doors. I personally walked over a hundred miles in less than a month (119.42 miles to be exact, but who’s counting? After all, that figure does include shopping as well as retail politicking).
At first, I was told I just needed more than 500 signatures to qualify as a candidate, then 600, then 650, then 700 and more. Why so many? Because knocking candidates off the ballot is also part of the tradition, shades of Tammany Hall, and the political machines do it one signature at a time. From what I’ve gathered, it sounds like alchemy is involved when somebody’s name is suddenly deemed invalid. Sometimes there’s more to it.
Look what just happened to Philip Pidot in Nassau County’s Congressional primary. He had more than the 1,250 signatures he needed to get on the Republican ballot and run against State Sen. Jack Martins for the seat held by Rep. Steve Israel. From what I’ve been told, Nassau GOP Boss Joe Mondello allegedly went shopping for a county judge who owed him a favor and apparently found one who arbitrarily ruled that a hundred signatures no longer counted so Martins could run unopposed. Pidot fought back, but his legal victory came too late because the ballot had gone to print. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco took Pidot’s side, and the New York State Board of Elections won’t certify the June 28th results because of the shenanigans, as I understand it.
What will happen to me in Suffolk I trust won’t be the same, but I’ll find out one way or the other. And in the meantime, I promise to pursue my quest to challenge the status quo, to speak truth to power, to ask questions, to listen and to learn as much as I can so I can choose wisely if I get the chance to serve the people of the 12th Assembly District in our state’s capital.
Spencer Rumsey, Northport